By Robbie Ward/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – As part of the state Republican Party’s increasingly larger presence in Tupelo’s mayoral election, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves made a brief appearance Wednesday to endorse Fred Pitts’ campaign.
Reeves, who also has spent time in Meridian and Ocean Springs to support Republican mayoral candidates in those cities, visited with Pitts and about 20 supporters in downtown Tupelo to offer a formal endorsement.
With the general election less than two weeks away, Pitts, 70, a businessman and Ward 2 councilman, has acknowledged a tougher race than anticipated with Democrat Jason Shelton, 37, an attorney.
Standing alongside Pitts at Park Heights restaurant, Reeves described his preferred successor to Mayor Jack Reed Jr., who did not seek a second term.
Reeves said Pitts’ leadership on the City Council, in private business and in civic organizations make him the obvious choice in the June 4 general election.
“It’s those leadership qualities that are going to make Fred a great mayor in Tupelo for the next four years,” Reeves said.
Reeves also compared differences between Republicans and Democrats in Jackson and Washington, D.C., as reasons why local voters should stick with the GOP.
“You see the differences between the parties,” Reeves said.
In a city known for Republican mayors for three decades, Pitts has history on his side.
However, quietly many Republicans in the community grumble about some of their friends planning to vote for Shelton, whose campaign has held a fundraiser for Republicans supporting his bid for mayor.
Tupelo Republican Jim Newell, the Ward 3 councilman, has endorsed Shelton.
Pitts has said his personal relationships with Republicans on the state and federal level can help with economic development projects.
“It’s important to have a progressive city like Tupelo to continue its economic boost,” Pitts said.
Shelton, a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative candidate, said he wasn’t surprised to see Reeves making an appearance to support Pitts but didn’t think it would matter to voters.
“People need to keep in mind on June 5th all these happy faces will leave Tupelo and either Mr. Pitts or I will be elected mayor,” he said.
“And that person will serve for four years.”
Last week, state GOP chairman Joe Nosef attended a Tupelo fundraiser for Pitts and pledged additional resources to help win the mayor’s race.