unlikely trends

Truck Driver Who Won Gubernatorial Primary Didn’t Tell His Mom He Was Running

Robert Gray
How to win an election without spending any money and talking to hardly anyone. Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/AP/Corbis

On Tuesday night, Robert Gray’s mom called him and joked that she had voted for him in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Mississippi. She assumed she had just cast a ballot for someone with the same name as her son, according to The Clarion-Ledger

Nope, it was him. And not only did his mom vote for him — so did 51 percent of primary voters in the state, which means he will likely face off against incumbent Republican governor Phil Bryant in November for the chance to run the state Capitol, which he visited for the first time on Wednesday. Gray was not one of those voters; he told the Associated Press he didn’t vote “because he was busy.”

The gubernatorial candidate is not sure about his campaigning plans — having raised no money and attended few events for the primary, his political experience is limited — and most of the strategizing will have to wait until the truck driver transports a load of sweet potatoes to Pennsylvania this week. 

He knows what he’ll talk about on the trail, however; Gray, who currently has no health insurance, thinks Mississippi should expand Medicaid and provide more funding to schools. He also thinks the state flag should lose its Confederate influences. 

Regardless of what’s next, however, he realizes his friends and family might be a bit shocked to learn that he’s running, especially since he didn’t tell anyone (he’s a bit shy). “It’s not every day the average Joe decides to run for governor,” he said after his win. “They know my personality. They know I’m low-key. Jumping into a situation like this, they probably in their wildest imagination never thought it was me.”

The state Democratic chair, who met with Gray after he won, says that being the first name on the ballot with two other mostly unknown candidates may have helped. His opponents — a lawyer and a obstetrician-gynecologist — were women who spent far more money on their campaigns; his budgetless victory may have been a result of bias as much as luck.

Voter turnout was also low; Democratic electoral prospects in Mississippi haven’t been too exciting lately. Gray thinks the fact that his name is pretty unremarkable might explain his victory, since he can’t think of any other reasons. “They didn’t know me from anybody else.” He told another reporter, “Most people have a Robert in their family.”

Truck Driver Wins Gubernatorial Primary