By David A. Farrell
State Treasurer Tate Reeves, a GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, told Picayune supporters on Wednesday that his loyalty would be to taxpayers and not to special interests, if he's elected lieutenant governor in August.
Reeves spoke to supporters at a luncheon at Magnolia Columns.
Reeves, who was the first Republican elected to the State Treasurer's office in 2003, faces State Sen. Billy Hewes, a Gulfport insurance broker, who is Senate President Pro Tempore, the second in command in the State Senate. Hewes is running as a Republican and is in his fifth term in the Senate.
They are the only two in the race and whoever wins the first GOP primary on Aug. 2 will occupy the lieutenant governor's office. Current Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant is running for governor.
Said Reeves in a short 15-minute campaign talk, "I was successful in that campaign in 2003 for State Treasurer because I spent my time visiting with voters and telling them why I ought to be State Treasurer rather than why my opponent should not be."
Reeves was 29 when he was first elected State Treasurer. He spent 10 years in the money management financial field after graduating from Millsaps, where he also played basketball.
He is a native of Florence. His wife, Elee, is a native of Tylertown. They have two young daughters, Sarah Tyler and Elizabeth Magee. "My wife has always wondered why I don't get a real, regular job," he joked.
Responding to a question from the audience, Reeves said that guidelines and statutes forced Gov. Haley Barbour to make across-the-board cuts in budget negotiations with the State Legislature, but he said, although he thinks Barbour did a good job, he would "have a tendency" to prioritize cuts, and would try and protect appropriations to the public safety and education sectors of government.
He said a $24 million budget shortfall was closed when he first took office as State Treasurer and that education and public safety were not cut.
He said that he decided to run for lieutenant governor because it is a powerful post in state government and can be used to influence the course Mississippi takes. He said the lieutenant governor appoints committee chairmen and assigns bills to committees as President of the Senate.
"It (the lieutenant governor's office) has historically been one of the most important and powerful positions in state government as it relates to public policy," he said.
"I am concerned about two things, mostly," he said. "Taxpayers and our kids. And right after that is bringing well-paying jobs to our state."
He added, "Gov. Barbour, I believe, has done a great job, and as he leaves, there will be a leadership void in our state. And another reason I chose to run for lieutenant governor was because I want to help fill that void."
Reeves said he will campaign often in Pearl River County because it's noted for a high GOP turnout in the primaries, and that is "where this race will be won." He added, "You will probably get tired of seeing me."
Reeves challenged voters to look back over his eight-year career as State Treasurer. "You will see that I have not been afraid of taking a position and that I have not become a creature of government."
Saying he is a "taxpayers' watchdog," Reeves said as State Treasurer he has, and will as lieutenant governor, get the state's debt burden under control, protect the state's credit rating, revamp borrowing practices, and cut and prioritize spending to focus on education and public safety. "That's the two main functions government is concerned with," he said.
He said, as State Treasurer, he successfully sued to recoup millions of taxpayer dollars that were illegally diverted to a private non-profit organization. He said as lieutenant governor he would protect the people's conservative values and continue to make Mississippi the best place to raise a family.
Reeves was first elected State Treasurer in 2003, and re-elected in 2007 with 61 percent of votes cast, the highest percentage of any candidate for statewide office.
He worked for 10 years in the private finance sector after graduating from Millsaps.
Reeves' opponent, Hewes, last campaigned here on Jan. 8, winding up a statewide, week-long effort, kicking off his campaign.
Reeves was scheduled to visit the Pearl River Community College campus in Poplarville after the noon luncheon here on Wednesday.