Two Mississippi political veterans discussed the results of the country’s 2018 midterm elections Wednesday night at the Overby Center.
Brandon Jones, a former Democratic state representative and attorney at Baria-Jones Law Firm, and Austin Barbour, a Republican strategist and partner at Clearwater Group and nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, analyzed national politics and the Mississippi Senate runoff.
Barbour addressed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s recent reference to attending a “public hanging,” which has drawn national attention to the Republican senator. He said the comments will “definitely be a determining factor for the Democrats in driving voter turnout,” but said the senator had no foul intentions.
“I don’t think she meant anything racist by that. The lady I know is definitely not a racist,” Barbour said.
Jones said despite the increase in Democratic voter turnout in the Mississippi midterm, Democrats are still largely outnumbered by Republicans in the state. He expressed hope that Democratic candidate Mike Espy can attract voters through his campaign statement, which states “finding common ground, coming together with dignity and respect for each other is the path to progress.”
Jones and Barbour also discussed the upcoming 2019 gubernatorial race. They said former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice William L. Waller Jr. could enter the race against Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, but Barbour was skeptical of Waller’s chances.
“Tate Reeves will definitely be the Republican nominee, and I think, ultimately, governor,” Barbour said.
Inaugural Overby Center Fellow Curtis Wilkie asked Barbour and Jones what their political parties learned from midterm elections, and Jones expressed disappointment.
“For those of us looking for a grand repudiation of this president, we’re not going to see that. His nationalist policies still hold sway in America,” Jones said. “We’re so far outside of normative values. We’re going to have to have someone who’s not afraid to take the fight to him.”
Barbour said he believes it will take a radical leftist to unseat the current president in the 2020 election.
“You can’t be a moderate, Bill Clinton-type candidate and hope to win a primary anymore,” Barbour said.
Jones said several establishment Republicans “have just given up the farm to (Trump), who is an admitted nationalist, (and) just shows a complete lack of respect for the history of the party and for the country.”
Barbour commended students for their attendance and participation at the event despite a winter weather advisory.
“It really speaks to the dedication to involvement that the students of Ole Miss have,” Barbour said.
Brody Myers, an integrated marketing communications major said he enjoyed seeing people from both sides of the political spectrum “sit down and work out the issues.”