Tornadoes clobber Mississippi. Hours later, its governor attends Republican fundraiser in Alabama

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Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves speaks to his reelection platform before attendees of the Mississippi Press Association annual meeting in Flowood, Miss., Friday, June 16, 2023. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. – Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves traveled to Alabama for a Republican fundraising event as people in his state were still reeling from back-to-back tornadoes that killed one person, injured dozens and destroyed homes and businesses, and in the midst of lingering power outages from severe thunderstorms.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Reeves headlined a Republican Governors Association fundraiser on Monday at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Birmingham, according to an invitation obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. Ticket prices ranged from $5,000 for one person to $50,000 for four people.

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Reeves is policy chairperson for the RGA and is seeking a second term as governor this year. His campaign manager Elliott Husbands said in response to questions Tuesday that the event was planned long ago, and money raised there was not earmarked for any specific campaign. Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi have the only governor’s races this year.

Reeves has stayed in contact with Mississippi Emergency Management Agency leaders since storms started pounding the state last week, including during his Alabama trip that lasted about three hours, Husbands said.

“The Governor also has personally communicated with local leaders in the affected areas,” Husbands said. "In addition, he has already said publicly he is going to be on the ground in the impacted areas tomorrow."

Brandon Presley, Mississippi's northern district public service commissioner, is the Democratic nominee for governor. His campaign communications director, Michael Beyer, on Tuesday criticized Reeves for attending the Republican Governors Association event.

“It is no surprise to see Tate Reeves leave the state for a fundraiser in the middle of storm recovery — when given a choice between rubbing elbows with the wealthy and well-connected or speaking face-to-face with Mississippians who have had their lives upended by this storm, he will always go after the money," Beyer said. "If it would mean furthering himself, Tate Reeves would go to Antarctica for a campaign check.”

Reeves did not fly on the state airplane to the fundraiser, Husbands said.

Thousands of people have been sweating without air-conditioning since severe thunderstorms knocked out electrical service last week in central Mississippi.

A tornado that struck Jasper County in eastern Mississippi overnight Sunday to Monday killed one person, injured nearly two dozen people and damaged more than 70 homes. Later Monday, another tornado struck coastal Jackson County. It injured six people and damaged about 100 structures. The city of Moss Point was hardest hit.

Reeves said Tuesday on social media: “We’ll be here for the long haul to support these communities and help them recover."

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