Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves projected to beat Brandon Presley
Republican incumbent Tate Reeves faces Democrat Brandon Presley.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves won his reelection bid on Tuesday, ABC News projects, fending off a notable challenge from his Democratic rival, Mississippi Public Service Commission member Brandon Presley.
Reliably red Mississippi, which former President Donald Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2020, had been seen as an potentially unexpected toss-up race in its final weeks -- as national Democrats threw millions of dollars behind Presley, banking on the electorate's issues with Reeves as enough of a vulnerability to flip a state not led by a Democrat in nearly two decades. (Presley is also a second cousin of rock 'n' roll legend Elvis Presley.)
"It's been a rough road at times, but it's been worth it, been worth it to elevate the issues that we've talked about throughout this race,” Presley said late Tuesday in brief remarks conceding the race.
"Tonight’s a setback – but we’re not going to lose hope," he said.
Reeves, in his own remarks, congratulated Presley on the race he ran and said, "This victory … it’s really about the direction that our state will go over the next four years. Mississippi has momentum."
"I couldn’t be prouder of the culture of our state," he said.
Presley had attempted to tie Reeves to corruption allegations including a state government welfare spending scandal that emerged under the administration of predecessor Phil Bryant, when Reeves was lieutenant governor. Reeves' team has dismissed the jabs as "nonsensical."
Reeves campaigned against Presley as a member of "radical" Democrats, though Presley sought to distance himself from the national party.
Nearly 40% of Mississippi's population is Black -- the largest of any state -- which is one of the many reasons, Presley previously told ABC News in an interview, that he poured significant resources since last spring into Black voter engagement and turnout.
But the investment was not enough to get him over the finish line.
One issue -- abortion -- that had emerged as a flashpoint in other races was not decisive in Mississippi. Both Reeves and Presley identify as "pro-life" and support restrictions on access to abortion in a state that bans it in all cases except for rape, incest and the life of the mother.
Mississippi was one of just three states with gubernatorial elections this year.
Reeves won his first gubernatorial election by only 5% in 2019. That was a surprisingly close race in a socially conservative Southern state where Republicans routinely win by double-digits. Due to this, Mississippi Democrats had hoped they might be able to defeat Reeves in this year's race.
Nonetheless, most analysts considered Reeves to be a favorite to win reelection, given the state's partisan lean. Recent numbers also had him polling higher than his competitors, according to 538.
However, Presley, who has represented the northern district on the Mississippi Public Service Commission since 2008, was still considered to be a potentially strong general election candidate.