Ayanna Pressley, Local Democrats Rally To Help Mike Espy Flip Mississippi Senate Seat

As voters head to the polls, we interviewed the Democrats hoping to bring a repeat of the Alabama Senate victory.
Senate Candidate Mike Espy, Representative-elect Ayanna Pressley, and State Legislator Jeramey Anderson

Senate Candidate Mike Espy, Representative-elect Ayanna Pressley, and State Legislator Jeramey Anderson

In Mississippi, Democrat Mike Espy, the former U.S. Representative and Agriculture Secretary, is challenging incumbent Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith in the U.S. Senate runoff election. In 1986, Espy became the first black congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction. If elected to the Senate, he’d be the first black Senator from Mississippi since the same era.

Neither candidate earned 50% of the vote to secure outright victory in the Tuesday, November 6 general election.

Entering the run-off, Hyde-Smith was the clear favorite to retain her Senate seat. However, in the past two weeks, her campaign has been plagued by allegations of racism and Hyde-Smith’s apparent sympathetic attitude toward Confederate monuments and history. As a result, major corporate donors have pulled their support.

At a campaign event on November 2 in Tupelo, Mississippi, Hyde-Smith told a constituent that “if he hosted a public hanging, I would be on the front row.”

Hyde-Smith, who has avoided speaking to the media during public events, refers to the term as an “exaggerated expression of regard.”

Espy, who is running as a pragmatic moderate, saw new momentum for his campaign after the public backlash to Hyde-Smith’s remarks. The former Agriculture Secretary said he wants to be a Senator for “all Mississippians” and does not want to see the state move backward by electing Hyde-Smith.

In the last 14 days, Espy’s campaign has become more visible with television advertisements and his social media accounts have gained thousands of followers.

The weekend before Election Day, prominent Democrats poured into the state to offer their support for Espy’s campaign. Perhaps the most notable Democrat on the ground in Mississippi was U.S. Representative-Elect Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts. Rep-Elect Pressley is a rising star in the party after upsetting 10-term incumbent representative Michael Capuano in the Massachusetts Democratic Primary in September. She is also the first black congresswoman ever elected in the state.

Pressley sees parallels between her race and the race in Mississippi.

“The message I took to Mississippi is that of the lesson we learned in Massachusetts,” said Pressley. “These polls are not telling the whole story. They are not capturing the electorate, which we are expanding.”

Pressley expressed disappointment over Hyde-Smith’s “public hanging” remarks but said she’s supporting Espy because he is better on every single issue that matters to Mississippians.

“She’s not in keeping with the needs of [Mississippi],” said Pressley. “[Mike] knows it’s about jobs, education, and healthcare. It is about supporting our veterans and protecting Social Security and Medicare for our seniors.”

Espy was joined by Pressley in Meridian, Mississippi on Sunday, November 25, for a well-attended afternoon rally.

Notable local Democrats are also rallying behind Espy’s campaign.

Mississippi State Representative Jeramey Anderson, who at 26 has already served five years in the State Legislature and ran for U.S. Congress in 2018, has been one of Espy’s most vocal supporters. At just 21, Anderson became the youngest black person elected to a legislature in US history at the time.

State Rep. Anderson said that he’s hopeful to see Espy prevail in tonight’s election but maintained that no matter what the result is, progress has been made in Mississippi.

“I believe that how we move Mississippi in a more progressive direction is to make sure everybody feels like they’re a part of the process,” said Anderson. “That’s going to take time but I think it’s races like this and opportunities like this that are pivotal in moving Mississippi in that direction. I’m excited to be a part of it.”

Anderson spent the last weekend before Election Day going door-to-door getting the vote out for Espy. On Saturday, November 24, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley joined him for block walking.

Voters have until 7PM tonight, Tuesday, November 27, to cast their ballot. Espy is hosting his Election Night watch party at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and it is open to the public.

For more on the U.S. Senate Race in Mississippi — listen to my full interviews with U.S. Rep-Elect Ayanna Pressley and Mississippi State Rep. Jeramey Anderson below.

Ayanna Pressley:

Jeramey Anderson:

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Interview // Democrats / Midterms / Mississippi