‘I can’t be bought’: Democrat gubernatorial candidate Presley speaks in Vicksburg

Published 10:58 pm Friday, July 14, 2023

Mississippi’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Brandon Presley, spoke at Travelers Rest Baptist Church Thursday night as part of an event hosted by the Warren County Democratic Party Executive Committee.

Presley, of Nettleton, spoke with The Post about corruption in state government, health care reform, infrastructure and bipartisan partnerships.

VP: Vicksburg and Warren County are burgeoning hubs for economic development. Are you familiar with the Port of Vicksburg Expansion? What ideas do you have to advance this project and in turn improve our area’s economy?

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PRESLEY: I come from a region where the Tenn-Tom Waterway is in my backyard. So to me, it is so important that we look at intermodal transportation throughout the state. I have had the opportunity, as Public Service Commissioner, to work with Warren County and local officials on economic development in some small way. To put it simply, my jobs program is an 82-county jobs program — not just counties that vote for me, but counties that don’t vote for me, counties that are struggling. It is clear that investment in the west side of I-55 in this state is lacking, and that’s something I want to change. We have an obligation, in state government, to invest in this state and in projects like the port expansion.

VP: Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann (R-Vicksburg) recently said, “There’s not a legislative dollar spent that isn’t touched by someone from Vicksburg,” referring to himself and Sen. Briggs Hopson. How will you work with legislators from Vicksburg to advance the state of Mississippi? 

PRESLEY: I have worked across party lines. As Public Service Commissioner, I have served more time with a Republican majority on the commission than anything, as we only had one term with a Democrat majority. There are less than 2 percent of votes I’ve taken at the PSC that were not bipartisan. I believe you have got to cross party lines. I won’t go into the governor’s office with the idea that I can accomplish things for Mississippi without working across the aisle and forming personal relationships with legislative leadership to get it done. If I’m elected, we will find bipartisan support for Medicaid expansion and for true ethics reform. I will give every ounce of sweat that I can give to get those things passed and make sure we save our hospitals, increase access to health care and clean up a corrupt system.

VP: As many as 12,000 local Entergy customers were recently without power for up to 10 days following a June weather event. Those 10 days were plagued with communication issues. What would you do to improve communication between power companies, local emergency response teams and the public?

PRESLEY: Entergy’s communication during that storm might as well have been two cans and a string. I voted on Tuesday to open an investigation into Entergy, but I went further than any other commissioner did. It’s not the linemen. They’re the ones who are actually out in the community. It’s the communication structure that’s the problem. I want to investigate that, but I also believe they should take a financial penalty related to that when it comes to their return on investment.

VP: Merit Health recently closed its behavioral health unit in Vicksburg, forcing people in need of mental health hospitalizations to travel to Merit Health Central in Jackson for treatment. Coupled with the recent closure of KPC Promise Hospital and the closure of St. Dominic’s behavioral health unit, what are your thoughts on the local state of health care?

PRESLEY: Merit Health River Region closing their behavioral health unit is the latest result of Tate Reeves’ healthcare crisis that continues to damage our state and economy. Tate Reeves hasn’t opened his mouth once about the healthcare jobs lost, the hospitals cutting services, and KPC Promise closing its doors this week. While Tate Reeves remains silent, Mississippi’s healthcare system is burning to the ground. There is no end in sight to this crisis under Tate Reeves’ failed leadership. As governor, I will end Tate Reeves’ healthcare crisis once and for all by expanding Medicaid, which will keep hospitals open, provide affordable healthcare to 220,000 working Mississippians, and create thousands of good-paying jobs across our state.

VP: What gives you an edge over your opponents (Republicans Gov. Tate Reeves, David Hardigree and Dr. John Witcher and Independent Gwendolyn Gray)? 

PRESLEY: I’ll be awake while they’re sleeping and I’ll be everywhere they’re not. I will work every single day in every county in this state. Tate Reeves acts like he is entitled to be re-elected. He thinks he should be anointed to be re-elected. I believe you’ve got to earn this job. I will outwork him. I understand communities in Mississippi better than he could take a course to understand. He could take a college course, but I know it. I’ve been there. I’ve been a small-town mayor, I’ve been a public official. And already, our campaign is garnering support from Republicans, Democrats and Independents. You will see “Republicans for Presley” bumper stickers all over the state, but you won’t see any “Democrats for Tate” bumper stickers.

The primary election for state and county offices in Mississippi will take place on Aug. 8. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 7.