US Senate candidates speak to Mississippi business audience


Cindy Hyde-Smith: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File; Mike Epsy: AP Photo; and Chris McDaniel: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

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JACKSON, Miss. — A Republican appointed to the U.S. Senate said Thursday that she represents “Mississippi values” by supporting President Donald Trump.

“Our country is better off right now than it was two years ago,” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith told hundreds of businesspeople at Hobnob, a social event sponsored by Mississippi Economic Council.

But, candidates challenging her in next week’s special election said they would be more effective in Washington.

Democrat Mike Espy did not mention Hyde-Smith by name but criticized her for saying she votes 100 percent with Trump.

“I promise you that I’m going to be an independent voice for Mississippi, a thoughtful presence in the Senate, working with you to make things better,” said Espy, a former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary. “I will be a strong voice and not a weak echo.”

Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel said the U.S. should resist a “lurch toward socialism.”

“For 100 years the same power structure, the same machine, the same good ole boys, helped run our economic system — more centralized than not, more based in favoritism than not, more based in cronyism than not, to satisfy the donor class but leaving regular Mississippians out of the fight,” McDaniel said. “Those days have to come to an end.”

Hyde-Smith is endorsed by Trump and is receiving support from several high-profile Mississippi Republicans, including Gov. Phil Bryant, who chose her to temporarily succeed longtime Sen. Thad Cochran. Hyde-Smith took office in April when Cochran retired.

“We’re confirming conservative judges to the federal bench,” Hyde-Smith said. “We’re repealing growth-killing regulations because we want more jobs. … We’re lowering taxes to support that economy.”

Another Democrat challenging Hyde-Smith is Tobey Bernard Bartee, a former military intelligence officer making his first run for public office. He said the U.S. needs to improve infrastructure and education but because of political divisions, “we’re not having the conversations that we have to have to position us for success in the future.”

If nobody wins a majority in the four-person race Tuesday, the two leaders will compete in a Nov. 27 runoff. The winner will serve the final two years of the six-year term Cochran started.

Mississippi also has an election Tuesday to fill its other U.S. Senate seat. Republican Sen. Roger Wicker is seeking another six years in the job he has held since late 2007. He said Republicans have reduced regulations and cut federal taxes.

“We have put more money in the pockets of taxpayers and average workers through tax relief, and we’ve also lifted the tax burden off job creators,” Wicker said.

Democratic state Rep. David Baria, who is challenging Wicker, said Mississippi has a “brain drain” with young people moving to other states for jobs.

“When I’m your United States senator, I will never sugarcoat the facts just to make you feel better,” Baria said. “I’ll take on the issues that hold us back, head-on.”

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