JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican Michael Watson on Wednesday filed qualifying paperwork to run for a second term as Mississippi secretary of state, ending speculation that he may instead challenge Gov. Tate Reeves in the GOP primary.

Watson told The Associated Press on Monday that he would announce his intentions no later than early next week. At the time, he declined to say what position he would seek.

“While I think Mississippi would be more prosperous with better leadership at the top, leadership that encouraged teamwork as opposed to micromanagement, leadership that cared more about Mississippi than politics, I don’t agree. in peace as we leave the work we have started here in the Office of the Secretary of State because there is still much to do,” Watson said in a statement Wednesday.

A Democrat, Shuwaski Young, has announced himself as a candidate for the post of Secretary of State. Watson is the only Republican candidate for the position so far. Republican incumbents in the other seven state offices, including Reeves and Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, had already filed qualifying documents.

The Secretary of State is Mississippi’s top election official. The office also regulates charities and handles company registration.

Watson served three terms as a state senator in coastal Jackson County before defeating former Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny DuPree in the 2019 Secretary of State race. Watson succeeded Hosemann, who was Secretary of State for three terms.

Watson has launched initiatives to empower businesses to combat human trafficking and has criticized federal government proposals to establish new rules for voter registration and mail-in voting. President Joe Biden and other Democrats have called for legislation to expand ballot access through updates to federal election laws.

Young worked as the External Engagement Coordinator for the US Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration. He ran unsuccessfully for a U.S. House seat in central Mississippi in 2022. He said he wanted to make changes to early voting and online voter registration, but that would require the approval of the Mississippi Republican-controlled legislature.

February 1 is the qualifying deadline for statewide offices, state district offices, legislative seats, and county offices. The party’s primaries take place on August 8, with a second round on August 29. General elections are held on November 7, with a second round on November 28.

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