Reeves, Waller headed for a runoff after first ballot doesn’t settle GOP governor’s primary

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Eric J. Shelton/Mississippi Today, Report For AmericaTate Reeves smiles as he speaks to his supporters during his election watch party at Table 100 in Flowood, Miss., Tuesday, August 6, 2019.
FLOWOOD — Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves didn’t mention Bill Waller Jr.’s name when he spoke to supporters around 11:30 on Tuesday night to acknowledge a runoff between the two Republican candidates for governor.
Waller, the former chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court, effectively kept the perceived front-runner from earning the more than 50 percent necessary to avoid an Aug. 27 runoff.
“Whether it’s tonight or in three weeks… I can tell you tonight that I am going to be the Republican nominee for governor. I can tell you tonight we are going to beat Jim Hood in November,” Reeves told the 50 or so supporters still in attendance at his watch party at Table 100 in Flowood.
Earlier in the night, as Waller’s supporters milled around the first floor of Capitol Towers in downtown Jackson, a dozen of his staffers had cast predictions about the night’s outcomes. Each had foreseen a runoff between the two candidates, with many betting only a few points would separate them. One even had Waller besting Reeves by a fraction of a percent.
But if the end-of-night’s outcome — with Reeves just over 48 percent and Waller at 34 — disappointed anyone, they didn’t show it. When Waller and his wife, Charlotte, walked through the door just after 11 p.m., the 60 remaining guests roared for the candidate, chanting “Go Bill, Go!” as the retired chief justice rounded the room, shaking hands.
At the podium, Waller played the jubilant underdog, “cautiously optimistic” that his campaign had achieved its original mission, making it to a runoff with Reeves.
“Our goal from the very start was to be in a runoff and it