Mississippi voters will either elect the state’s first female U.S. Senator or the state’s first black U.S. Senator since Reconstruction in one of Mississippi’s most historic elections tomorrow.
The runoff election between Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy has become so competitive that President Donald Trump is hosting two rallies to campaign for Hyde-Smith in Biloxi and Tupelo on Monday, and U.S. Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have campaigned for Espy.
Trump tweeted his support of Hyde-Smith on Sunday asking Mississippians to vote for her.
“Mississippi, Vote for @cindyhydesmith on Tuesday. Respected by all. We need her in Washington!. Thanks!” Trump tweeted.
At a campaign event on Nov. 19, Booker said “our country hangs in the balance” and “the fulcrum point is this election in Mississippi.”
“I hurt when I see there is so much common ground, but we don’t find it enough,” Booker said. “Mike (Espy) is a guy who has shown his ability to bring Americans together in his past jobs and he has represented this state before in Congress. He brought a lot of great benefits to this state.”
Both candidates have faced controversies throughout the course of their campaigns that have drawn national attention.
Cindy Hyde-Smith, the incumbent U.S. Senator, came under fire when a video of her speaking to voters in Tupelo surfaced and showed her saying that if a supporter invited her to a “public hanging” she would “be on the front row.”
After the video, the University of Mississippi Black Student Union called Hyde-Smith’s remarks racist and called for her immediate resignation.
At the Senate debate last Tuesday, Hyde-Smith offered an apology for her remarks but said her words had been twisted.
“For anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize,” Hyde-Smith said. “There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statements. In nearly 20 years of service… I have worked with all Mississippians. It didn’t matter their skin color type, their age or their income.”
After the debate, Roger Wicker, Mississippi senior U.S. Senator, spoke on behalf of Hyde-Smith and said he disagreed with the Black Student Union’s statement.
“When I was a student, I said a lot of things that probably were unrealistic also,” Wicker said. “I thought Sen. Hyde-Smith addressed the issue adequately tonight. I think also the people of Mississippi have a strong sense of fair play, and they know what the statement wasn’t.”
Wicker declined to comment about what he considers a “public hanging” to mean.
Mike Espy, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, has been scrutinized for accepting payments from an Ivory Coast dictator currently on trial for crimes against humanity, as part of a lobbying contract.
Espy said he initially worked with Laurent Gbagbo to help cocoa farmers receive better wages on the Ivory Coast, and Espy didn’t know how bad the president actually was.
“They asked me to work with this particular president,” Espy said. “So, I took that contract. The thing about it is, I found out how bad the (dictator) was. I really did. So, I wrote him, I resigned, I terminated that contract. There was a contract extension that had already been agreed to.”
Espy said he would not return the money he earned from his lobbying work because he earned that money “seven years ago” and he had to pay hired subcontractors. Espy said his lobbying work got to the point where he had an extension on the contract and the man who he was asked to work for “was just a bad guy.”
Espy and Hyde-Smith advanced to the runoff after defeating Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel and Toby Bartee, a former military intelligence officer who identified as a Democrat.
Hyde-Smith was appointed to her current position after former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran resigned from office in March amid health concerns. Polls will be open tomorrow from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. across the state. Registered voters can visit the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website to find their local polling place.
For coverage of tomorrow’s election, follow The Daily Mississippian’s social media outlets and thedmonline.com.