JACKSON — A second Democrat has entered the race for an open U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi, complicating party leaders’ hopes that their voters would unify behind a single candidate for what is probably a once-in-a-generation chance to win an open seat in the Republican-dominated state.
Second-term Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said Tuesday that he’s running in the Nov. 6 special election for the seat long held by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran. Cochran, 80, retired Sunday, citing poor health.
Gov. Phil Bryant appointed fellow Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was state agriculture commissioner, to temporarily succeed Cochran. She takes office next week.
Hyde-Smith, Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel and Democratic former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy have already announced they will run in November. If a runoff is needed, it will be held Nov. 27. The winner will serve the rest of the six-year term, which ends in January 2021.
Candidates won’t be identified by party on the ballot, but they are allowed to tell voters their political affiliation. They have until April 24 to qualify to run, Bryant said Tuesday.
Republicans are trying to maintain their slim Senate majority in this year’s midterm election. Though Mississippi is a conservative state, Democratic leaders are pointing to their party’s victory in a special U.S. Senate election in Alabama in December as proof that the party can compete in the solidly Republican South. The last time Mississippi had a Democrat in the Senate was in January 1989, when John C. Stennis retired.
Shelton said he would help Mississippi residents navigate the federal bureaucracy and would work with other senators to “push back the rising tide of debt swallowing our nation.”
“Working with others in my hometown, we reduced our city’s overall debt and reached a place where we have revenue left over at the end of each year,” Shelton said. “We have recruited new jobs, balanced budgets, and created a better quality of life for our neighbors.”
Mississippi also has a regularly scheduled election this year for a six-year Senate term. Republican incumbent Roger Wicker, who has been in the Senate since late 2007, faces a political newcomer, Richard Boyanton of Diamondhead, in the June 5 primary.
Running in the Democratic primary on the same day are state Rep. David Baria of Bay St. Louis; Jensen Bohren of Benton; Victor G. Maurice of Pass Christian; Jerone Garland of Kosciusko; state Rep. Omeria Scott of Laurel; and Howard Sherman of Meridian.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.