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Mississippi US Senate runoff: 3 more weeks of ads, speeches

November 7, 2018
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Mike Espy who is seeking to unseat appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when Republican Thad Cochran retired for health reasons, speaks to a crowded ballroom of supporters following his speech in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday night, Nov. 6, 2018. Espy will face Hyde-Smith in a runoff on Nov. 27. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s U.S. Senate runoff will attract money from interest groups the next three weeks. But the partisan balance of the Senate is already decided, and that decreases the intensity of the fight.

Voters will choose Nov. 27 between Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy, who advanced from a field of four candidates Tuesday. The winner gets the final two years of a six-year term.

Hyde-Smith has served in the Senate since April, when longtime Sen. Thad Cochran retired. Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to serve temporarily until this month’s special election is resolved.

Espy was elected to the U.S. House in 1986 and served as U.S. agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1994.

As of Wednesday, political action committees had spent about $1.8 million to support Hyde-Smith and roughly the same to support Espy, according to The Campaign Finance Institute , a nonprofit group that evaluates money in politics.

Mississippi Victory Fund, a PAC backing Hyde-Smith, said Wednesday that it is airing ads that call Espy “the liberal choice” and say Espy “already sided with the radical left” by opposing Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Hyde-Smith is endorsed by President Donald Trump and voted to confirm Kavanaugh. Espy told a business audience last week that he will put “principle over party.” He has said he would evaluate judicial nominees on their records and he had reservations about Kavanaugh’s temperament to serve on the high court.

One of Mississippi Victory Fund’s donors is Republican former Gov. Haley Barbour, who gave $25,000. Espy crossed party lines in 2007 to endorse Barbour for a second term as governor.

Espy said in a news release Wednesday that he is challenging Hyde-Smith to three debates before the runoff.

“Public discourse is important, now more than ever, and Mississippians deserve to hear our views and understand where we differ, whether it’s on health care, education, or job opportunities,” Espy wrote in a letter to her. “The stakes are just too high.”

Hyde-Smith previously said she would consider debating Espy before a runoff, if her Senate schedule allows time. She declined to debate before Tuesday because she said she did not want to give a platform to Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel. She said McDaniel was telling “untruths” about her.

McDaniel finished third Tuesday and called on Republicans to unite behind Hyde-Smith. Mississippi last elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 1982.

Hyde-Smith was in her second term as state agriculture commissioner when Bryant appointed her to the Senate. She is the first woman to represent Mississippi in either chamber of Congress, but no woman has been elected to the job from the state.

Espy, if elected, would be the first black man to represent Mississippi in the Senate since Reconstruction. PowerPACPlus, a group that says its goal is “to build the political power of America’s multiracial majority,” accounts for most of the independent spending supporting Espy.

The biggest independent spending in favor of Hyde-Smith are just over $923,000 from the National Association of Realtors and $675,000 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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