JACKSON, MS – Republicans are keeping their hold on the governorship in Mississippi, despite facing the best-funded Democrat to run for the position in more than a decade.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves on Tuesday defeated Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and two candidates who ran low-budget campaigns.
Reeves will succeed Gov. Phil Bryant, who is limited by state law to two terms.
"I want to be the governor for all Mississippians and I'm going to work hard every day to do that," Reeves told The Associated Press after his victory.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both traveled to Mississippi in recent days to campaign for Reeves, who is completing his second term as lieutenant governor after serving two terms as the elected state treasurer.
"President Trump's rally and endorsement in Mississippi undoubtedly had an impact and helped Governor-elect Tate Reeves nail down his victory," Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. "Governor Reeves will be a tremendous conservative leader for Mississippians in fighting for freedom and keeping taxes low."
Trump also congratulated Reeves, tweeting: "Great going Tate!"
Reeves, 45, campaigned on keeping taxes low and limiting government regulation of businesses. He also said that a vote for Hood is akin to a vote for "liberal" national Democrats, including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Hood, 57, is finishing his fourth term as attorney general. For three of those terms, he has been the only Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi.
Hood was district attorney before winning statewide office, and he told supporters at a party late Tuesday that "the good Lord" has allowed him to serve the people of Mississippi.
"I guess it was not his will that we continue on as governor," Hood said.
Hood's high-profile gubernatorial race came four years after the party's nominee was Robert Gray, a long-haul truck driver who didn't vote for himself in the primary, raised little money and lost the general election by a wide margin.
Hood this year campaigned on improving schools and highways and on expanding Medicaid to the working poor. Expansion is an option under the federal health overhaul signed into law in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama. Mississippi is among the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid, a decision that Hood said has cost the state $1 billion a year in federal money.
Hood did not invite national Democratic figures to the state to campaign for him in person, but Obama recorded a call that went to some Mississippi residents Monday, urging people to vote for Hood.
Republicans have been governor in Mississippi for 24 of the last 28 years. The last Democratic governor, Ronnie Musgrove, lost in 2003 as he sought a second term.