(CN) — Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves will be the Republican nominee for governor in November, after soundly defeating former state Supreme Court Justice Bill Waller Jr. on Tuesday. He will face Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood.
With 99% of precincts reporting late Tuesday night, Reeves had garnered 54% of the vote to Waller’s 45%, a 27,421 vote advantage.
Speaking to supporters after his victory, Reeves, 45, said he would unite his party to “ensure that Mississippi does not elect a liberal Democrat to the office of governor.”
A former state treasurer who touted his two terms as lieutenant governor on the campaign trail, Reeves will face Hood, the only Democratic statewide officeholder, in the race to replace two-term Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who is termed out.
Reeves’ victory comes three weeks after he almost clinched nomination outright, coming 1 percentage point short of the 50%+1 vote needed to prevail. He outspent his opponent, according to state campaign finance reports, and also enjoyed support from major Republican figures in the state, including Bryant and former Gov. Haley Barbour.
Mississippi, a Republican stronghold that Donald Trump carried by 18 percentage points in 2016, is one of three states holding gubernatorial elections this year. Kentucky and Louisiana also will choose a governor on Nov. 5.
Mississippi Democrats, perhaps a bit optimistically, hope they may take control of the governor’s mansion for the first time in more than a decade.
Hood, 57, the state’s four-term attorney general, coasted past a field of seven other candidates to win the nomination with nearly 70% of the vote. He spent just over $1 million in the primary race and entered the general election with $900,000 on hand at the end of July, according to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office.
Tuesday’s runoff came with some problems in at least three polling places in two counties. In Lafayette County, 19 votes were cast at a precinct in Oxford before the election machine malfunctioned, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Similar incidents were reported at two precincts in Calhoun County.
Poll workers at several Republican precincts in Hinds County were forced to manually check the paper poll books to ensure no crossover voting occurred due to a malfunction causing the electronic poll books to stop consistently displaying voter history.
Political parties in Mississippi are responsible for running their own primary elections, although the county provides technicians for election machines.
Voter turnout for the Tuesday runoff was lower than in the first round on Aug. 6: With 99% of votes counted, 322,365 primary voters cast ballots compared to 383,080 that voted three weeks ago.
More than 1.8 million Mississippians are registered to vote.