Mike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid

Mike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid

Mississippi Democrat Mike Espy announced his candidacy for the Senate next year, setting up a rematch with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) after last year’s heated contest.

Espy, a former congressman and the nation’s first black Agriculture secretary, announced he’s running for the Senate because progress on a slate of kitchen table issues has been “too slow.”

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“Too many people are hurting because they’re looking for work but can’t find a decent job or because the rural hospital that served them is now closed or they can’t find an education that makes them marketable,” Espy said in his campaign launch video.

Espy was defeated by Hyde-Smith by roughly 8 points in a contentious race last year to finish out former Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranMike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid Biden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe MORE’s (R-Miss.) term.

Hyde-Smith prevailed in the deep-red state despite facing intense scrutiny after joking at an event that she would "be on the front row" if she were invited to a "public hanging," a comment that sparked strong backlash in a state with a history of lynchings. 

Though Hyde-Smith apologized for the remark, Espy indicated he would revive the controversy in their 2020 rematch.

“We can’t continue the change we need if we have a senator who openly laughs about public hangings,” Espy, whose great-grandparents were slaves in the Magnolia State, said in his launch video. “Cindy Hyde-Smith is hurting Mississippi, our progress and our reputation.”

“We came so close in 2018. Join me, and this time we’ll do it,” he added.

While Hyde-Smith’s lynching comments inserted intense controversy into the 2018 race, she was still able to cross the finish line with some help from President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE, who appeared at two rallies with her the day before voters went to the polls. Her victory helped cement Republicans’ power in the state, where the party has consistently won Senate races since the 1980s.

Espy, who would be Mississippi’s first black senator since Reconstruction, faces an uphill battle in defeating Hyde-Smith. The Cook Political report, a nonpartisan election handicapper, rates the race as "likely Republican."

Democrats need to flip three seats and the White House to take control of the Senate or flip four seat should Trump win reelection.