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The Latest: Senate candidates in Mississippi agree to debate

November 13, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on a U.S. Senate special election runoff in Mississippi (all times local):

5:15 p.m.

The two candidates in a special U.S. Senate race in Mississippi have agreed to their only debate of the campaign season.

Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation spokesman Jon Kalahar says representatives for Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy agreed Tuesday to terms and conditions.

The one-hour debate is set for the evening of Nov. 20 in Jackson and will be on television and radio. The federation and WLBT-TV are sponsoring it.

Hyde-Smith was in her second term as Mississippi agriculture commissioner when she was appointed in April to temporarily succeed Republican Sen. Thad Cochran as he retired. Espy is a former U.S. agriculture secretary. The winner of a Nov. 27 runoff will serve the final two years of the term started by Cochran.

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3:10 p.m.

National Democrats are focusing on Mississippi’s U.S. Senate runoff, a year after winning a longshot contest in another Deep South state dominated by Republicans.

Democrat Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in Alabama after Moore was beset by accusations of sexual misconduct.

In Mississippi, Democrat Mike Espy is challenging Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. She faces sharp criticism after praising a supporter by saying she would attend a “public hanging” if he had one.

Joe Trippi, a Democratic campaign consultant who worked for Jones and is now working for Espy, says Hyde-Smith “just doesn’t seem to be ready for prime time.”

Republican Haley Barbour, a former Mississippi governor, is raising money for a super PAC supporting Hyde-Smith. He says she is a reliable vote for President Donald Trump and Espy would not be.

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12:25 p.m.

Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker says his Mississippi colleague is being treated unfairly for praising a supporter at a campaign event by saying: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Wicker says Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s words “are being twisted by her opponent ... to malign her character.”

Hyde-Smith made the comment Nov. 2, and a video surfaced Sunday. She calls the phrase “an exaggerated expression of regard.”

Her words have drawn criticism in Mississippi, which has a history of racially motivated lynchings.

Hyde-Smith is white. She faces a black Democrat, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, in a Nov. 27 runoff.

The winner will serve the final two years of a term started by Republican Thad Cochran. Hyde-Smith was appointed to serve temporarily when Cochran retired in April.

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