Mississippi Republican voters will soon get the opportunity to see all three candidates for the state’s highest office debate on the same stage. Whether DeSoto County voters will be able to see it on their television screens or on their computer or smartphone screens remains to be determined.
In Southaven for the county Republican Club gathering Tuesday evening, candidate Bill Waller Jr. confirmed that he, state Rep. Robert Foster and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will meet in front of the cameras of Jackson television station WJTV the evening of Tuesday, July 23.
It is expected to be the only time the three candidates will appear together before the Aug. 6 primary election.
WJTV and Hattiesburg affiliate WHLT will broadcast the debate live and it will be live streamed through their internet platforms. When asked about local availability, a Waller campaign representative said it was not immediately known if any Memphis affiliate would pick up and carry the debate although it is their belief the debate would be broadcast in North Mississippi and the television station was working toward making that take place.
“I think they need to hear all three candidates,” Waller said before his speech to DeSoto County Republicans. “Mississippi has been a Republican state over the last several governors, and I think that the Republican nominee is important to everyone because he is going to be the standard bearer for the general election.”
In April of this year, Waller and Foster met on the same stage for a debate at Mississippi State University sponsored by its College Republicans.
Reeves, however, did not take part, stating his legislative schedule as lieutenant governor did not allow him the opportunity to participate.
At that debate, which was not televised live, the candidates touted their advantages. Foster said his business background made him uniquely qualified to be governor, while Waller said it was his ideas that were most needed by Mississippi.
Reeves campaign spokesman Parker Briden said in a response to an email request, "Lieutenant Governor Reeves is excited to participate in the televised Republican primary debate at WJTV’s studios. This will be a chance for all Mississippians to contrast our party’s conservative vision with the liberal agenda we see coming from Washington. Voters deserve to see a Democratic primary debate as well, and it’s time for Jim Hood to answer the tough questions.”
When asked to comment Wednesday, Foster said, “I am looking forward to joining my fellow Republican candidates on the stage on July 23. When we hire someone in business, we ask them for an interview. This election should be no different. We owe it to the voters of Mississippi to let them know where we each stand on the important issues we all face together.”
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.