Truck Driver Wins Mississippi Governor Primary Without Really Trying
August 5, 2015 7:23 AM   Subscribe

Mississippi Governor Dewey Phillip "Phil" Bryant is pretty confident that he will be re-elected this year. His only opponent in the Republican primary spent less than $1000 on the campaign, and every prominent Democrat -- in fact, every Democrat who had ever run for office in the state -- declined to run. And that's how truck driver (and retired firefighter) Robert Gray won the Democratic gubernatorial primary without party backing, money, a website, or even a Facebook page.

Gray racked up 146,163 votes, probably just passing the threshold to avoid a runoff against Vicki Slater, a Madison attorney and past president of the Mississippi Association for Justice. It would have been 146,164 votes, but Gray didn't vote for himself, telling the Associated Press, "I was in Jackson and had to do a lot of stuff and just lost track of time, to tell you the truth."

Mississippi was one of the last Southern states to turn red following the Southern strategy, with its first post-Reconstruction Republican governor elected in 1991, but has only had one single-term Democratic governor since then.
posted by Etrigan (53 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Democratic party isn't even trying in the deep south anymore.
posted by ghharr at 7:33 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


This just in...man who's name starts with a G beats out women who's names start with S.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:36 AM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


The Democratic party isn't even trying in the deep south anymore.

You've pretty much got only one national party left. The Republican Party's Southern strategy has whiplashed so that any national candidate needs to espouse positions that make them unelectable at the national level.

The RNC haven't gotten a non-incumbent President elected (without Supreme Court intervention) since 1989. That's over a quarter of a century. And the demographics are only getting worse. Reince Priebus acknowledged this back in 2012, but midterm success in 2014 gave the Party amnesia.

Demography is destiny and they are really screwed. The push for voter suppression tactics indicates that they understand this.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:48 AM on August 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Few had heard of Slater, so... no name recognition outside of the most into-it dem circles and the Jackson metro area, which is where she was based and she received a bit more media attention. (She only won Hinds County, the blue, majority African-American home of the state capital, lost her neighboring home county, Madison, which had a number of hot GOP races.) Meanwhile, crossover primary voting is allowed in the state, and there was really only one hot race on the Republican side (for state treasurer), plenty of counties where the Dem. primary was of more importance. Also, Robert Gray was a dude, which may have helped, and his name came first on the ballot.

There are several good Democratic mayors in the state, but none of them chose to run for governor, which makes sense for a variety of reasons--money and national support, GOP money and Super PACs, the statewide name recognition issue, closely race-aligned statewide voting, legislative district gerrymandering, etc. Why bother?
posted by raysmj at 7:49 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is just depressing.
posted by asperity at 7:56 AM on August 5, 2015


The RNC haven't gotten a non-incumbent President elected (without Supreme Court intervention) since 1989.

The DNC has only gotten one non-incumbent President elected (without a crazy billionaire running a spoiler third-party campaign) since 1977.
posted by Etrigan at 7:59 AM on August 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


(without a crazy billionaire running a spoiler third-party campaign)

Run Donald Run!
posted by Horace Rumpole at 8:01 AM on August 5, 2015 [11 favorites]


You've pretty much got only one national party left. The Republican Party's Southern strategy has whiplashed so that any national candidate needs to espouse positions that make them unelectable at the national level. 

If the Democratic party is not even trying to get candidates elected in the South then they aren't a national party either.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:03 AM on August 5, 2015 [27 favorites]


End of Facebook predicted.
posted by jfuller at 8:04 AM on August 5, 2015


Sounds like this is a job for an Independent candidate.
posted by shenkerism at 8:07 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


This just in...man who's name starts with a G beats out women who's names start with S.

The real question: which was more salient - latent sexism or a simple alphabetical advantage putting him first on the ballot?
posted by fifthrider at 8:16 AM on August 5, 2015


fifthrider: "This just in...man who's name starts with a G beats out women who's names start with S.

The real question: which was more salient - latent sexism or a simple alphabetical advantage putting him first on the ballot?
"

Only A. Aardvark Andronicus, the lizardman candidate running on a platform of eating human eyeballs can tell us for sure.
posted by boo_radley at 8:21 AM on August 5, 2015 [20 favorites]


The real question: which was more salient - latent sexism or a simple alphabetical advantage putting him first on the ballot?"

Only A. Aardvark Andronicus, the lizardman candidate running on a platform of eating human eyeballs can tell us for sure.


Lizardperson, thank you.
posted by Etrigan at 8:23 AM on August 5, 2015 [19 favorites]


Andronicus 2020 - Enucleating America!
posted by The Zeroth Law at 8:24 AM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


For any non-US mefites watching, can someone please explain how this has happened? As an added bonus, could you explain it with reference to (for e.g.) how the UK does this, and why it doesn't seem to happen here?
posted by marienbad at 8:42 AM on August 5, 2015


I have to be at work in five minutes, so you'll have to settle for the answer 'because federalism.'
posted by pwnguin at 8:54 AM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I remember Dean's 50 state full-court press, thinking it was brilliant. Democrats have given up on the territories where they are in the great minority and this is a defeatist strategy. You need to feed the minds and souls of your constituents even in places where you are going to lose. Furthermore, it is cost-effective to run a non-competitive campaign when your main goal is to get the word out for what you stand for. Finally, there is little down-side to not being in power. No one can blame you for the condition of the state.
And, of course, the incumbent might be caught with a dead prostitute just before election, which will ensure your election (Louisiana and New Jersey aside).
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:54 AM on August 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


For any non-US mefites watching, can someone please explain how this has happened? As an added bonus, could you explain it with reference to (for e.g.) how the UK does this, and why it doesn't seem to happen here?

Well, arguably something similar just happened with the SNP. With precious few exceptions, the Republican Party in the US has largely become the party of the South and the rural Midwest, their overtly racist message doesn't penetrate into the either coast or any metro area. Nationally they maintain viability through a combination of voter suppression, and inherent bias in the Constitution in favor of land area over population density exasperated by gerrymandering, with a liberal helping of unleashed political bribery by billionaire class warriors. But the jury is out as to how long those factors can hold against increasingly bleak demographics before the GOP is really relegated to its last remaining regional stronghold, the South.

In the UK, you have a similar regional divide, although the SNP is angry over the exact opposite things as the US GOP. It might be interesting to look at uncontested or uncompetitive lower races in Scotland vs the Mississippi GOP. How well did the Tories do in Scotland, and was it worse than the pathetic rump Democratic Party in places like Mississippi or Alabama?
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:57 AM on August 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


For any non-US mefites watching, can someone please explain how this has happened?

The US often has elections (primaries) to elect candidates for a particular party for the main elections. In this case, the main election was judged to be a total lost cause for this party, so neither the party nor any serious candidate put any effort or resources into the primary, because the time and resources could be better spent elsewhere. No one who actually voted knew who any of the candidates were (and they were all from the same party), so they probably voted randomly, allowing a random person to win.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 8:58 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Democratic Party has little chance of winning the governorship in Mississippi, so any sensible Democratic candidate doesn't want to waste their time and money in an almost certain losing effort. With that in mind, all you are left with are Democratic candidates who are (a) not sensible, and/or (b) not expecting to win, maybe using the race to build their resume or their campaign experience.

In Canada (similar to the UK in structure, but with differences in execution), this would be equivalent to the party nomination of a candidate to run in a riding. In a riding that is a stronghold for one party, the other parties would have a hard time getting good candidates to run against them as well.

This made the last Canadian election interesting, as the NDP ran a number of lost-hope candidates in Quebec, referred to as poteaux, who after a shift in voter opinion late in the campaign, ended up being elected almost by default and propelled the NDP to Official Opposition status.
posted by cardboard at 8:58 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


For any non-US mefites watching, can someone please explain how this has happened?

So this is all simplified and there are times and places where parts of this will be wrong, but:

The US has primary elections to determine who the nominees from each party are. These elections are run by the government, not the parties, and were imposed upon the parties by the government. The winner of the election is the party's nominee, no matter how the actual party organization feels about it, and candidates need not be party members.* Anyone who wishes can vote in a party primary simply by registering their preference to do so with the government, or by requesting that party's primary ballot on primary-election day. That is, voters also do not have to be party members.

Because of the makeup of the state, the Democratic candidate for governor of Mississippi is going to lose, unless the Republican candidate dies shortly before the election or is caught doing deprecated sexual activities or something loathsome. While three people entered the primary, nobody seems to have been a serious politician running a nontrivial campaign (because the serious politicians have better things to do than run sure-loser campaigns and because a sure-loser nomination isn't worth spending money on).

So of the three people that hardly anyone had ever heard of running for the nomination for an office everyone knew was unwinnable, more people voted for (a) the one with the male first name and (b) the one who was first on the ballot, neither of which are surprising.

As an added bonus, could you explain it with reference to (for e.g.) how the UK does this, and why it doesn't seem to happen here?

It doesn't happen in the UK because the UK doesn't have primary elections. All the parties in the UK are free to nominate whoever they wish by whatever decision-making process makes sense to them.

Analogy for the UK:

Imagine the race for mayor of Glasgow. Also imagine that party nominees are, by law, determined by a primary election of voters in that area. So who the Tory candidate for mayor of Glasgow (understatement: who will lose) is determined by whichever set of Glasgow voters say "I am a Tory" to the local elections office or whichever set of voters walk in on primary election day and request the Conservative ballot.

*If the primary election is otherwise empty, this means that jackasses can "steal" the nomination simply by entering the race and being the only primary candidate. When this happens (like when an atheist nazi eugenicist was the sole candidate in a Tennessee Republican primary for "Who wants to lose to John Tanner in November?"), you'll usually see national or state party organizations desperately saying "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON'T VOTE FOR OUR NOMINEE!"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:16 AM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


the Republican Party in the US has largely become the party of the South and the rural Midwest

In the Midwest, it's also the party of the rich suburbs.
posted by drezdn at 9:26 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


It doesn't happen in the UK because the UK doesn't have primary elections.

The Conservatives have started doing them recently as an experiment.
posted by Etrigan at 9:35 AM on August 5, 2015


the Republican Party in the US has largely become the party of the South and the rural Midwest


If you look at the geographic distribution of counties that votes for or against Obama in 2012, the Republicans have pretty serious holds on a whole lot of territory everywhere in the country other than New England. Fortunately, the counties that they control are mostly ex-urban or rural and don't have very many people in them. My state, PA,
posted by octothorpe at 9:48 AM on August 5, 2015


Rahm Emanuel cost the Democrats their chances of being competitive in the south for a generation.
posted by humanfont at 9:58 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


humanfont: "Rahm Emanuel cost the Democrats their chances of being competitive in the south for a generation."

Feel free to sketch that in a little bit.
posted by boo_radley at 10:06 AM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


MY RACE IS BOTH REPTILIAN AND PARTHENOGENIC; THEREFORE BOTH APPELLATIONS OF "LIZARDMAN" AND "LIZARDPERSON" ARE EQUALLY OFFENSIVE. THE INSULTS THAT SPILL FROM YOUR WARM, FLESHY UN-FORKED TONGUES WILL BE LITTLE COMFORT AS MY BROODKIN EXTRACT THE GELATINOUS FLUID FROM YOUR SIGHT-SPHERES IN A GLORIOUS CELEBRATION OF PERSONAL CHOICE AND STATES RIGHTS.
posted by A. Aardvark Andronicus at 10:10 AM on August 5, 2015 [53 favorites]


Lizard-American
posted by vibrotronica at 10:13 AM on August 5, 2015


I, for one, welcome our new reptilian overlord presidential candidate.
posted by otherchaz at 10:16 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you for joining MeFi! I really enjoyed your recent appearance!

As for Robert Gray, I'm baffled, and have no answer other than sexism or ballot appearance. I'm a lefty in Mississippi right now and I haven't heard a word about him (and to be fair, maybe ONE word about Vicki Slater, on FB).
posted by Countess Elena at 10:22 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


$5 well spent!
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:26 AM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh sure, you're A. Aardvark Andronicus. But are you The! Aardvark Andronicus?!
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:53 AM on August 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


When no one has name recognition, matters like having a non-ethnic sounding name or being on the top of the ballot make a big difference.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:58 AM on August 5, 2015


Countess Elena: "Thank you for joining MeFi! I really enjoyed your recent appearance!"

IT IS ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO MEET AND THEN CONSUME THE EYES OF ONE OF MY HARDWORKING FANS. YOU — AND YOUR DELICIOUS NUTRIENT FILLED EYES — ARE WHAT MAKES THIS COUNTRY GREAT.
posted by A. Aardvark Andronicus at 10:59 AM on August 5, 2015 [13 favorites]


The Democratic party isn't even trying in the deep south anymore.

I live in the Connecticut First Congressional District (The Fighting First!) and I assure you that it's not just a Democrat thing. The RNC (Republican National Committee for our non USian friends) invests a grand total of almost zilch into CT politics.

As a result we get unelectable candidates that are willing to spend a large sum of their own money (such as Linda McMahon) or "celebrity" candidates (former wreslters or news anchors). And the Republicans answer to beating one of the least liked governors in state history with zero charisma was to run the only guy unlikable to lose to him the first time, because he was willing to spend his own cash. And in 2006, the RNC didn't even list its own Senate candidate on their own webpage for fear that it might hurt the independent candidate in the election.
posted by dances with hamsters at 11:00 AM on August 5, 2015


I'm voting for Andronicus. I wouldn't want the wrong lizard to win.
posted by chimaera at 12:05 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sure, he may eat our eyeballs, but he's not raising taxes!
posted by Chrysostom at 12:34 PM on August 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


Re:Rahm

Following the 2004 Presidential election Howard Dean became head of the Democratic National Committee based on his advocacy of a 50 state strategy. At the same time the Illinios Congressman Rahm Emanual became head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Comittee. Rahm hated the 50 state strategy. He was also close to Barack Obama because they were both Democrats from Illinios. Even though the 50 state strategy allowed for impressive gains in 2006 and 2008; Rahm still hated it. After Obama won, Rahm used his association with Obama to force Dean out as leader of the DNC. He gutted the 50 state strategy. The 50 state strategy ensured we had candidates, voter lists and staff in every state. Rahm's gutting of this infrastructure was followed by the loss of congress in 2010.
posted by humanfont at 12:46 PM on August 5, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you're going to get onto the ballot through shenanigans you might as well go all the way and legally change your name to Check-Here To-Vote-Republican.

CHECK-HERE 2016!
posted by delicious-luncheon at 1:10 PM on August 5, 2015


Wait. Robert Gray?
posted by Night_owl at 1:36 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


My state, PA,

Oh, shit. They got octothorpe. WHAT SECRETS WERE YOU ABOUT TO REVEAL?
posted by Panjandrum at 1:41 PM on August 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


Turns out the pierogi races are fixed.

I can't say any more here, but - follow the potatoes.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:14 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


ROU_Xenophobe: "Anyone who wishes can vote in a party primary simply by registering their preference to do so with the government, or by requesting that party's primary ballot on primary-election day. That is, voters also do not have to be party members."

This is a really good explanation. I just wanted to add that while in Mississippi, primary voters don't have to be party members, in some states you DO have to declare a party preference (that gets listed on your voter registration) to vote in a primary. States where you don't are called "open" primaries; states where you do are called "closed" primaries. There are various arguments for open and closed primaries (you can probably fill them in yourself -- concerns about Democrats trolling a Republican primary to pick a crazy person, for example) -- but I prefer open for the simple reason that in local elections for things like judge or sheriff or coroner, there may be three Republican candidates and zero Democratic candidates in a race that is very important to my life, so I should be able to pull a GOP ballot on election day, not because I want to troll America by voting for Trump in the primary but because I care WHICH Republican gets elected sheriff.

A. Aardvark Andronicus:

You have won 100 Internets.

dances with hamsters: "Connecticut First Congressional District (The Fighting First!)"

Wait, Congressional Districts have NICKNAMES? This is a thing that happens? I am delight.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:30 PM on August 5, 2015


The Fighting thing is a Colbert joke, I think.

Districts don't have nicknames so much, since they are fairly protean.
posted by Chrysostom at 3:00 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]




Districts don't have nicknames so much, since they are fairly protean.

I guess Rep. Andronicus (L-MI) would know best but I really don't think there's that much protein in an eyeball.
posted by No-sword at 5:47 PM on August 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


Reporting in from here in Hattiesburg, MS. I had never heard of ANY of these people in any substantial way. Sexism, straight up. Not that Democrats have any chance at all, even though the incumbent makes me miss our last chuckle-headed, good-old-boy governor as I never in my lifetime thought I would. At least Haley Barbour handled Hurricane Katrina like a real leader.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:51 PM on August 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess Rep. Andronicus (L-MI) would know best but I really don't think there's that much protein in an eyeball.

That's why a national position is wanted. The answer is quantity, not quality.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:05 AM on August 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Benny Andajetz: "That's why a national position is wanted. The answer is quantity, not quality."

THIS IS A GREAT QUESTION, THANK YOU. IT'S ALWAYS A PLEASURE TO MEET — AND THEN CONSUME THE EYES OF — AN ELTON JOHN FAN. HIS MUSIC AND HIS LARGE MOIST SIGHT-SPHERES, MADE SPLENDIDLY LARGE AND TEMPTING BY HIS TRADEMARK OVERSIZED GLASSES HAVE BEEN AN IMPORTANT CULTURAL CORNERSTONE OF OUR GREAT NATION. WHO AMONG US CANNOT RELATE TO TO THE TALE OF GLAMOROUS LIFE AND THE NURTURATION OF LIVESTOCK SLAUGHTERED IN ORGIASTIC DELIGHTS?

TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION, YOUR FEEBLE MAMMALIAN EYES CONTAIN A DECADENT COMBINATION OF GLUCOSE AND AMINO ACIDS THAT I, AND MY KIN, RELISH. IT IS NOT ONLY THE SUCCULENCE OF YOUR VITREOUS HUMOURS THAT COMPEL US TO ENUCLEATE YOUR KIND, FOR THERE IS A COMMON BELIEF THAT THE HIGH CONTENT OF HYALURONIC ACID PRESENT WILL KEEP ONE'S PARIETAL EYE FUNCTIONING AT MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE. IN THIS WAY YOU MAY CONSIDER YOURSELVES A TYPE OF PERFORMANCE ENHANCING SUPPLEMENT TO MY PEOPLE. .
posted by A. Aardvark Andronicus at 9:16 AM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


On checking out his twitter account (with its one tweet), I see that Mr. Gray is black. This makes a big difference in Mississippi politics, which is almost entirely racially polarized. There are blue counties where African-Americans are the majority of voters. Maybe he had word of mouth that was unavailable to me, a random white outlier.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:34 PM on August 6, 2015 [2 favorites]






A really detailed article on the weirdness of Mississippi's Democratic primaries.
Even his mother thought she was voting for a different Robert Gray.
Daaamn.
posted by Etrigan at 6:42 PM on August 15, 2015


« Older “He’s got a dragon in his book,” she said. “A very...   |   Canine Facial Recognition Area Identified Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments