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Campaign ads bring cute kids, scary politicos

Mississippians could get a reprieve from political advertising now that the rush of the party primaries is over.

Starting in about mid-October, though, people who are easily annoyed by political ads will have to keep their TV remotes handy.

Voters on Nov. 5 will choose a governor, other statewide and regional officials, state lawmakers and county officials, including sheriffs. Commercial breaks during newscasts and football games will be filled with 30-second vignettes of candidates with their loyal spouses, cute kids and favorite hunting dogs. The cats, with scant political skills themselves, can rarely be bothered to turn to the camera on cue.

Political action committees and other interest groups will spend money to pick apart candidates’ records. Some commercials will be accurate, and some will include a grain of truth and a shovelful of manure.

Some commercials will show unattractive images of candidates caught with distorted mouths mid-sentence and will be enhanced by sinister music and montages of pot holes and broken bridges — or, worse yet, Washington politicians who are supposedly the allies of those seeking office in Mississippi, even if the local folks have never been in the same room with the national ones.

Mississippi, Louisiana and Kentucky are the only states electing governors this year. Mississippi has the only race without an incumbent because Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is limited, by state law, to two terms.

The national governors’ groups for both major parties are treating this like a competitive race between fourth-term Attorney General Jim Hood, who won the Democratic nomination Aug. 6, and second-term Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who won the Republican nomination in an Aug. 27 runoff.

Reeves has spent about $6 million from January through late August, according to campaign finance reports he filed before the runoff.

Because Hood didn’t have a runoff, his latest campaign finance reporting deadline was in late July. At that point, his year-to-date spending was about $1.1 million.

Both Reeves and Hood have already run feel-good ads about home lives, and the Republican Governors Association launched an anti-Hood ad as soon as he secured the Democratic nomination.

Mississippi has eight statewide offices, and five of them are guaranteed to switch hands after this election cycle. The governorship is open because of term limits. With Reeves and Hood in the governor’s race, the offices of lieutenant governor and attorney general will have new occupants.

Three-term Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor after easily defeating a little known candidate in the Aug. 6 primary. In November, he faces first-term state Rep. Jay Hughes, who was unopposed for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

Two-term state Treasurer Lynn Fitch is the Republican nominee for attorney general, having won a party primary runoff Aug. 27. In November, she will face Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins, who, like Hughes, was unopposed for the nomination. Collins is a military veteran and former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi. Either Collins or Fitch will be the first woman elected attorney general in Mississippi.

The treasurer’s race is between Republican David McRae, an investor who unsuccessfully challenged Fitch in the 2015 GOP primary, and Democrat Addie Lee Green, who has run unsuccessfully for other offices, including agriculture commissioner.

The secretary of state’s race is between Republican Sen. Michael Watson, who’s a three-term state senator, and Democrat Johnny DuPree, a former Hattiesburg mayor who lost to Bryant in the 2011 governor’s race.

The down-ticket races might attract some advertising dollars, but most of the money will be spent to build up or knock down Reeves and Hood in the governor’s race.

Emily Wagster Pettus has covered Mississippi government and politics since 1994. Follow her on Twitter EWagsterPettus.