Tennessee leaders working to help Mike Espy in election for Mississippi Senate seat

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Cindy Hyde-Smith's Democratic challenger is making his final pitch to voters in a race that's been plagued with he said, she said in a deep red state.

Senate candidate Mike Espy explained what he means when he says he says he puts Mississippi first while speaking in Rigeland, just outside of the Magnolia state's capital of Jackson, on Monday.

"So 'Mississippi First' means I value Mississippi over everything else - over party, over persons, over everybody. I'm an independent person, and I'll be an independent person," he explained.

He discussed his personal experiences with Hurricane Katrina and why shortly after he chose to support a republican candidate for governor.

"It just really, really affected me. And so when I had a chance to decide who to support for governor, I supported Haley Barber over the trial lawyer Democratic nominee, who was my friend. I just had to make the decision at that time in Mississippi's history after such a devastating hurricane that destroyed lives and ravaged property."

The race is garnering national attention. Democrats in Shelby County are doing what they can to back Espy too.

Corey Strong, Chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party, says many people in Shelby County have connections to Mississippi and despite the state's history as a Republican stronghold, he's not surprised the race is as tight as it is.

"I see a new south, a movement of youth and involvement and us going in the right direction," he said. "If you're disturbed by the things the republican candidate is stating in Mississippi. Please get out and vote."

Tennessee State Representative G.A. Hardaway told us groups are doing what they can to generate support for the former congressman and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

"So the Black Caucus members and Democratic Caucus members have decided to use our resources. We made contributions to the campaign in terms of our time. We've been down and walked, canvassed and knocked on doors. We made phone calls, where we were taking our campaign phone bankers and providing them with call lists to turn out the vote," Rep. Hardaway said.

He says a critical reason for people in Shelby County to pay attention to the race is the decision of the Department of Justice and juvenile justice reform. He says he's not surprised the race between Espy and Hyde-Smith has tightened despite it being in such a deep red state.

"I think we're in a new era and President Trump has ushered us into this era," Rep. Hardaway said.