While the Republican gubernatorial candidates are divided on issues such as the gas tax and expensive Medicaid expansion, any one of them is infinitely more qualified than Democrat Jim Hood, demonstrating the growing strength of the Mississippi GOP?over the last 16 years under Gov. Phil Bryant and particularly former Gov. Haley R. Barbour.

The choice candidate of GOP leadership, Tate Reeves, leads a pack of three with an astounding $6 million heading into the primary to Bill Waller’s $1 million.

The big question — the most critical question — is Hood and who can beat him in November. Trusted polls and politicos say both Reeves and Waller beat Hood.

The Republican nominee will need a war chest in November because with Hood lurking the DNC smells victory in Mississippi. They want to turn Mississippi blue and use that to fire up their base nationally for a 2020 White House victory.

That’s why voting is so serious this cycle — voting matters and elections have consequences.

Waller, a moderate, is a retired state Supreme Court justice and the son of a former governor.

Businessman Robert Foster, a political newcomer, gained some traction when a left-leaning Jackson blog accused him of misogyny by rightly standing on principle refusing to allow a female reporter to travel alone with him.

Foster is a long shot, but he’s a good man and deserves credit for putting his name on the ballot and standing for sound fiscal policies like Reeves.

Oft accused by detractors of being a spoiled brat, Reeves didn’t come across that way in the GOP debate last week — and he doesn’t in person on the campaign trail where he can easily draw 500 to a fish fry. His strength may be outside of suburban Jackson where Waller is strong.

Reeves is exceptionally competent on policy issues and is a staunch fiscal conservative who is pro-education responsibly and reasonably.

Waller is a good Republican, but he’s not as fiscally conservative as Reeves or Foster. In the debate, he sounded more like a Democrat when it comes to raising taxes and spending money the state doesn’t have. Waller is big on roads and bridges but short on funding without tax hikes.

Reeves was right at the debate about the math not adding up on teacher pay and roads. The road and bridge proposal backed by the highway contractors has been to raise the gas tax by 18 cents. Waller lowered his tax increase during the debate to 3 or 4 cents.

Waller’s teacher pay raise would cost $265 million a year every, single year. He’s proposed using the rainy day fund next year — which he called reserves — as a one-time source. That rainy day fund is not replenished that fast.

So, Waller would fund his proposed teacher pay raise with one-time available monies — and then what? What is is he going to do to meet his campaign pledge the following years?

Waller proposed offsetting his 3- to 4-cent gas tax by eliminating the $4,000 level income tax — using the new gas tax for roads, but taking $180 million from the general fund.

So, Waller’s proposing a $265 million expenditure for his teacher pay raise while cutting the revenue by $180 million. The math doesn’t add up.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another — and in this case, the winner will, no doubt, be a better governor than Democrat Hood.

The most sound fiscal conservative with the most experience, — with our utmost respect for Justice Waller and Mr. Foster — is Tate Reeves. Therefore, we recommend a vote for Tate Reeves as the Republican nominee for Governor on Aug. 6.