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Former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., shown during a stop in DeSoto County, has joined Hernando state Rep. Robert Foster to debate each other at Mississippi State University in April. The third major Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, declined the invitation by the College Republicans at the Starkville school to appear at the same event.

Republicans at Mississippi State University have invited three of the major candidates from their party to discuss issues in early April on the Starkville campus. 

That invitation has been accepted by two of the three candidates invited, but the third candidate will not attend.

A news release from the College Republicans at Mississippi State University Friday announced plans for a primary debate on Tuesday, April 2, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The debate is to be held at Bettersworth Auditorium inside Lee Hall on the Starkville campus.

Group president Adam Sabes said in the release that state Rep. Robert Foster (R-Hernando) and former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. both had agreed to participate.

Sabes added that Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves had declined to participate due to a scheduling conflict, adding the College Republicans had reached out to the Tate campaign on a date that would work with his schedule, but could not come to an agreement on a date.

“We understand that Lt. Gov. Reeves has a very busy schedule,” Sabes said in the release. “We have done everything in our power to schedule an event that he would be able to attend. We want to thank Justice Waller and Rep. Foster, as well as their campaigns, for working with us to bring a much-needed discussion of issues and policy to our state.”

Monday morning, Foster issued the following statement about the debate.

“I am pleased to know Chief Justice Waller has decided to participate in a debate so the voters can make an educated decision on how to cast their vote at the ballot box,” Foster said. “At the same time, it should be concerning to the voters not to be afforded the same from all gubernatorial candidates running in the Republican primary.”

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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