State Elections

Published — August 3, 2015

5 things to know about Mississippi’s primary

Down ballot race for treasurer drawing most TV ads ahead of Tuesday’s primaries


Mississippi is one of the few states this year where voters face a full ballot from governor to state legislators.

But Tuesday’s primary isn’t going to offer them many hot races.

Familiar names of incumbents fill the ballot in the Republican-controlled state and few races are expected to be competitive. More than a third of the legislature — 66 out of 174 seats — is already decided because the candidates face no challengers in the primary or general election, a common trend nationwide. Accordingly, turnout on Tuesday is expected to be low.

But voters do get some choices at the polls Tuesday, including in races for 23 Senate and 48 House seats. The contest for state treasurer, which typically attracts little attention, has become the most expensive TV war so far as a relative unknown, albeit wealthy, attorney tries to unseat the Republican incumbent in the primary.

Here are some things to know about the money behind the primary:

  • Gov. Phil Bryant, who faces challengers in both Tuesday’s Republican primary and November’s general election, had $2.8 million on hand at the end of July. Bryant’s primary opponent, Mitch Young, had $40. 
  • In one of Mississippi’s most expensive races this year, department store heir David McRae has spent more than $360,000 airing television ads to unseat incumbent State Treasurer Lynn Fitch in the Republican primary, according to data from media tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG. Fitch has spent an estimated $81,000 on TV ads.
  • McRae and his wife are using their fortune to seed the campaign, contributing at least $975,000 of the $1.1 million his campaign had raised by late July.
  • Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney is one of the biggest spenders in the state when it comes to TV ads. Chaney has spent at least $110,000 airing ads for his re-election bid, while his Republican primary challenger — body shop owner John Mosley — has spent an estimated $25,000 on TV time.
  • Another incumbent, State Auditor Stacey Pickering, has spent at least $51,000 airing TV ads to fend off GOP primary challenger and Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler.

Sources: Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from media tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG through July 27, Ballotpedia, Mississippi campaign finance reports through July 28.

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