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The Latest: No opponents for some Mississippi candidates

March 2, 2019

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on qualifying for Mississippi elections (all times local):

6:45 p.m.

With the close of qualifying at 5 p.m. Friday, some candidates in Mississippi’s upcoming 2019 election have no major party or independent opposition.

Republican auditor Shad White, who was appointed to his post by Gov. Phil Bryant and has never run for office before, faces neither a Republican primary opponent nor a Democratic general election opponent.

Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a Democrat, also has drawn no major-party opposition.

Democrats qualified no candidates for transportation commissioner in the southern district, meaning the winner of a Republican primary between incumbent Tom King, former state Sen. Tony Smith and Chad Toney will be unopposed in the general election.

A number of lawmakers are also unopposed.

The top of the ticket could feature the most competitive governor’s race since 2003, with Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves the favorites in their respective primaries.

Voters will also elect a new lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.

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4:45 p.m.

A third high-profile Republican is jumping into his party’s primary to succeed four-term Democrat Jim Hood, Mississippi’s current attorney general who’s running for governor.

Andy Taggart, a Madison lawyer, announced Friday that he would seek the GOP nomination, joining state Treasurer Lynn Fitch and state Rep. Mark Baker.

Taggart was chief of staff under Gov. Kirk Fordice and served a term as a Madison County supervisor. He’s also a former executive director of the state Republican Party.

He’s swung away from many Mississippi Republicans in recent years, though, chairing the state campaign of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and remaining a vocal critic of President Donald Trump.

The only Democrat who has announced she is running is Jennifer Riley Collins. She’s the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi and served 32 years as a military intelligence officer.

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4:15 p.m.

Even before qualifying closes Friday, Democrats are losing three more incumbents in the Mississippi House of Representatives.

House Minority Leader David Baria of Bay St. Louis says he’s leaving the Legislature after one term in the state Senate and two terms in the state House. Baria ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate last year, losing to incumbent Republican Roger Wicker.

In the meantime, Rep. Nick Bain of Corinth says he’s switching parties to run as a Republican. House Speaker Philip Gunn announced the switch, sending out a statement from Bain saying he’s “tired of sitting on the sidelines” and “ready to be part of the policy-making in Mississippi.”

Nine-term Rep. Steve Holland of Plantersville says he’s qualifying for re-election as an independent. He faced a Democratic primary challenger.

The switches leave Democrats with only 44 members of the 122-member House, below the 48 needed to block legislation requiring a supermajority. There are only eight remaining white Democrats in the House. Of those Baria and Preston Sullivan of Okolona are retiring, while Jay Hughes of Oxford is running for lieutenant governor.

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2 p.m.

The field is firming up for Mississippi’s 2019 statewide election, as qualifying closes at 5 p.m. Friday.

The top of the ticket could feature the most competitive governor’s race since 2003, with Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves the favorites in their respective primaries.

Each man will have to get past some serious challengers, though, with Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith challenging Hood in the Democratic field. On the GOP side, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. and state Rep. Robert Foster of Hernando will try to upset Reeves.

Voters will also elect a new lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.

Republicans will try to maintain their supermajority in both houses of the Legislature.

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