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Presley Will Be Lone Democrat In Governor Primary, Court Rules

Brandon Presley leading a rally on the War of Corruption in front of stairs while others hold signs with his name
Mississippi Public Service Commissioner For The Northern District Brandon Presley, pictured, will be the lone Democrat on the Aug. 8, 2023, primary for governor, making him the party’s de facto nominee for the Nov. 7, 2023, general election. The Mississippi Supreme ruled on June 8, 2023, that a lower court had erred in ordering the party to add Bob Hickingbottom to the party’s ballot.

Brandon Presley will be the only Democratic candidate for Mississippi governor on the Aug. 8 primary ballot and thus the party’s de facto nominee after the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s order to place another candidate, Bob Hickingbottom, on the ballot.

In February, Hickingbottom filed qualifying papers to run as a Democrat for governor, but the party informed him that it had declined to certify his candidacy on Feb. 17 after Democrat Jim Newman challenged his candidacy. The party cited his failure to submit a statement of economic interest in past elections when he ran as a Constitution Party candidate.

2023-06-08 MS Democratic Party v. Hickingbottom
Read the Mississippi Supreme Court’s ruling.

Hickingbottom filed a lawsuit asking a Hinds County Circuit Court to place him on the ballot. On May 26, Judge Forrest A. Johnson ordered the party to place him on the ballot, saying that a failure to file a statement of economic interest was not grounds for barring a candidate from running.

The Mississippi Democratic Party also argued that Hickingbottom’s lawsuit was “untimely” because he waited to file until months after the non-certification decision. Timeliness was a valid question, Johnson wrote, but said he was erring on the side of “more democracy is better than less democracy.”

But the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed that decision on June 13, saying that “Hickingbottom’s petition for judicial review was untimely filed and, therefore, his petition for judicial review was time barred.” The high court did not address the certification issues, with Justice Robert P. Chamberlin writing that, under the law, the plaintiff should have filed his challenge within 15 days of the non-certification decision.

“On May 3, 2023—eighty-two days after Newman’s original petition was filed with the (Democratic Executive Committee) and seventy-five days after the DEC informed Hickingbottom that he was not certified as a candidate—Hickingbottom filed his petition for judicial review in the Hinds County Circuit Court, ‘pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. §23-15-961 and 23-15-299,’” the Supreme Court ruling says. It says Hickingbottom “failed to give either this Court or the circuit court any grounds whatsoever to possibly warrant an excuse for his untimeliness.”

In February, sources who did not wish to be named told the Mississippi Free Press that Democratic officials believed Hickingbottom entered the Democratic primary to ensure Presley would have an opponent in hopes of discouraging Democratic voters from crossing over and voting in the GOP primaries.

Closeup of Bob Hickingbottom, a Constitution Party candidate for governor, wearing a red campaign hat
Bob Hickingbottom, pictured, disputed claims that he attempted to enter the Democratic primary for Mississippi governor to keep Democrats from crossing over and voting in the GOP primaries, calling it “a baldfaced lie.” AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Hickingbottom denied that accusation in an interview with the Mississippi Free Press at the time, calling it “a baldfaced lie.”

Presley, who currently serves as the public service commissioner for Mississippi’s northern district, has focused much of his campaign so far on his likely general election opponent, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves.

He has repeatedly criticized the incumbent for refusing to expand Medicaid and, along with the party itself, has attempted to tie him to the State’s $77 million welfare scandal. The Democratic candidate recently unveiled an anti-corruption platform in response to the scandal.

Reeves will face two opponents in the Aug. 8 Republican primary: John Witcher, a medical doctor and anti-vaccine activist, and David Hardigree, a U.S. Army veteran.

The party primaries are on Aug. 8, 2023. Voters who registered to vote at least 30 days before the primary and who have an accepted form of photo ID can cast a ballot in either party’s primary. There is no voter registration in Mississippi. In the event of a primary runoff on Aug. 29, voters who voted in a party’s Aug. 8 primary can only vote in the same party’s runoff.

For more information on voter IDs, including how to obtain a free one, visit

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