JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy is aiming for a rematch of a U.S. Senate race that he lost to Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith in Mississippi in 2018, in hopes of reversing the outcome.
To compete with her in November, he will first have to push past two candidates in the Democratic primary.
Friday was the deadline for candidates to qualify for Mississippi’s March 10 primaries for U.S. House and Senate.
Nobody filed to challenge Hyde-Smith in the Republican primary, so she moves straight to the Nov. 3 general election ballot. She’s running as a steadfast supporter of President Donald Trump, who came to Mississippi to campaign for her last time.
“We cannot let the liberals win,” Hyde-Smith said when she filed her qualifying papers Jan. 3.
Espy announced his candidacy nearly two months ago, and he has been raising money. He filed qualifying papers Thursday.
“I want to be a partner in building the ‘New Mississippi,’ devoid of all the old stereotypes and symbols that have divided us for so long and have driven people to look away from Mississippi,” Espy said in a statement after he filed.
Tobey B. Bartee, who is a former military intelligence officer, and Jensen Bohren, who has been a teacher, also filed to seek the Democratic nomination for Senate. Both Bartee and Bohren have previously run for the Senate, but neither of them raised much money.
Espy is a Democratic former congressman and was U.S. agriculture secretary during President Bill Clinton’s first term in the 1990s. Espy lost a November 2018 special election to Hyde-Smith. She had been appointed to the seat months earlier when longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran retired. The special election was to fill the final two years of the six-year term Cochran started.
The 2018 race drew national attention after Hyde-Smith praised a supporter by saying she would attend a public hanging if the man invited her. Her campaign said it was an expression of regard, but Espy, who is African American, said the remark showed a callousness toward Mississippi’s history of racist violence.
Bartee raised and spent little as he ran in the 2018 special election. He placed last among the four candidates as Espy and Hyde-Smith advanced to the runoff. Bartee filed qualifying papers Friday. In a brief interview, he said he would talk about issues later because he wants in-depth discussion and not “sound bites.”
“I make no promise of easy answers or quick solutions because there are no shortcuts,” Bartee says on his campaign website. “History has repeatedly taught us that sustainable progress is the result of deliberate planning and smart, timely investments.”
Jensen Bohren ran a shoestring campaign in 2018 for Mississippi’s other Senate seat that’s held by Republican Roger Wicker. Bohren came in last among the six candidates in that Democratic primary.
If primary runoffs are needed, they will be March 31.
Federal Election Commission documents show Espy raised nearly $100,000 through Sept. 30 and had $131,000 on hand, while Hyde-Smith raised more than $983,000 and had $583,000 on hand.