TUPELO • City officials are in the early stages of preparing for President Donald Trump to visit Tupelo in order to campaign for Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves ahead of the state’s election for governor.
Multiple city officials confirmed to the Daily Journal that the Trump campaign and the U.S. Secret Service have been in communication with the Tupelo Police Department, the Tupelo Fire Department and the Tupelo Regional Airport to prepare for Trump’s visit on Nov. 1.
Mayor Jason Shelton wrote to Trump on Oct. 8 saying he has been made aware of Trump’s possible visit to Tupelo to campaign for Reeves.
“On behalf of our great city, I would respectfully request the opportunity to officially greet you when you arrive at or depart from the Tupelo Regional Airport or when you arrive at or depart from the BancorpSouth Arena in Tupelo.”
Shelton said his administration and the city departments will assist the Trump campaign in order to make the president’s visit run smoothly, even though Shelton is supporting Reeves’ opponent, Attorney General Jim Hood.
“I don’t support Lt. Gov. Reeves or the president politically, but I’m certainly not going to be rude,” Shelton told the Daily Journal.
Trump’s visit to the state comes just four days before Mississippians will decide to elect either Reeves, the Republican nominee and Hood, the Democratic nominee, for the state’s next governor.
Parker Briden, a spokesman for the Reeves campaign, did not confirm that Trump was coming to Tupelo, but he did say the campaign would welcome the president if he did come.
"We welcome President Trump or Vice President Pence to Mississippi any time, any place — and we'd also welcome Elizabeth Warren or Beto O'Rourke to come campaign for Jim Hood," Briden said in a statement to the Daily Journal.
The rally marks Trump’s third visit to Mississippi since he took office in January 2017. He hosted a rally in Southaven on Oct. 2, 2018 and a rally in Tupelo and Biloxi on Nov. 26, 2018 to support U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in her campaign for the Senate.
Shelton received some criticism last year for not attending Trump’s rally to campaign for Hyde-Smith, even though Shelton said he was not invited to the event.
Shelton said he is being proactive this year to try and request a meeting with Trump to welcome him to Tupelo. He said if Trump does come to Tupelo and hosts an event at the BancorpSouth Arena, he intends to be at the arena in his official capacity as mayor in case he is needed. However, he does not plan to take part in the campaign rally, and he has not been invited to the proposed rally.
“I’ve been openly campaigning for Jim Hood,” Shelton said. “I’ve known Lt. Gov. Reeves, and he’s a very good politician. I can’t imagine him wanting someone at his event that doesn’t support his agenda.”
Shelton clarified to the Daily Journal that he does not have anything personal against Reeves. In fact, Shelton said he was invited to a Reeves’ fundraiser in Belden, but he was in Japan on city business at the time of the fundraiser.
Shelton further said people often have a misconception that the mayor has the power to speak at certain events, when he doesn’t. He also said there is a difference between Trump coming to Tupelo on an official visit and Trump coming to hold a political event.
The decision to hold a political event for Reeves in Tupelo could prove to have implications in the governor’s race given that Hood is from the town of Houston, located in Northeast Mississippi.
The Hood campaign declined to comment for this story.
The state’s general election is on Nov. 5.