Bob Hickingbottom wrongly ruled out as Mississippi gubernatorial candidate, judge says

JACKSON, Mississippi — Mississippi could have a Democratic primary for governor in August because a judge ruled Friday that the party wrongfully excluded a candidate from the ballot.

The state’s Democratic Party immediately filed a notice saying it will ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to overturn the judge’s ruling on Bob Hickingbottom’s candidacy.

“I appreciate the consideration of the court. We hope to get a more favorable decision on appeal,” committee attorney Gerald Mumford told The Associated Press.

The state’s Democratic Executive Committee decided in February that Hickingbottom could not be on the ballot as a Democrat. Hickingbottom, who has described himself as a political operative, ran for governor as the Constitution Party candidate in 2019.

The executive committee also barred Gregory Wash from running for governor this year, after he ran a low-budget campaign for governor in the Democratic primary four years ago.

The party’s decisions left Brandon Presley, a four-term civil service commissioner, as the only Democratic candidate for governor. Wash did not contest the party’s decision, but Hickingbottom sued.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is seeking a second term, and he faces two challengers in the GOP primary — military veteran David Hardigree and physician Dr. John Witcher.

The Mississippi primaries are on August 8 and the general election on November 7.

On Friday, Presley’s campaign spokesman Michael Beyer answered questions about a possible Democratic primary by focusing on a welfare spending case that developed while Reeves was lieutenant governor.

‘We welcome any legally qualified candidate to enter the race, and our campaign will continue to focus on Tate Reeves’ failed record of allowing criminals to squander $77 million of Mississippians’ hard-earned taxpayer dollars earmarked for families. who work on fancy cars, steak dinners, and even a volleyball stadium,” Beyer said.

Judge Forrest A. Johnson Jr. wrote that the Democratic Party was not authorized to reject Hickingbottom’s candidacy on the grounds that Hickinbottom had failed to file a declaration of economic interest with the Ethics Commission.

Johnson wrote that Hickingbottom meets the requirements to run for governor, which are set out in the state constitution: a candidate must be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen at least 20 years old, and a resident of Mississippi in less than five years before the election.

Hickingbottom is black and Presley is white. Attracting support from black voters is an important part of winning a Democratic primary. Presley’s campaign didn’t mention the race on Friday, but Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Frank Bordeaux did.

“Brandon Presley and his Democratic Party allies corruptly pushed his African-American opponent off the ballot,” Bordeaux said in a statement. “A judge has just ruled their actions illegal and unethical, and now Presley faces a major challenge. Why did Brandon Presley work so hard to stop an African-American candidate from getting into the ballot?

HIckingbottom filed a campaign finance report this month showing it raised and spent no money until April. Presley brought in $1.6 million in his campaign fund.

Reeves brought in $9 million in campaign money, while Witcher brought in around $21,000 and Hardigree brought in no money.

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