Tags: 2018 Midterm Elections | mike espy | mississippi | senate | democrats | governor | 2019

Dems' Miss. Senate Bid a 'Dress Rehearsal' for '19 Gov. Race

mississippi democrat mike espy with gray hair gives his remarks with trees in the background
Defeated Mississippi Democratic Senate candidate Mike Espy (Rogelio V. Solis/AP)

Tuesday, 27 November 2018 11:18 PM Current | Bio | Archive

As returns from Mississippi's run-off for U.S. Senator point to a handsome victory (55 percent) for appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., there is speculation the losing candidacy of Democrat Mike Espy was in fact a "dress rehearsal" for the contest Democrats truly care about in the Magnolia State: the governorship in 2019

Polls show four-term State Attorney Jim Hood defeating any Republican hopeful and becoming the state's first Democratic governor in 16 years.

"Espy's position on the border, abortion, and his opposition to Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court made his election highly unlikely," a Republican strategist and former state legislator told Newsmax. "So, Democrats used his candidacy to test what will help Jim Hood become governor next year."

In a state with a black population of 38 percent, Espy – the state's first black congressman and later the nation's first black state secretary of agriculture – was formidable from the start. What he needed to win, pundits on both sides agreed, was some campaign tactics to woo centrist voters to the Democratic banner.

That tactic turned out to be an effort to portray Hyde-Smith as a product of her state's notoriously segregationist past – right down to her having attended a segregated private academy to avoid the court-ordered integration of public schools in the 1970's and proposing a bill in the state senate to rename a highway after Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Hyde-Smith herself contributed to that effort with her much-publicized comment late in the campaign that she so-trusted a supporter she would attend a "public hanging" with him. The remark, Espy and various national Democratic groups charged, evoked Misssissippi's history in the early 20th century as the southern state with the most lynchings of black citizens.

The public outcry against her marks was loud and angry and "moved the dial" to Espy, according to political columnist Geoff Pender of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

"That comment hurt her," Hayes Dent, Republican strategist and former U.S. House hopeful, told us. "But here's the nuance: voters that were angry and frustrated by her comments and who theoretically could have moved to Espy were being reminded by the left's independent expenditures here how they – the left – really feel about those potential crossover-voters by actually attacking a lot of their sensibilities with alarming photos of lynching and then attacking her for going to a private white academy – something the parents of a lot of Mississippi children in the '70's did to fight court-ordered integration."

According to Dent, "here is one of the reasons Democrats have so much trouble down here: Presenting an alternative isn't good enough – they need to remind us how bad we really were in their eyes."

Clearly, Jim Hood will cultivate and try to woo his state's large black population in the race for governor next year. But based on Espy's experience this year, it is a good bet to say his supporters will "tone it down" on race and on Mississippi's controversial history on the issue in 2019.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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The losing candidacy of Democrat Mike Espy was in fact a "dress rehearsal" for the contest Democrats truly care about in Mississippi: The governors race in 2019, Newsmax's John Gizzi reports.
mike espy, mississippi, senate, democrats, governor, 2019, race
Tuesday, 27 November 2018 11:18 PM
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