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This Major-Party Nominee's Not In The Pocket Of Big Donors. Or Any Donors


Now next door in the state of Mississippi many people might be hearing the name Robert Gray for the first time. He's a 46-year-old truck driver who yesterday was named that state's Democratic nominee for governor. As Mississippi Public Broadcasting's Paul Boger reports, Gray barely ran a campaign at all.

PAUL BOGER, BYLINE: Robert Gray has spent his entire life living in Mississippi. But on Wednesday, he walked through the halls of the state capital for the first time.


ROBERT GRAY: You know, it looks a lot bigger from the outside.

BOGER: It's safe to say Robert Gray is a political unknown for a vast majority of Mississippians. But the Jackson-based trucker beat two better-known candidates by 60,000 votes. The news took many people by surprise. According to his finance reports, Gray has not received or spent a dime since he filed paperwork to run earlier this year. Gray's campaign was so low-key that his own mother didn't know about it.

GRAY: She called me yesterday, and she said, I see you are running for governor. I said, yeah, well, and she said, well, I voted for you. And I know she was probably, you know, joking around about it.

BOGER: But things are quickly changing for the candidate. Even though Gray was previously unknown, he now has the Democrats' full backing. Rickey Cole is the party state chair. He says Gray is a serious person and not a fringe candidate. But how did a man who didn't run a campaign beat two higher-profile female candidates? Cole says there may be a couple of explanations.

RICKEY COLE: I would not be surprised if somebody did an in-depth analysis and found that some of those votes were the result of gender bias. I think, by and large, the people who voted for Mr. Gray were making a mark indicating, I don't know any of these folks, and I need to move on to the race I'm really interested in.

BOGER: Gray will now go on to face incumbent Republican governor Phil Bryant in November. For NPR News, I'm Paul Boger in Jackson. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.