Mississippi’s two U.S. Senate candidates made stops in DeSoto County over the weekend just weeks ahead of a race that reflects a rematch of the 2018 special election.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith participated in a Make America Great Again rally sponsored by county Republican groups in Nesbit on Friday. The Democratic challenger, Mike Espy, held a socially distanced meet-and-greet in Horn Lake on Sunday.
Though Hyde-Smith won DeSoto County by 18 points in 2018, it gave both candidates their third-highest vote totals across the state’s 82 counties.
The path to victory Espy is pursuing consists of both a 3% increase in turnout among Black voters and a 4% increase in his share of white voters from their 2018 levels.
“We know where the votes are that we could have gotten and didn't get. We are doing that with events like this here,” Espy said on Sunday.
Espy has made health care the main issue of his campaign by criticizing Hyde-Smith’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The senator could have done much more,” Espy said. “She's nibbling around the edges of CARES relief. I’m going to hit it head on.”
During the Nesbit MAGA rally, Hyde-Smith cited the national decline in unemployment rates since April’s record job losses as evidence that the economic recovery fueled by The CARES Act is working. The unemployment rate in Mississippi hit 16.3% in April and has steadily declined, hitting 7.9% in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We are trying to get this economy stabilized back to where we were… we’re going in the right direction,” Hyde-Smith said.
Hyde-Smith has made a promise to confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, which has been a focal point of Hyde-Smith’s campaign in recent weeks. Hyde-Smith heads back to Washington today, with Barrett's vote scheduled for Oct. 22.
“If you think I yelled really loud on my ‘aye’ vote for Justice Kavanaugh, you wait till you hear me vote for Amy Coney Barrett,” Hyde-Smith said at Friday’s rally.
The battle over Barrett’s nomination has had a major impact on the finances of this race. Espy is one of nine Democratic Senate candidates that have seen a major influx of donations from Democrats across the country since the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 18. Espy raised over $3.9 million from individual donors between July 1 and Sept. 30, while Hyde-Smith raised just under $556,000.
A Barrett confirmation would cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the Court, which will hold hearings on a challenge to overturn the Affordable Care Act shortly after the election. Espy said that the threat of people with preexisting conditions being denied health insurance if the law is overturned has motivated the surge in donations to his campaign.
“They know that the Affordable Care Act is under siege… They know that and they’re anxious,” Espy said.
Espy has criticized Hyde-Smith for running a low-profile campaign with no town halls and few public appearances. She has also declined multiple invitations to debate Espy, which he said is “because she knows I know her record better than she does.”
“She is ignoring the voters… It's just downright disrespectful to them,” Espy said.
Hyde-Smith previously expressed that she was open to debating Espy before deciding against it.
“He’s talking about the debate because he doesn’t have a record that he wants to talk about,” Hyde-Smith told WMC Action News 5 on Friday. “Losing candidates really want debates. We are just going to run on our record.”