JACKSON • Two-term state Treasurer Lynn Fitch of Ridgeland is heading to a runoff in the Republican primary for Mississippi attorney general.
The other two candidates on the ballot Tuesday, state Rep. Mark Baker of Brandon and former Madison County supervisor Andy Taggart of Madison, were in a tight race for the second spot in the Aug. 27 runoff as votes were still being counted.
The eventual Republican nominee will face Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins, a lawyer, military veteran and former director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, who was unopposed for her party’s nomination.
The person ultimately elected will become Mississippi’s first new attorney general in 16 years. Incumbent Jim Hood, the only Democrat holding statewide office in Mississippi, won the Democratic nomination for governor on Tuesday.
Fitch raised the most campaign money and benefited from having won statewide races as treasurer in 2011 and 2015. She said her background prepares her to be Mississippi’s top legal officer. She has worked as a staff attorney for the Mississippi House Ways and Means Committee, was a special assistant attorney general and spent two years as director of the state Personnel Board before she was elected treasurer. She also pledges to back President Donald Trump in efforts to stop illegal immigration and build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.
Taggart and Baker both claimed Fitch could in some ways continue Hood’s policies, noting that some plaintiff’s lawyers who donated to Hood also donated to Fitch.
Baker is a longtime critic of Hood’s practice of hiring private law firms to pursue litigation on behalf of the state, saying Hood has used that power to reward friends and campaign contributors. Baker touts his support of law enforcement, which included proposals on forfeiting assets that foundered after opposition by other conservatives.
Taggart started the race facing questions about his past criticism of Trump as well as his support for a new Mississippi state flag that would remove the Confederate battle emblem. However, he ran a spirited race, saying he was running to fight illegal drugs after one of his sons took his own life after struggling with narcotics. Like Fitch, he touts experience, and he tried to turn his stands unpopular with conservatives into assets, saying they prove his independence.