Foster, Waller debate

State Rep. Robert Foster (R-Hernando) (right) and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. greet each other at Tuesday’s gubernatorial debate held on the Mississippi State University campus. Waller, Foster and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are vying for the Republican nomination for governor in the August primary election.(right)

Two of the three Republicans campaigning for the party’s nomination in the governor’s race Tuesday met on a Mississippi State University stage to debate for the first time. 

State Rep. Robert Foster (R-Hernando), the first Republican candidate to officially declare his run for governor, and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. debated issues at Mississippi State University in Starkville.

Missing from the debate, however, was Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who declined the opportunity to meet with the other candidates together.

College Republicans at the Starkville school and the MSU political science department co-hosted the debate.

Only those who were in attendance in person were able to hear as it happened what the candidates had to say. Efforts to broadcast the session statewide by a Jackson television station were stopped by university officials, citing a scheduling conflict and too little time to plan logistics for a broadcast.

Reeves said he could not show up because of legislative obligations as President of the Senate, although the regular legislative session ended more than a week ahead of the planned debate date.

Both candidates offered their views and ideas about state issues during the gubernatorial discourse and tried to separate themselves from the other candidates.

Foster said his business background made him uniquely qualified to be governor. Waller said his ideas are needed by Mississippi.

Questions posed by the panelists centered around education, health care, infrastructure and economic development.

Friday, Foster released a statement about the Tuesday debate, saying, “It was an honor to debate with Justice Waller this past Tuesday in Starkville on the issues that matter most to Mississippians. More than ever, people are looking outside the box and against the status quo when it comes to candidates, and I hope viewers will go online and watch the debate before they cast their ballot on Aug. 6.”

“Mississippi has made progress but the reality is, our state continues to face looming challenges that will never be solved by indifference, petty politics or self-interest,” Waller responded. “I am thankful for the Mississippi State University College Republicans for hosting this much needed event — and I appreciate Rep. Foster for joining me in this debate. We had a spirited discussion on the issues facing our state.”

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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