Mississippians will be deciding a rematch of the 2018 U.S. Senate race when they head to the polls tomorrow. Democrat Mike Espy is trying again to unseat Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith.
Democrat Mike Espy is trying again to become Mississippi's first black U.S. Senator since Reconstruction. Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Espy by about 7 points in a November 2018 special election runoff. She is the first woman to represent Mississippi on Capitol Hill.
Hyde-Smith has been running a low-key campaign in her rematch with Espy. She declined offers to debate, attributing it to her busy schedule in Washington.
Brad Chism, President of the political communications firm Chism Strategies, says Espy is in a stronger position than in 2018.
“There some polls that show it’s a dead heat right now. Largely, because we see Mike Espy with the momentum and Senator Hyde-Smith just simply trying to run out the clock,” said Chism.
Espy is a former Mississippi Congressman who was elected to the U.S. House in 1986 making him the state’s first Black congressman since the Civil War era. He also served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton.
In a recent WAPT Television special, both candidates were asked about their priorities for Mississippi. Topping both candidates’ lists is healthcare but their views on policy differ.
"We see Mike Espy with the momentum and Senator Hyde-Smith just simply trying to run out the clock."
Espy says he strongly supports the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid to cover working people who cannot afford private health insurance.
“Quarter of a million people in Mississippi would have relief,” said Espy. They could go to the doctor and their U.S. government would pay 90% of their medical bill so they’d have the confidence they could go to the doctor to take care all of their ills and all of their maladies.”Hyde-Smith has called the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, disastrous saying Congress needs to repeal it. Although she recently voted for a bill that would protect part of the law that requires insurers to cover people with pre-existing health conditions regardless of the overall fate of the ACA.
“You know we have such a high rate of diabetes in Mississippi and that is certainly among the very top is healthcare, rural healthcare, and prescription drugs. Because it is astronomical what we pay for prescription drugs,” said Hyde-Smith.
Espy has advocated for changing the 1894 Mississippi state flag with its Confederate emblem. Hyde-Smith has not. Espy believes she’s hurting Mississippi’s image and does not represent the state’s future.
“She’s wrong for Mississippi. She’s outdated for Mississippi. She’s holding us back and it’s costing us jobs and it’s harming our economy,” said Espy.
Hyde-Smith disagrees. She says she’s working for every Mississippi family.
“But we do care about Mississippians. All Mississippians. We want the best for absolutely every family in all 82 states. We’re going to continue to work hard to grow these jobs… to grow the economy,” said Hyde-Smith.
“She is really unusual as a Republican Senator in that she can’t raise the money."
The election in 2018 is arguably remembered most for its race-related controversies that drew national attention and references to Mississippi’s dark past and violent history of lynchings.
A video posted on social media showed Hyde-Smith at a campaign event praising a local supporter, saying she would be front row if he invited her to a public hanging. After the video went viral, she initially refused to apologize for her comment but later said it was an “exaggerated expression... and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous.”
Brad Chism with Chism Strategies says her comment about attending a public hanging and other insensitive statements is partly why Hyde-Smith hasn’t been able to raise a lot of money this election.
“She is really unusual as a Republican Senator in that she can’t raise the money. He’s outraised her almost 45 to 1 in the last two-and-a-half to three weeks,” said Chism. "You have a situation where she’s such an embarrassment to corporate officials that they’re afraid to give money to her because of her previous comments.”
Chism says he believes her endorsement from President Donald Trump will sustain her bid for a full six-year term in the Senate. Trump’s challenger former Vice President Joe Biden along with former President Barack Obama recently announced their endorsement for Espy.
Chism says if Mississippi votes along party lines, it will be tough for Espy to win because there are more Republicans in the state than Democrats. But the question, he says, is how many Republicans will split their ticket this election. To have a shot at defeating Hyde-Smith on Tuesday, Chism says Espy needs record turnout from Mississippi’s Black voters and at least 1 in every 5 white voters.