Mississippi, Election Night 2019: What to Watch Guide

Brunch update @ 11:45 AM

Well, the final results are in, and Tate Reeves is unfortunately the next Governor of Mississippi. The final total is 52.2% for Reeves and 46.5% for Hood. 

On the state legislative side, we’ll talk about the good news first. Two of our candidates flipped districts! Joseph Thomas has been confirmed the winner in SD 22, and Shanda Yates maintains a very small lead with 100% reporting. Congratulations Shanda and Joseph! In other good news, Hester McCray also maintains a small lead in HD 40, which would be another flip for Democrats.

In bad news, Democrats are looking at a net loss in both chambers. Democrats lost four seats in the Senate, and Republicans now control the Senate 36-16 (a three-seat net loss for Democrats). As of January 1, 2019, Republicans controlled the Mississippi State House 74-48. After some party switching earlier in the year and the results last night, Republicans now control the Mississippi State House 75-46 with one Independent (who we mostly expect to vote with the GOP). 

To end on a positive, there’s a lot of room to grow in Mississippi. There are several more districts that could have been competitive, but were not last night for various reasons, that Democrats can compete for in four years. We’re super proud of our two candidates who flipped districts, and thank you all for investing in our candidates and in a state where change, though slow, is possible. Onward!

Bedtime in Jackson @ 11:30 PM

There’s still counting ahead, but the story can be told. Jim Hood will lose this race, probably with around 46% of the vote because he has been stuck in that ballpark all night. Unless there are some miscounts or hidden votes, he just could not break out of it. Turnout has been abysmal. Still, it is useful for Democrats to think about Mississippi as a GOP +9 state in these races. There’s opportunity to make it more competitive if we continue to work.

Here is some good news in the legislature:

Here’s the bad news: We’re losing in 4 of the 5 most challenging Democratic holds across the Senate and the House, giving Republicans more power to continue to impose an extremist agenda in a state that desperately needs policy reform. National Democrats cannot abandon these places and local Democrats need new strategies to win.

When the final votes are in, we’ll update you.

What will it take @ 10:30 PM

This update will focus on the governor’s race. There’s some news from the state legislature, little of it good, so we will see if things develop better by 11 pm. The numbers have been updated.

Hood is down 45% to 54%, with still only about 60% of the precincts in. An 8-9% loss would appear to be a new “competitive Democrat” standard, as Espy did similarly in the Senate runoff last year. With what’s out there, what will it take to win?

If all these things come together, Hood could still eke out a win.

The Sound and the Fury @ 10 PM

We now have enough votes in to start things more substantively, though still tentatively. Let’s start with the governor’s race.

As you may know, Mississippi has a definitely unconstitutional state electoral college system. I think it’s pretty clear that Jim Hood will not win that tonight. Can he still win the race? He is currently trailing 47%-52% with plenty of vote out in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Tupelo, and the Black Belt. Only 42% of the vote is in. Disappointingly, he lost De Soto County by a lot (20%), the suburbs of Memphis. Democrats need to do well in those parts these days. The far Northeast of Mississippi is also looking redder than we would like. Let’s see what happens there, but it isn’t screaming victory so far.

On the state legislative side, there is not much good to report so far. Again, precincts vary a lot, so hard to say too much. Looks like there is one definite Democratic pickup in the House. This is offset by at least one loss. In the Senate, Democrats are looking weak in the best pickups, but it is still very early. 

Late night ahead in Mississippi.

Magnolia Update @ 9:30 PM

The results in Mississippi are trickling in and from few sources, so stick with us. Let’s start with the Governor’s race.

Ninety minutes in, we have 89,000 votes and 12% of precincts. The Republican is leading 56% to 42%. However, we are still waiting on Lee County (the Northeast), the Black Belt, and Jackson. Nothing exceptionally encouraging for Democrats yet. It took a little while for Kentucky to heat up, though. 

On the state legislative side, it is still exceptionally early. Mississippi voting is so racial that one precinct to the next can swing the results wildly. One moderately positive sign: In HD 40, McCray is so far only trailing 49% to 51% in a very winnable district with one-third of the vote in. 

Once we start to have more sustained vote totals coming in, we’ll have a fuller update.

Tonight is the culmination of one of the most competitive state elections in Mississippi in the last decade. Democrats have a real chance to win the Governor’s mansion and to beat back Republican supermajorities, needing to net either two Senate or four House seats. However, the nationwide shifts in rural communities may threaten potential gains and even give Republicans some pickups.

With two hours to go before polls close, here’s what to watch for in the Governor’s race and major contests in both the State House and the State Senate. Let’s start on the gubernatorial front, where Democrat Jim Hood (the current Attorney General) is running a close race with Republican Tate Reeves (the current Lieutenant Governor). We’ll update this as a live blog throughout the evening, so pop back in for updates.

1. Northeast Mississippi

Northeast Mississippi has historically been a Democratic stronghold and Jim Hood hails from this region. However, Northeast Mississippi is the southernmost part of Appalachia. Like everywhere else in Appalachia, the region has swung hard toward the GOP over the last decade. The decision of the Trump or Reeves campaign apparatus to hold a rally in Tupelo, in Lee County, was smart, particularly if it has the turnout effect we saw in Louisiana. Keep an eye on the Northeast corner, particularly Lee County, as strong performance there can offer Hood a path to victory.

2. The Black Belt

Mississippi has the largest percentage of African-Americans of any state in the country. Major-black counties are largely clustered along the Mississippi River. While Mike Espy’s Senate candidacy last year drove large turnouts in black votes, Jim Hood has made some missteps that might undercut black turnout. If voters turn out there in spite of that fact, then Hood has a fighting chance. If the numbers seem to falter, it gets a lot harder.

3. Jackson Suburbs

Nationally, suburbs across the country are shifting blue, as college-educated voters move toward Democrats and as the suburbs themselves become more diverse. The Jackson area saw big Democratic shifts in 2018 and Tate Reeves failed to win the Jackson-area counties during the GOP primary. If those trends continue, they can help to make up for likely additional losses in rural areas.

State Legislative Elections

1. Democratic-Leaning Pickup Opportunities

There are a number of real pickup opportunities in both the Senate and the House of districts that lean Democratic—even some that voted for Hillary in 2016. These represented the best targets at the beginning of the cycle, but the strength of candidate will have a big impact on how Democrats do in each district. For each district, we have provided our Legislative District Index (LDI) score, which measures the competitiveness of every state legislative district in the country.** A positive score means the district leans Democratic. A negative score means it leans Republican.

House District (HD) 96 deserves a special mention as to why it’s on this list. The current incumbent used to be a Democrat but switched her affiliation to Independent as of the 2019 candidate filing deadline. She’s been a less-than-reliable Democratic vote, and if re-elected, would continue to vote with the GOP. A win by the Democratic candidate, Aisha Sanders, would be a Democratic pickup based on the internal dynamics of this district.

Chamber District LDI D CandidateR Candidate Dem % GOP % Margin % Reporting
Senate 10 +4 Andre DeBerryNeil Whaley* 42.09%57.91%-15.82%100%
Senate 22 +10 Joseph ThomasHayes Dent51.94%48.06%3.88%100%
House 40 +7 Hester Jackson McCrayAshley Henley*50.21%49.79%0.42%100%
House 64 +1 Shanda YatesBill Denny*50.78%49.22%1.56%100%
House96+33Aisha SandersAngela Cockerham (I)*42.00%58.00%-16.00%100%
House 102 +8 Brandon RueMissy McGee*35.96%64.04%-28.08%100%
House 115 +8 Felix GinesRandall Patterson* 47.86%52.14% -4.28%100%

2. Republican-Leaning Pickup Opportunities

Senate District 9 falls into another category: a seat that generally leans Republican but presents a strong pick up opportunity this year. With a competitive statewide race and a strong Democratic candidate, this district could very well flip.

Chamber District LDI D CandidateR Candidate Dem % GOP % Margin % Reporting
Senate 9 -2 Kevin FryeNicole Boyd41.32%58.68% -17.36%100%

3. Outside Pickup Opportunities

With the high levels of excitement in Mississippi this year, there is a real chance that additional, more Republican-leaning districts could be competitive. This is the likely universe of those districts.

Chamber District LDI D CandidateR Candidate Dem % GOP % Margin % Reporting
Senate 2 -9 Lee JacksonDavid Parker*39.56% 60.35%-20.79%100%
House 17 -19 Cathy GraceShane Aguire*37.54%62.46%-24.92%100%
House 56 -15 Vicki SlaterPhil Gunn*35.67%64.33%-28.66% 100%
House78-19Joe BradfordRandy Rushing*40.82%59.18%-18.36%100%
House117-16Inez KelleherKevin Felsher36.16%63.84%-27.68%100%

4. Democratic Defense

Despite the substantial losses by Democrats in Mississippi over the last decade—Democrats controlled the legislature until the 2011 election—there are still plenty of Democrats who represent GOP-leaning districts who could see their term in office ended on Tuesday. Making the path to holding these seats even harder is that most of these are open seats, where the well-known Democratic incumbent is retiring. Below lists where Democrats will need to play defense on Tuesday.

Chamber District LDI D CandidateR Candidate Dem % GOP % Margin % Reporting
Senate 5 -41 Steve EatonDaniel Sparks27.93%72.07%-44.14%100%
Senate 8 -2 Kegan ColemanBenjamin Suber42.44%57.56% -15.12%100%
Senate 37 -12 William GodfreyMelanie Sojourner  41.48%58.52%-17.04%100%
House 75 -10 Tom Miles*Vance Cox 56.17%43.83%12.34%100%
House 122 -18 Wendy McDonaldBrent Anderson 32.33%67.67%-35.34%100%

Bottom Line

On its face, tonight should be competitive. However, the “nationalization” of most elections these days—like the Louisiana all-party primary a few weeks ago—suggests that Republicans should be favored in the Governor’s race and the legislative seats. Strong campaigns and candidates can make a difference. We’ll see how those dynamics play out tonight in the Magnolia State.

** It’s the only public one around. Go to EveryDistrict.us/Map to see more.

* Denotes incumbent.