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GOP Candidates for Gov. Go Head to Head in Only Debate

GOP Candidates for Gov. Go Head to Head in Only Debate
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Rep. Candidates for Governor in Televised Debate

Mississippi's Republican candidates for governor squared-off in an hour long debate ahead of the upcoming August 6th primary election. MPB's Desare Frazier has the highlights.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, retired State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller, and State Representative Robert Foster all say they are the conservative choice for Mississippi voters. A panel of reporters from WJTV-TV addressed the controversy over Foster recently denying a female reporter's request to accompany him as he campaigned due to the potential appearance of impropriety. They asked the candidates if they would appoint women to top posts in their administration if elected.

“In my life running my business in my personal life I’ve always treated everyone with the same respect whether they’re male female and I give people the opportunity to serve in a position based on their abilities and nothing more,” said Foster.

Reeves says he has already appointed a woman as secretary of the senate. Waller says his mentor was a female chief justice and there are women on his staff. The issue of raising teacher pay drew contrast between the candidates. Waller says he'd bring the starting salary from around $35,000 to $40,000. Reeves says next year teachers will make $8,000 more than they did 8 years ago. He says the state's budget has to be taken into consideration.

“If you include the 41,000 teachers that are out there that’s about a $275 million dollar expense that he said we can get to next year. We need to be realistic about the numbers and make sure that we can do things in the confines of our budget,” said Reeves.

Foster says he wants teacher pay equal to Mississippi's neighboring states, many of which pay more than $35,000 to start. On the topic of healthcare, Foster says he doesn't support Medicaid expansion but would put all options on the table because families are hurting. Reeves would not support expanding the insurance for low-income families, but Waller would.

“We could bring up the level to 138 percent of the poverty level. It would cost zero state budget money. The hospitals are willing to underwrite it because they’ve been downgraded by Moody’s. They’ve lost over $600 million in uncompensated emergency room care. It would be conservative principles,” said Waller.

Other issues discussed included raising the gas tax and the minimum wage.