/Mike Espy, in final stretch of Senate campaign, hopes to overcome long odds in 2020

Mike Espy, in final stretch of Senate campaign, hopes to overcome long odds in 2020

Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs recalled during a weekend rally at the Greater Grove Missionary Baptist Church how a Jackson television station first reported in 1986 that Espy was defeated in his historic campaign to become the first African American U.S. House Member since Reconstruction. Flaggs stated that Warren County had not been voted on, and had not been counted. After Espy won enough votes in Warren County, Webb Franklin, a three-term Republican incumbent, had to apologize. Espy spoke out about the reversal to the crowd outside the church. Flaggs led the crowd in chants of “Go Vote!” before adding, “We can accomplish this.” Let nothing stop your vote on November 3. Although an African American has won every U.S. House seat since Espy won it, 1986 was a skeptical year. Past candidates have failed time and again. Espy is facing the same doubts as his attempt to be the first Black Mississippian elected as a U.S. Senator. On a cool, overcast day with light mist occasionally falling, about 75 people gathered in the church parking lot to hear Espy speak. They believe Espy has the potential to make history once again. Lily Fae Pierre from Hinds County said, “I love Mike Espy.” She was there to cheer on Espy. “It’s time for Mississippi not to be so backward.” Espy will start a bus tour through the state Wednesday at 9 a.m. at his hometown of Yazoo City. The tour is expected to conclude Sunday afternoon. Hyde-Smith reportedly also plans to take a campaign bus tour through the state this week. However, information was not immediately available. Espy, who was speaking to the Vicksburg crowd last weekend, did a segment live on MSNBC from the church. The rally of Joe Biden, Democratic presidential nominee, cut short Espy’s segment. Between a speech by Joe Biden’s wife Jill and Espy, Espy was still allowed to briefly appear on the national cable network. This interview led to campaign contributions totaling more than $125,000 from all over the country before Espy left Vicksburg on Saturday. As Espy was out campaigning, Hyde-Smith, along with her Republican colleagues, was in Washington, D.C., preparing to vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as a U.S. Supreme Court seat. Hyde-Smith returned to Mississippi on Monday after the vote to confirm Coney Barrett. She is one of few U.S. senators who did not choose to debate her opponent. “It is not disrespectful to me. Espy said that it was disrespecting you. Hyde-Smith may not be debating Espy but she reminded Mississippians recently that Espy broke down racial barriers and has also broken down gender barriers. She recently tweeted, “First woman senator from my district, first woman chair of the Mississippi Senate Ag Committee and first woman elected Mississippi commissioner.” “I’ll never quit working to move Mississippi ahead.” Espy, who was living in Vicksburg at the time, reflected on his asthma attacks in the 1950s while growing up in segregated Yazoo City. In 2019, Shysteria Sharder Shoemaker, a Houston resident, died from an asthma attack. To receive treatment, she was first transported to Houston’s emergency room. Shoemaker died before she was able to receive the care she required in another northeast Mississippi city. Espy, who suffered from asthma attacks in the 1950s was rushed to the hospital of Black Mississippians in Yazoo County. The hospital, which was founded by his grandfather in 1920s, had run out of oxygen canisters. Espy was close to death. His father ran to the white hospital and successfully pleaded his case for an oxygen canister. Espy claimed that his father’s efforts saved his life. Espy continued to tell the crowd that a Black child from Yazoo City had better access to emergency room care in 1950s than many Mississippians, of all races, have today due to the closing of rural hospitals. Expanding Medicaid coverage to Mississippians working in low-paying jobs that do not provide health insurance would solve the problem and create revenue for rural hospitals. Espy mentioned past U.S. senators who were from Mississippi as examples of their expertise. In the 1960s and 1970s James Eastland was well-known for his influence on federal judicial appointments. John Stennis, however, was famous for his efforts in locating Ingalls Shipbuilding along the Gulf Coast. Later, Thad Cchran was well-known for his efforts in improving agriculture in Mississippi. Espy stated to the crowd, “I want be the father for Medicaid expansion in Mississippi.”