Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sid Salter: Muddy Senate Race Cost $20 million and Two Reputations

In 2018, Mississippi voters elected two U.S. senators. The two elections saw about $27. 6 million expended with $11 million of that coming from partisan outside groups – and armed with that money, Mississippians witnessed the near destruction of the reputations of at least two of those candidates.

First – at a price tag of some $7.7 million with about $600,000 in outside spending - there was the regular election Class I Senate seat up for grabs for a full six-year term that runs from 2019 to 2025 that was settled on Nov. 6 when incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo defeated Democratic nominee State Rep. David Baria of Bay St. Louis, Libertarian retired U.S. Navy diver Danny Bedwell of Columbus and Reform Party perennial candidate Shawn O’Hara of Hattiesburg.

Wicker cruised to a 58.8 percent win with Baria taking 39.1 percent of the vote. At some point prior to the Nov. 6 general election in this race, O’Hara, 60, apparently died of natural causes in his Hattiesburg home but his passing was not discovered until Nov. 20. O’Hara won 5,541 votes or .63 percent of the vote.

O’Hara was a character listening to a different drummer who turned a Prince Valiant haircut and a pair of Blues Brothers Ray Ban shades into trademarks of sorts. He was the poster child for a perennial political candidate. Over the last 25 years, he ran for multiple offices representing multiple parties and blowout losses never phased him.

Wicker was expected to easily win re-election and he did, but it was as if he ran two races. Initially, due to the timing of former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s retirement from the Senate, GOP State Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville initially announced that he would challenge Wicker.

Republican President Donald Trump soon endorsed Wicker and a couple of weeks later, McDaniel walked that initial Wicker challenge back and settled on a challenge for the seat held by Cochran, which set up a $19.8 million Mississippi Class II U.S. Senate seat that was contested for a partial term that will end in 2021. Some $10.5 million in outside spending turned the special election into one of the dirtiest Mississippi campaigns since Bill Allain ran for governor in the 1980s.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed then-Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven to fill Sen. Cochran’s unexpired term. Cochran stepped down from the post in April citing persistent health problem.

Challenging Hyde-Smith in the Nov. 6 nonpartisan special election for the right to succeed Cochran was former municipal candidate Tobey Bartee of Gautier, former Democratic U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Congressman Mike Espy of Madison, attorney and McDaniel of Ellisville who lost that bruising 2014 GOP primary to Cochran.

On Nov. 6, Hyde-Smith led the race with 41.5 percent of the vote to Espy’s 40.6 percent. McDaniel took only 16.5 percent of the vote to Bartee’s 1.4 percent. A massive campaign rally in DeSoto County in which Trump strongly endorsed Hyde-Smith and then cut TV commercials backing her was seen by McDaniel’s supporters as an insurmountable advantage.

The Nov. 27 special election runoff ensued with outside spending attack ads from both camps that painted Hyde-Smith as an insensitive racist and Espy as a crooked public official for hire. Throughout a prior 18-year career in Mississippi politics, Hyde-Smith had never faced allegations of that nature. Espy was cleared of all criminal charges against him 20 years ago and has enjoyed a successful law practice since that time.

Both of them are far better human beings than how they were portrayed the last months and weeks and both deserved better treatment.

But since Nov. 6, Mississippi voters have seen up close what a national campaign looks like when both major parties have resources and outside spending entities engage in campaign tactics like this. For many, the question remaining after the political dust settled today is just why any candidate would subject themselves and their families to the meat grinder of modern politics?

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at


Anonymous said...

If Espy had run as a republican I would have voted for him, as I’m sure many others would have. I’m sure Cindy will have to call Haley before every vote. I predict a short senatorial career.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the NAACP can't get the black vote out as they used to.

Anonymous said...

3:22 -who are you fooling, other than yourself. Don't know that this was done by the NAACP, but behind Trippe's using the race card wherever he could find it, and even where he couldn't, somebody turned out the black vote pretty damn good. Didn't quite make it for Espy, but sure took a few judges into their new robes in Hinds County and on the COA, who wouldn't be there next year if it hadn't been for the Espy GOTV work.

Anonymous said...

After Bilbo Mississippi had a long run of influential and respected senators. CHS will take us back to Bilbo days. There will be an endless number of negative news stories for decades ahead.

Anonymous said...

Salter bemoans the negative publicity and lives ruined....meanwhile, he did his part with the pen over the past five months. Remember that fellow named McDaniel (with no S)?

Anonymous said...

5:41 - 'after Bilbo' we had respectful Senators and CHS will take us back to Bilbo? Have you ever heard of Big Jim Eastland and looked into his career, which was FYI "after Bilbo"?

Anonymous said...

Mississippi hasn’t had a good senator since Reconstruction.

UnReconstructed said...

8:31 - Depends on one's definition of 'good'. And since you reference reconstruction, there's no doubt what your definition is.

Anonymous said...

Despite our differences, on one thing I think we can all agree, regardless of party affiliation and political ideology....

Isn't it great not to have to see or hear any more damn political ads for Espy or CHS on TV!

Anonymous said...

Everyone commenting seems to be missing the points,

The first point is that PACS are coughing up $11 million dollars for an office that pays $174000 a year. What do they expect to get in return and WHO are these people?

The second point is why on earth would someone want to subject himself or herself and family to these dirty campaigns?

Frankly, Espy ran a much cleaner campaign as it was Cindy Hyde-Smith's own words we could hear ourselves and her own vote and words on the meat packing bill that made her look bad.

With Espy, he was acquitted but was made to look like a criminal. The dirty tacticians assumed correctly that voters wouldn't read trial transcripts and wouldn't read how the charges came to be brought and what the judge had to say about him being charged.

As for the dictator hiring Espy, tacticians knew voters wouldn't bother to look at what was known and unknown at the time or whether there was any nefarious aid given ( there wasn't).

As long as money can buy candidates and sleazy campaign tactics work, we don't get represented, the special interests do. There is no " we the people" anymore. It's " we the dupes".

Anonymous said...

9:02 - You're partially right. There's one thing 'on which we can all agree'. And that is that you're a shill for Espy.

You neglected to mention his success, while employed in a federal role, in putting friends in jobs. You neglected to mention his role as accomplice in chief during Rudy Warnock's run through the Madison County cookie jar. You left out the part about him helping Rudy sue the county after the county fired him (Espy). You conveniently left out his crooked shenanigans at Canton Municipal Utilities before they fired him.

If Espy has ever drawn an honest breath, it has gone largely unreported.

If Minnie Hyde is guilty of anything, it's guilt of being a country bumpkin who is in way over her head. But, that's it.

Anonymous said...

4:17 pm I'm not a shill but someone who actually knows the people under discussion.

If you don't think CHS and every other legislator in MS is " guilty" of being wined, dined and " gifted" by special interests and most get favorable bank loans ( less interests than the rest of us) . They get invited to lavish parties,hunting lodges, and beach parties. They get investment " opportunities".

You don't even know the details of the accusations against Espy or why he was acquitted or how he came to be targeted by one of the Watergate prosecutors. Think of him like you think of Trump's inner circle. Espy was one of the first supporters of Clinton two years before you ever knew Clinton was going to run if you even knew his name as Arkansas' governor.

Clinton, along with would be candidates of the other party, sought me out. Espy said " yes" to Clinton and I said " no". I thought Clinton's campaign strategy would work, but was duplicitous and that much of what he planned to promise would be " words only".

Unlike you, I know many of the party propagandists and opposition researchers. They are always proud when you bite their poisonous apple.

Anonymous said...

10:06 - Come back when you can deny the fact that Espy lost his federal job precisely because of his inability to stay away from being 'wined, dined and gifted'.

I fact, based on my personal knowledge, and his resume, I can think of NO job he has not been fired from. Can you?

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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