One week ahead of the debate between former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy (D) and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R), Ole Miss students will have the chance to hear from four seasoned analysts of Mississippi politics at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.
Overby Center Fellow Curtis Wilkie and Overby Center Chairman Charles Overby will host campaign consultant Austin Barbour and former state House Representative Brandon Jones in a discussion of the historic runoff between Espy and Hyde-Smith at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Overby Center Auditorium.
“The end of the midterm elections signals the beginning of the presidential race,” Overby said in a press release. “We will talk about the ramifications of the midterms in Mississippi and beyond.”
On Tuesday, Espy agreed to a Nov. 20 debate with Hyde-Smith in Jackson. Espy’s decision to accept the debate comes just days after Hyde-Smith attracted national attention for joking about being on the front row of a “public hanging” in a video posted to Twitter on Sunday morning.
“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” Hyde-Smith said in Tupelo while praising a supporter.
“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row”- Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith says in Tupelo, MS after Colin Hutchinson, cattle rancher, praises her.
Hyde-Smith is in a runoff on Nov 27th against Mike Espy. pic.twitter.com/0a9jOEjokr
— Lamar White, Jr. (@LamarWhiteJr) November 11, 2018
Espy’s campaign released a statement on Sunday condemning the senator’s remarks.
“Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comments are reprehensible. They have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country. We need leaders not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgement to represent the people of our state,” the statement said.
Hyde-Smith’s campaign released a statement rejecting any negative connotation drawn from her remarks.
“In a comment on Nov. 2, I referred to accepting an invitation to a speaking engagement. In referencing the one who invited me, I used an exaggerated expression of regard, and any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous,” the statement read.
In an appearance with Gov. Phil Bryant on Monday, Hyde-Smith referred reporters to her statement when confronted with further questions regarding her remark.
The Mississippi branch of the American Civil Liberties Union also released a statement criticizing the senator’s comment.
“Sen. Hyde-Smith should be ashamed of herself. The fact that she chooses to use such repugnant language despite the ugly history in her state speaks to her lack of concern and knowledge about the experience of people who don’t look like her,” part of the statement reads.
Tomorrow’s Overby Center panel will focus on the national implications of Mississippi’s historic runoff and the midterm elections’ effect on President Donald Trump’s tenure in office.
Barbour graduated from Ole Miss in 1999 and is a campaign consultant based in Jackson. He managed U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker’s successful 2008 senatorial campaign and served as national financial chairman on former Republican Governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. Barbour got his start in politics working with his uncle, former Republican Governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour, on the governor’s 2003 gubernatorial campaign.
Jones, a Jackson-based attorney, represented Mississippi’s 111th district in the state House of Representatives from 2008-2012, where he served as vice-chair of the Insurance Committee. He is the co-founder of the Mississippi Democratic Trust, a political action committee that raises money for Democratic candidates across Mississippi. Jones is a native of Pascagoula and completed his undergraduate studies at Mississippi College in 1999.
When Espy and Hyde-Smith meet to debate in Jackson, they will become the state’s first Senate candidates to debate since Sen. Wicker and Democrat Robert Musgrove in 2008. In the runoff on Nov. 27, Hyde-Smith could become the first woman elected to represent Mississippi in the Senate, while Espy could become the first black senator from the state since Reconstruction.
The debate between these two candidates will be aired on WLBT and will be hosted by the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. According to the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, the two campaigns met with Farm Bureau on Tuesday to finalize plans for the debate.