By Talbert Toole
Mike Espy announced via Twitter Tuesday morning that he will take another shot at being elected to the U.S. Senate. The former secretary of agriculture ran against Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in 2018; however, he was defeated by a margin of almost 70,500 votes.
In his announcement, Espy notes that he was the first African American to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Congress since the Civil War era. He was also the first African American to become the secretary of agriculture.
It’s official. I’m running to be Mississippi’s next U.S. Senator. Too many people here can’t find a decent job, rural hospitals are closing, and the price for education is just too high.
— Mike Espy (@MikeEspyMS) November 12, 2019
Espy also made jabs at his previous and 2020 opponent, Hyde-Smith, stating she openly laughs at public hangings.
“We can’t continue the change we need if we have a senator who openly laughs at public hangings,” Espy said, “and makes statements supporting voter suppression. Cindy Hyde-Smith is bad for Mississippi.”
Hyde-Smith and Espy both faced severe criticism during their election pursuits last year.
Hyde-Smith faced backlash after a video surfaced last year of her stating, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” in regards to acknowledging Tupelo cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson’s support for the appointed senator.
During a televised debate following the comment, Hyde-Smith apologized.
“For anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize,” she said. “There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statements.”
Hyde-Smith came under further backlash when a new video surfaced of her speaking to students in Starkville where she said suppressing liberal votes would be a “great idea.”
“There’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who, that, maybe we don’t want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. So, I think that’s a great idea,” Hyde-Smith said in the video clip.
While Hyde-Smith suffered criticism from her comments made on two separate videos, Espy went under fire after accepting full payment of a lobbying contract from Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo in 2011, who refused to step down even after losing the 2010 election and is now on trial in an international court for crimes against humanity.
Espy said he halted the business contract and only received a partial payment of the contract in 2011.
However, Fox News reported that according to the U.S. Department of Justice Foreign Agents Registration Act documents, Espy’s Jackson-based agricultural consulting firm AE Agritrade received the first payment of $400,000 from Gbagbo in January 2011, which would have been the partial payment.
The document shows that Espy’s firm also received the second payment of $350,000 on March 1, 2011, according to the Clarion Ledger’s report.
Hyde-Smith has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, including voting with him for a declaration of a national emergency at the southern border. However, her vote went against her Senate counterpart Roger Wicker who voted against the declaration.
Mississippians will have the chance to vote for either Hyde-Smith or Espy on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.