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Waller collects $580K in Mississippi governor’s race

A former Mississippi Supreme Court chief justice has collected more than $580,000 in his run for governor.

Republican Bill Waller Jr. raised the money in two months from more than 700 donors, his campaign said in a news release Wednesday. The campaign said it exceeded its fundraising goal.

“It’s a sign of real momentum building all across the state,” businessman Leland Speed of Jackson, a Waller finance committee member, said in the release.

However, Waller still has significantly less money than second-term Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican who is also running for governor and started the year with $6.3 million.

The other Republican in the governor’s race, first-term state Rep. Robert Foster, started the year with $12,297.

All candidates for statewide, regional and legislative offices in Mississippi have a Friday deadline to file reports showing how much money they raised and spent through April.

“I won’t have millions in the bank come Friday when campaign finance reports are released,” Foster said on Twitter. “In fact, I don’t want it, because there are huge strings attached to money like that.”

Fourth-term Attorney General Jim Hood had just over $1 million by January — the most among the nine Democrats running for governor.

Waller served 21 years on the state Supreme Court, with the last 10 as chief justice. He retired early this year, then started raising money for his gubernatorial campaign.

The last time Mississippi had a governor’s race without an incumbent was 2011. Republican Phil Bryant was completing one term as lieutenant governor and started the governor’s race with just over $2 million in his campaign fund. Businessman Dave Dennis also ran in the Republican primary and started 2011 with just over $527,000 cash on hand. Bryant raised nearly $560,000 in the first three months of 2011, compared to Dennis’ $456,000. Bryant defeated Dennis in the primary that August and then defeated Democrat Johnny DuPree in the November general election.

Bryant was re-elected in 2015 and is barred from seeking a third term.

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