By Geoff Pender
Lieutenant governor candidate Tate Reeves says his opponent Billy Hewes III is attacking him out of desperation because Hewes' campaign is flagging and voters don't want politics as usual from someone who's been entrenched in the Legislature for 20 years such as Hewes.
"Since Feb. 7, Elee (his wife) and I have been traveling all over the state telling people why I should be lieutenant governor, not why someone else ought not be," Reeves said. "I think it's unfortunate my opponent has chosen to go negative, but it's not surprising from someone who's been in the Legislature 20 years and been running for this office for two to three years and is way behind with just a few weeks left."
The two Republican candidates meet in the Aug. 2 primary.
In a meeting with the Sun Herald this week, Reeves said the Legislature during Hewes' years in office has borrowed too much, and has been borrowing for items -- such as a county bridge repair program -- that should be paid for as part of the annual budget.
"The Legislature has gotten into issuing debt for things such as new roofs, new air conditioners," Reeves said.
Reeves said that in the first 12½ years Hewes was in the Senate, state debt rose 400 percent. In the last 7½ years, he said, state debt increased less than 18 percent.
"The only difference between those times?" Reeves said. "Haley Barbour was governor and I was treasurer for the last 7½."
Reeves, in ads and stump speeches across the state, has criticized state spending on government vehicles and office buildings and said he will be a watchdog for taxpayers' money.
"I want a moratorium on new office buildings for state government," Reeves said. "I want to see an analysis of the number of individuals working per square foot and how that compares with the private sector."
Reeves, 37, of Brandon is a former investment banker finishing his second term as state treasurer. He and Hewes face off in the Aug. 2 primary.
Asked numerous policy questions, Reeves said he:
* Supports the three ballot initiatives coming before voters in November -- the "personhood" anti-abortion measure, requiring voters to show photo IDs at the polls and limiting government's power of eminent domain.
* Would support some consolidation of school district operations for efficiency, but not mandating consolidation for all districts. He said the focus of state government intervention should be on districts that are performing poorly.
* Supports having appointed school superintendents, but "I'm OK with elected school boards."
* Supports expansion of the state port at Gulfport and believes it is a key to the state's economic future.
* Opposes having an independent board handle state legislative redistricting and believes lawmakers can complete the task next year.
"It's unfortunate the Legislature didn't get it done this year," Reeves said.
Reeves has said he opposes any tax increases.
"Our next lieutenant governor needs to be someone who is very conservative and has a history of standing up to those who want to spend more and borrow more and tax more," Reeves said. "My campaign is not just about winning on Aug. 2 It's about governing."