FLOWOOD, Miss. (WLBT) - At a campaign stop six days before Mississippi’s primary runoff election, GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Waller Jr. said he and his opponent have very different approaches to their campaigns, referring to some of the negative campaign ads that have surfaced since the August primary.
Waller’s challenger, Tate Reeves, has released television and social media spots that accuse Waller of being elitist and liberal.
“I think people see through that. Those are soundbites that don’t have any basis, don’t have any substance. My platform is taken right from some of the most well-known Republicans in history," Waller said.
Waller said his Medicaid expansion plan is modeled after Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana initiative, a plan that would require monthly fees from those wanting coverage.
And Waller’s desire to raise the gas tax and help pay for road and bridge improvements would be offset, he said, by an income tax swap inspired by a former U.S. president.
“Ronald Reagan and Mike Pence are not liberals. I frankly resent any reference to their plans as being liberal," Waller said.
Waller took particular issue with an ad Reeves posted on social media, which took sound bites from a radio interview Waller did shortly after the primary election.
While Reeves carried 74 counties that night, Waller had majority votes in six, including Madison, Rankin and Hinds.
The ad implied the counties that did vote for him are more intelligent about the issues than the rest of the state based on what he said during the interview, that “being close to the capital, they understand what the issues are.”
Waller calls the ad’s use of selected portions of his interview a “total mischaracterization.”
“I think everyone out there recognizes that a neighbor knows a person next door more than the person across, that’s all I was saying. [Reeves] failed to carry his precinct. He failed to carry his county, so I think that’s significant, because they should know him better than anyone," Waller said.
Waller’s campaign also released a television ad shortly after the primary election depicting Reeves as a kid blindly waving a bat during a birthday party, hitting everything but the intended target: a pinata.
“We’re not trying to attack the other person like he’s attacking me. I’m trying to talk about problems and issue and solutions, and I’m just getting attacked with soundbites," Waller said. “I think that shows a very different approach to the campaign. Mine appeals to those who want to move this state forward and are not satisfied with being last in every category.”
Now, Waller’s campaign says they’re seeing traction in some areas of north Mississippi -- in part, because of former candidate Robert Foster’s endorsement last week.
“Frankly, I’ve been amazed at how receptive [it has been]. I think people see that a majority of the voters out there want a change. I think people are concerned with November," Waller said.