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Reeves Accepts Nov. 1 Debate, But Presley Demands October Dates

Side by Side of Tate Reeves and Brandon Presley, both speaking at podiums
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, left, said he is participating in the “first gubernatorial debate” on Nov. 1, 2023, after accepting an invitation from WAPT. Democratic candidate for governor Brandon Presley, right, challenged Reeves to join him for five other debates in October. Photo courtesy MPB / Brandon Presley Campaign

Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says he is participating in the “first gubernatorial debate” with Democratic opponent Brandon Presley on Nov. 1 after weeks of declining to agree to a specific date.

“I’m looking forward to talking about our record on jobs and schools, and dispelling the lies funded by out-of-state liberals,” he tweeted Wednesday as he announced his decision to accept a debate on WAPT.

The Mississippi Free Press asked Presley’s campaign if he would debate Reeves on Nov. 1, and the candidate responded with a statement saying that he would “debate anytime, anywhere.”

“People have already started voting in Mississippi and deserve to hear where the candidates for governor stand without any further delay, which is why I called for five debates as far back as August. Just like Tate Reeves has been missing-in-action while our hospitals are shutting down, we’ll be ready with an empty chair next week for when Tate chickens out of Mississippi’s first general election debate,” Presley said. “We will commit to the November 1 debate if Tate Reeves agrees to any of the statewide televised debates I will be attending in October.”

The debates Presley agreed to this month include an NAACP-hosted debate forum on Oct. 9 and 19, a WJTV debate on Oct. 13, a Stennis Capitol Press Club forum on Oct. 23 and a debate on Gray TV stations on Oct. 26 (including WLBT, WLOX, WDAM, WTOK, WCBI and WMC). The incumbent governor has not responded to those debate invitations.

In a tweet Thursday morning, Reeves claimed that Presley “says he won’t show up because he’s giving speeches to the NAACP in October,” falsely characterizing both the nature of the NAACP debate and Presley’s stated response to the Nov. 1 debate invitation. He also insinuated that his Democratic opponent does not want to appear because WAPT also invited Gwendolyn Gray, a Black independent candidate, to join the debate. She has not said whether or not she will accept the debate invitation, however.

The Gray TV debate Presley accepted would cover local markets across the state. WAPT, which is hosting the Nov. 1 debate, covers much of the central and western parts of the state, but is not available in many southern, eastern and northern parts of the state. Streaming options will likely be available, however. It is not clear whether Reeves and Presley will agree to a second debate, but in 2019, the incumbent held two debates with then-Democratic opponent Jim Hood.

Greta Martin on the left and Lynn Fitch on the right
Democratic candidate for Mississippi attorney general Greta Kemp Martin, left, said she would appear for the Stennis Capitol Press forum on Oct. 23, 2023. Her opponent, Republican incumbent Lynn Fitch, right, did not answer questions about whether she would accept invitations to debate. Photos courtesy Greta Kemp Martin Campaign and Lynn Fitch Campaign

Democratic candidate for Mississippi attorney general Greta Kemp Martin told the Mississippi Free Press on Wednesday that she will be at the Stennis Capitol Press forum on Oct. 23 and said Republican Attorney General Lynn Fitch declined the invitation to join. The Mississippi Free Press previously asked Fitch’s campaign spokesperson Michelle Williams if the incumbent would debate Martin, but she skirted the question.

“Since taking office, General Fitch has kept a busy schedule speaking with community groups across Mississippi, both sharing what she is doing as their Attorney General and hearing from them about their thoughts and concerns.  And the remaining seven weeks are no different.  General Fitch will continue to meet directly with Mississippians to work toward ways to advance Mississippi to its best future,” Williams said in a statement on Sept. 20.

The Mississippi general election is on Nov. 7.

Register to vote in person by Oct. 9. Mailed voter registration forms must be postmarked by Oct. 10. Find more information on voting on the secretary of state’s website at

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