Decision 2018: Four run in special senate election

Published 11:06 pm Saturday, October 27, 2018


NATCHEZ — The Nov. 6 general election is fast-approaching when voters will go to the polls to cast their votes for candidates in a number of races including:

Mississippi’s two U.S. Senate seats

  • U.S. House of Representatives 3rd Congressional District seat
  • Circuit court judge positions in district 6-1 and district 6-2
  • Southern District Supreme Court District 2 Position 1
  • Court of Appeals District 4 Position 2, and
  • Chancery court judge seats in District 17-1 and 17-2

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Perhaps among the most anticipated is Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seat vacated in March by longtime U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who retired for health reasons.

When Cochran resigned his long-held Senate seat in March, Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Brookhaven, to fill his unexpired term. A special election to fill the vacancy is on the Nov. 6 ballots, and Hyde-Smith is running for the seat. Challengers did not have to win party primaries and Hyde-Smith’s contenders on the Nov. 6 general election ballots are Tobey Bernard Bartee, Mike Espy and Chris McDaniel.

Today, The Natchez Democrat is profiling candidates for Mississippi’s special senate election.

Last week, The Democrat profiled candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by Gregg Harper, R-Miss., who did not seek re-election.

Next Sunday, The Natchez Democrat plans to profile candidates in Mississippi’s second U.S. Senate race and in the Court of Appeals District 4 Position 2 race who will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballots in Adams County.

Judge positions are non-partisan and candidates will be on the ballot for the first time in the Nov. 6 general election.

The only contested race in any of the judge positions on ballots in Adams County, however, is for Court of Appeals District 4 Position 2 in which three candidates are contending.

U.S. Senate candidates in special election to fill the seat vacated by Thad Cochran

(Candidates in this special election are running as independents but their party affiliations, if known, are mentioned in profiles below)

Tobey Bernard Bartee

Tobey Bernard Bartee of Hattiesburg is an independent candidate vying to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired in March for health reasons. Bartee will face Cindy Hyde-Smith, Rep. – Brookhaven, who was appointed in March by Gov. Phil Bryant to fill Cochran’s seat.

Bartee is associated with the Democratic Party.

Bartee, 41, is a former Naval intelligence officer and served at the Department of State in resource management and human capital planning.

Bartee said his vision is to unite the people in order to build a better Mississippi for generations to come.

“Part of what we’ve been trying to express with the campaign is a mindset for our future,” Bartee said. “Our vision for the campaign and for the state is one people, one focus, one Mississippi. The investments we make today create the opportunities of tomorrow. In everything we do, we will be building a coalition that will execute those strategies.”

Improvements to infrastructure, education and healthcare would help Mississippi compete for jobs, which is one of the top concerns Bartee said he has encountered while campaigning.

“In the conversations we’ve had, people are looking for jobs to come home to our state” Bartee said. “In the commonwealth of all 50 states, we came in last based on five different platforms. My role is to remove any obstacle from any one citizen that would keep that individual from reaching their full potential.”

Bartee said improvement begins with education and healthcare. He said the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, reauthorized by President Barack Obama as the “Every Student Succeeds Act” in 2015, is a means for improving low-funded schools.

“The K-through-12 system doesn’t do enough for students,” Bartee said. “Also, we have to do more to address healthcare, and not only the hospitals and communities. We have to be able to deliver a healthy workforce that can show up for work every day.”

Bartee said he plans to address issues on a statewide level.

“We compete as a state and invest as a state, and if we’re able to do that effectively, and bring jobs here, that tax base will go across the state,” Bartee said. “When we look at the cost for businesses to operate in any one area, we are always going to be higher than our peers across the United States. We have to lower the costs so they can grow and represent to pull in a greater number of businesses.”

Mike Espy

Mike Espy grew up in Yazoo City, a small, rural, Mississippi town, and he said he highly values the rural way of life. In addition, as a member of congress representing a rural district and as the nation’s Secretary of Agriculture, Espy said he has used his knowledge and experience to improve Mississippi’s agricultural economy.

Espy has long been a Democrat, and in 1993, became President Bill Clinton’s first agriculture secretary but resigned the cabinet post in 1994 amid a special counsel investigation that accused him of improperly accepting gifts, the Associated Press reported.

“He was tried and acquitted on 30 corruption charges,” the AP reported. “Espy said he refused to accept offers of plea deals. ‘I put my reputation on the line, went through a trial, went through 70 witnesses against me, went through the special prosecutor who spent $26 million against me, and I was found not guilty. Because I was not guilty. In fact, I was so not guilty, I was innocent.’”

Espy said he sees tariffs recently enacted under President Donald Trump’s administration as being harmful to farmers, the state’s economy and to the future.

Espy has said he wants to represent all Mississippians.

“Mississippi needs to be a land of opportunity for all of its citizens,” Espy said.

Espy said he is committed to all Mississippians having access to their rights of citizenship, due process, full equality and civil rights, regardless of age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

Espy said he believes all Mississippians should have the support of their government to protect against any efforts that prevent citizens from pursuing their life’s ambitions.

Espy said he would work as an independent senator for all of Mississippi, putting people over party, and he will work with anyone — whether they are against him or for him — if it will benefit Mississippi and its citizens.

If elected, Espy said he would work to bring jobs to Mississippi and to grow the economy.

“World-class manufacturers who have invested in Mississippi know the value of our workforce,” Espy said. “To attract additional outside investments and to build a home-grown entrepreneurial economy, we need to strengthen our workforce training.”

Espy said he will work to improve the state’s infrastructure and for an increase in the supply of child care services, paid family leave, an increased minimum wage, and an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit.

Other issues: Espy said he is for making Washington more accountable, improving education, expanding healthcare services, supports securing borders but does not support separating children from families, will work to improve veterans’ and senior services and supports a strong military.

Espy said he will fight for women’s rights so that women’s reproductive health is free from gender discrimination, targeting especially the availability of sufficient health insurance coverage and medical services.

“Women should have the basic right to make their own decisions about their personal health,” Espy said.

Cindy Hyde-Smith

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Gov. Phil Bryant on March 21 of this year after former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran resigned for health reason.

Hyde-Smith, a Republican, lives in Brookhaven with her husband Michael and has one daughter, Anna-Michael.

“As a former senator and former commissioner of agriculture, I feel like I have the background and the experience,” Smith said, “but more so the willingness to serve people in the great state of Mississippi.”

Hyde-Smith said she is a strong conservative proven by her voting record.

“I have a proven conservative track record, and I will continue to capitalize on that,” she said. “No one will work harder than I will to move Mississippi forward.”

Hyde-Smith said she believes the key issues in Mississippi that most people are concerned with are jobs and the economy.

Hyde-Smith has the endorsement of President Donald Trump.

“The optimism throughout the state under President Trump is more positive than I have seen it in years,” Smith said “With the corporate tax rate cut, employers are able to have some breathing room. People are concerned about the tariffs lasting long enough to cause irreversible financial recovery. I believe that once the negotiations are complete this country will be in a better position.”

On a national level, Smith said she is a strong advocate of the president’s plan for immigration reform as well as strengthening the military.

“Immigration is certainly a concern,” she said. “That’s the reason I support President Trump in securing the border and building the wall. … I plan to help make the tax cuts permanent to support funding to build the wall and continue to create a business-friendly environment. We have to continue to build a strong military to have peace through strength.”

Chris McDaniel

Chris McDaniel is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate vacated by Cochran.

McDaniel has been a Mississippi senator for 10 years, representing Senate District 42

From Laurel, McDaniel earned a law degree from the University of Mississippi. In addition to being a state legislator, McDaniel is also an attorney and syndicated conservative radio talk show host. He was a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2014. He lost to incumbent Thad Cochran in the Republican Primary in a bitter campaign.

In an October town hall meeting his campaign hosted at the Hotel Vue in Natchez, McDaniel told local residents and supporters that, unlike his opponents, he will uphold the conservative principles of liberty and limited government.

“I am a Reagan conservative. I am a child of the Reagan Revolution,” McDaniel said. “Only one party can stand in the way of what the Democrats are trying to accomplish. Only one party can push back against this party that has become more socialist than democratic, more radical than moderate.”

McDaniel said many of the establishment Republicans, such as his opponent Cindy Hyde-Smith, have lost their “backbone” and have betrayed many of the principles on which conservatism is founded.

“I am tired of politicians saying the right things and then getting to Washington and betraying our trust,” McDaniel said. “I am tired of men and women saying they are conservative and then getting up there and governing as Democrats.”

McDaniel said Hyde-Smith is one of those politicians.

The border wall is one example of the elite politicians leaving out regular Americans.

“My party controls the U.S. government. Why hasn’t the border wall been funded?” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said both Democrats and the “elite Republicans” will not build the wall because not having a wall — and continuing to have illegal immigrants pour into the country — feeds their individual interests.

“The Democrats see future voters, the Republicans see cheap labor. Lost in the middle are average Mississippians,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said he supports regular Mississippians who need jobs and are being displaced by illegal immigrants and he supports building the border wall.

“I am going to stick a brick in that wall one day,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel said he wants to work with true conservatives to kill Obamacare, reduce the federal debts and protect religious liberties. But McDaniel said he will not betray his true conservative principles to accomplish those goals and that he would not compromise with Democrats.

“It is time for Democrats to do the compromising,” McDaniel said. “We will not retreat.”

Republicans have to find their backbone again and become the party of principle again,” McDaniel said. “If we can’t find our backbone again they will push us off the field of battle.”