Espy will campaign in Como Tuesday

Published 5:01 pm Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Mississippi State Representative LaTaisha Jackson will host a campaign event for Mike Espy on Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Como Catfish Bar and Grill from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Rep. Jackson said a happy hour social for educators, veterans, retirees, farmers, and others will give local voters an opportunity to meet Espy, who is campaigning to win the U.S. Senate seat opened by the retirement of Sen. Thad Cochran earlier this year.

Espy, a Democrat, will share the ballot with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) , State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) , and Tobey Bernard Bartee (D) in November’s general election.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In 1986, Espy became the first African-American to win a U.S. House Seat in Mississippi since Reconstruction. He was tapped by then President Bill Clinton in 1993 to be secretary of agriculture, but resigned in 1994 amid questions of his use of government perks and acceptance of gifts.

Espy was indicted in 1997 and eventually cleared of all 30 charges in 1998, although several of his associates received hefty fines and prison time. The government reportedly spent more than $20 million investigating and trying Espy. A jury cleared him of all charges in less than 10 hours.

In 1997, Tyson Foods Inc., the largest poultry process in the nation, pleaded guilty to felony charges of giving Espy gifts.

Espy,  a Yazoo City native, enjoyed wide popular support from both white and black voters in Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District, winning election three times before resigning to accept the top agriculture post under Clinton.

He crossed party lines and endorsed Republican Governor Haley Barbour in his re-election bid in 2007. This campaign is his first political office sought since his days in the Clinton administration. He has worked in private law firms since that time.

Hyde-Smith is temporarily filling the Senate seat after her appointment to the position in April by Gov. Phil Bryant. Since then, she has closely aligned herself with President Donald Trump and he has campaigned for her. Hyde-Smith was elected to the state senate three times as a Democrat, but switched parties in 2010 and won elections in 2011 and 2015 as state agriculture commissioner.

McDaniel is backed by the Tea Party and other conservatives.  He very nearly unseated Cochran four years ago and has campaigned extensively for the same seat during this election cycle. He often tells votes he is more closely-aligned with President Trump than Hyde-Smith, but the recent appointee has earned the support of the national Chamber of Commerce and other leading Republican donors.

McDaniel’s fundraising totals this year are much less than he was able to raise four years ago.

Bartee, from Gautier, has run a low-cost campaign, but has slowly gained name recognition with Mississippi voters. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and has worked for the Department of Defense and the Departmet of Homeland Security as an intelligence analyst.

The special election is nonpartisan and there were no party primaries held. Unless one candidate receives a majority of the votes cast on Nov. 6, the two with the most votes will have a runoff two weeks later.

The race for the U.S. Senate seat has drawn national attention, and both Espy and Hyde-Smith have benefited from political donations from across the nation.

Many pundits believe Espy’s candidacy is the best chance the Democratic Party has seen to take back some of the Republican gains in Mississippi in decades. Some doubt that McDaniel could defeat Espy head-to-head.