/Espy, Hyde-Smith help generate record turnout; mustering similar interest in runoff crucial

Espy, Hyde-Smith help generate record turnout; mustering similar interest in runoff crucial

Mike Espy received enough votes Tuesday in U.S. Senate special elections to continue fighting another day. Many unknowns remain about how the fight between Espy, Cindy Hyde-Smith and interim Senator will unfold over the next three weeks. Hyde-Smith was close behind Espy, with both hovering at 41 percent. The majority of Tuesday’s votes went to Hyde Smith’s Republican colleague Chris McDaniel. As she has been throughout the election cycle, Hyde Smith will be the clear favorite for the Nov. 27 race against Espy. Espy was the first African American to be elected to the U.S. House in 18 years. She also served as secretary of agriculture under the Clinton administration. Tuesday’s record-breaking turnout of 850,000 voters in midterm elections was set on Tuesday. Some speculated that Espy could be a viable African American candidate and generate Democratic support similar to the ones Democrats get in Mississippi during the presidential years. If Espy had received votes comparable to those received by Hillary Clinton in 2016, Espy would have won Tuesday without the need for a runoff. Danny Blanton, Espy’s spokesperson, said that “we’ve always suspected that this would be a 2-step process.” The fact that Hyde-Smith had a runoff advertisement on Wednesday morning suggested that it also anticipated a second round. Melissa Scallan, Hyde-Smith’s spokesperson, stated that the senator would be visiting all parts of the state over the next three weeks to speak to voters and encourage them to vote on November 27th. She also suggested that the Senate might be in session at times during which time she could be campaigning in Washington, D.C. Blanton stated that Secretary Espy would continue to do what he has done all along: meet with voters across the state and offer real solutions for real problems facing Mississippians. Voters have noticed that he is the only candidate to discuss the important issues to them. Even more, he is also the only candidate with the relevant experience to address these issues. He is the only candidate who has guaranteed voters that he will be representing them, not any political party or individual. He will always put Mississippi first. He will remain the only candidate to do this.” Marty Wiseman is a political scientist who was also the former director of Mississippi State University Stennis Institute of Government. He said that if the November 27th runoff election were for control of Senate interest, something similar to a presidential-year might have been generated. He said that there would have been reporters from all corners of the country covering the race. “Of course unfortunately for Democrats, interest on Republican side would also have been high.” Republicans won enough seats Tuesday in order to increase their majority, regardless of what happens at the Mississippi runoff. Based on previous runoffs, it is likely that the candidate who can match the total votes cast in the first election will win the Nov. 27 election. Although most voters will not return to the polls in runoff elections, it is quite common for them to be less. The contentious U.S. Senate Republican Primary between McDaniel and Cochran in 2014 saw 382,221 vote in the runoff – 63.326 more than the first election. Mississippi election law requires that runoffs be held in special elections or party primary contests, if there is no candidate who wins a majority in the first election. Wiseman stated that Espy will need to put in a lot of effort to get the required turnout to win the second round. Because Mississippi has more Republican voters than Democrats, it is easier to generate turnout for Republicans. Wiseman and others noted that this election will be unusual with many unknowns. The election will take place on Tuesday following Thanksgiving. What will the holiday do to the turnout? There is also concern among Republicans as to how McDaniel voters will react. Many Tea Party supporters of McDaniel were outraged by what they saw as a coordinated effort by the Republican establishment to defeat McDaniel’s race against Cochran in 2014. Many of his supporters were also upset by the fact that Gov. Phil Bryant chose Hyde-Smith, a Brookhaven-based Democratic state senator who switched parties to run for and win the post of state agriculture commissioner, over McDaniel in order to succeed Cochran. Cochran was forced to resign in March due to health reasons. Scallan stated that the party’s focus will be to unify the party and conservative voters in Mississippi in order to continue the nation’s progress. Scallan stated, “We also want people to vote in Nov. 27 runoff, because it’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and this will be the sole statewide race on ballot.” This is a significant increase from the 631,858 turnout in the 2014 midterm. The night was good for Mississippi Republicans. The Republicans held three of the four districts in Mississippi’s congressional district. With 57.8 percent, incumbent Senator Roger Wicker, a Tupelo Republican won re-election easily, against 39.2 percent for Democratic challenger David Baria (a Bay St. Louis state House member). Baria, who wasn’t as well-funded as Espy, received almost the same number votes. Baria had received 342,905 votes, while Espy had 358,752. Contributing: Larrison Camp Click here to see Mississippi Today’s complete coverage of the historic runoff election between Cindy Hyde Smith and Mike Espy.