November 5, 2018 10:18:26 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi voters will cast ballots Tuesday on an unusual combination -- two U.S. Senate races.
In one race, four candidates are competing to fill the remaining two years of the term of Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired earlier this year. Although the race is nonpartisan and party labels won't appear on the ballot, it features two Republicans and two Democrats, and could result in a Nov. 27 runoff.
Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith, then the state's Agriculture Commissioner, to fill the vacancy, and the GOP's Hyde-Smith has stuck close to President Donald Trump, winning his endorsement. Also running is Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who nearly knocked off Cochran in a 2014 primary, only to see Cochran escape defeat in a runoff partly by appealing to Democrats.
On the Democratic side, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy is trying to pull off an upset that could have national implications in a closely divided Senate. Another Democrat and former military intelligence officer, Tobey Bernard Bartee, is also running.
That closely watched race won't be all, though. Also on the ballot is incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, who's seeking re-election to another full six-year term in the seat he's held since December 2007. Wicker is challenged by Democratic state Rep. David Baria. Libertarian Danny Bedwell and Reform Party member Sean O'Hara are also seeking Wicker's seat.
Other races include:
U.S. House 3rd District
Mississippians will elect a new member of Congress in the 3rd District.
Republican District Attorney Michael Guest of Brandon is squaring off against Democratic state House member Michael Ted Evans of Preston and Reform Party member Matthew Holland.
The 3rd District runs across 24 counties from Natchez through the Jackson suburbs and farther northeast to Starkville. The retiring Gregg Harper, like Guest a Rankin County Republican, has represented the area for 10 years.
Winning a competitive primary, Guest supports higher infrastructure spending, immigration changes, and more consumer choice in health care.
Evans is a populist but conservative Democrat who voices distaste for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and opposes abortion. He opposes Trump's trade policies and supports broader health coverage.
U.S. House 1st District
Republican U.S. Rep Trent Kelly is seeking a second full term in a north Mississippi congressional seat, opposed by Democrat Randy Wadkins and Reform Party member Tracella Lou O'Hara Hill.
The 22-county 1st District stretches from suburbs of Memphis, Tennessee, to Tupelo and Columbus.
Kelly, a former district attorney, first won election to Congress in 2015 after U.S. Rep. Alan Nunnelee died. Kelly has heavily outraised Wadkins, a University of Mississippi chemistry professor.
A Mississippi National Guard general, Kelly emphasizes support for higher military spending. He also wants to keep decreasing regulations and supports Trump on trade, saying other countries trade unfairly with the United States.
Wadkins entered the race citing disagreements with Kelly and Trump, especially over health care. Wadkins supported plans for government-funded health insurance for all Americans.
U.S. House 2nd District
The state's only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Bolton, is aiming for a 13th full term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
He's running against independent Troy Ray and Reform Party candidate Irving Harris in the 2nd District which spans 26 counties including the Mississippi Delta and parts of Jackson.
A Hinds County supervisor before he was first elected in 1993, the 70-year-old Thompson could reclaim the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee if Democrats win the majority in the House.
U.S. House 4th District
U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, a Republican, is seeking to a fifth term in south Mississippi, opposed by Democratic state Rep. Jeramey Anderson and Reform Party member Lajena Sheets.
The 4th District covers 14 counties from Laurel to the Gulf Coast.
Palazzo touts support for military spending, in a district where the largest employer is military shipbuilder Ingalls Shipbuilding. He argues he's building seniority and that voters should re-elect him to support President Donald Trump.
Anderson calls for broader health coverage, an increased minimum wage, and less punitive criminal sentencing.
Palazzo has raised nearly $700,000 since 2017 began, compared to $131,000 for Anderson.
Court of Appeals
Voters in two districts in the western half of the state will get a chance to elect new members to eight-year terms on the state Court of Appeals.
The court races are nonpartisan, and if no one wins a majority Tuesday, runoffs would be held Nov. 27.
In the 2nd District in the Mississippi Delta and parts of Jackson, candidates include Eric Hawkins of Greenville; Ceola James of Vicksburg; and Deborah McDonald of Fayette.
McDonald raised more than $30,000, the most of the three. She cites experience as a municipal court judge and lawyer for government agencies in southwest Mississippi.
James served four years on the court before losing to Latrice Westbrooks. Hawkins has been Washington County prosecutor since 2007 and Greenville city prosecutor since 1999.
In the 2nd District in southwest Mississippi and parts of Jackson, the candidates are Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill of Jackson, David McCarty of Jackson, and Byron Carter of Byram.
Weill, previously a Republican member of the Jackson City Council, raised nearly $150,000. Although technically running without a party label, Weill was endorsed by the state GOP.
McCarty raised more than $125,000. Endorsed by some Democrats, McCarty says he has more experience arguing cases before Mississippi's appellate courts.
Carter raised little money, but says varied legal experience qualifies him.