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Independent Mississippi Governor Candidate Withdraws, Endorses Democrat Presley

Gwendolyn Gray poses in front of a red brick wall
Gwendolyn Gray, the independent candidate running for Missississippi governor, announced that she was withdrawing from the Mississippi governor’s race on Monday, Oct. 9, 2023, and endorsed Democrat Brandon Presley. Photo courtesy Gwendolyn Gray for Governor Campaign

Gwendolyn Gray, an independent candidate for Mississippi governor, is withdrawing from the governor’s race, she announced Monday while endorsing Democrat Brandon Presley’s effort to unseat incumbent Republican Gov. Tate Reeves. Her name will still appear on the ballot, however.

“I am proud to endorse Brandon Presley because he will be a governor who takes action for our people—including making sure our families have access to affordable health care by expanding Medicaid on day one, making sure government is in the hands of the people, and investing in public education so we can create opportunities here at home,” Gray said in a Monday press release from Presley’s campaign.

She did not explain why she was withdrawing. Absentee voting began on Sept. 25 and her name is on those ballots and will also appear when residents cast votes in-person on Nov. 7, the Mississippi secretary of state’s office confirmed. “(Gray) emailed our office about her intent to withdraw, but it’s not official,” Mississippi Secretary of State spokesperson Liz Jonson told the Mississippi Free Press. “Her name will be on the ballot due to the timing, regardless of whether she goes through the official withdrawal process or not.”

Gray’s main policies included reducing gun violence in Mississippi, increasing access to health care, tackling poverty, funding the education system, reducing the prison population and improving infrastructure. 

Her website said she grew up in poverty and “found her calling” through working for Mississippi State University Extension Services and “a local community action agency.” She has worked with Mississippi nonprofits for over 20 years.

Presley thanked Gray for her support and said his campaign is taking “the fight directly to Tate Reeves.”

“I am honored to earn the support of Gwendolyn Gray because our campaign is focused on earning the support of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents who are ready to expand Medicaid on day one, cut the highest tax on food in the country, and clean up corruption once and for all,” Presley said in a Monday press release.

In response to Gray’s withdrawal, Reeves called Gray and Presley “lifelong” and “liberal” Democrats in a Monday tweet

“I would like to congratulate these lifelong Democrats for coming together and making it clear that there is only one option for conservative leadership in this state,” the incumbent said. The Mississippi Free Press has not been able to verify Reeves’ claims that Gray, a political newcomer, is a “lifelong Democrat.”

Brandon Presley sits at an empty table with a photo of Tate Reeves taped to the front
After Republican Gov. Tate Reeves rejected all five October debates, Democratic opponent Brandon Presley debated an empty chair at an NAACP event in Gulfport, Miss., on Oct. 9, 2023. Photo courtesy Brandon Presley campaign

Last week, Reeves suggested that Presley did not want to join him for a Nov. 1 debate because “they’re both Democrats.”

“Is that why he doesn’t want to be there? Does (he) want to debate his fellow Democrat?” Reeves tweeted on Oct. 4.

In response, the Democratic candidate tweeted on Oct. 4 that he will “debate anytime, anywhere, including November 1st.” Presley has challenged Reeves to five other debates in October. The incumbent governor has not accepted them. Last night, Presley debated a chair as the lone candidate at an NAACP forum in Gulfport, Miss. Gray was present in the audience and stood to a round of applause after the Democrat announced her presence. She spoke about why she was endorsing Presley and said “his views, his values line up with my views and my values.

The deadline to register to vote in person was Monday, Oct. 9, and any mail-in voter registration applications must be postmarked by today, Oct. 10. Absentee voting began on Sept. 25. Find information about absentee voting on the Mississippi secretary of state’s website. The Mississippi general election is on Nov. 7.

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