JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) will not debate challenger Mike Espy (D-Miss.) on 12 News. After several months of requests that started in February 2020, the campaign did not meet the deadlines.
Multiple offers to debate key issues were extended to Hyde-Smith and Espy. Espy accepted the debate invitation, while Hyde-Smith did not.
“I think it’s a shame that we don’t have multiple senate debates here, because we’re talking about a six year term for a very important senate seat,” said Dr. Nathan Shrader, Associate Professor of Government and Politics, Director, American Studies for Millsaps College.
Hyde-Smith debated Espy in the 2018 special election. Shrader said her performance two years ago may be one of the reasons why she’s sitting out this time.
“She really struggled through that debate, did not have a very good performance, and I’m saying these two things are linked together. There’s the more political. She should be the front-runner, Republican conservative running in a red state, but just also on the practical side is not something that plays to her strong suit.”
Republican strategist Henry Barbour said debate controversy is contrived from the press and losing candidates.
“In many ways, debates are just a made up issue of losing candidates and reporters. It’s just something they like to talk about. It is important that voters have the information they need,” Barbour explained.
The latest polling has the senate race within one point.
Barbour stated, “Voters have access to millions of ways to information about candidates. The voters know a vote for Mike Espy is going to be a vote for liberal leadership in Washington. They know a vote for Cindy Hyde-Smith is going to be a vote for conservative leadership.”
Some say it’s disappointing that Hyde-Smith won’t share the stage with her opponent. Her campaign agreed to sit for a one-on-one interview with 12 News.
Espy’s campaign released the following statement:
At such a pivotal moment in our country, debates provide an important opportunity for Mississippians to hear from candidates on their vision for the state. Senator Hyde-Smith refuses to debate because she is afraid to be held accountable for her record on working to gut protections for Mississippians with pre-existing conditions and voting to take money out of the pockets of unemployed workers during the pandemic. As a state that is often ignored and brushed off by the rest of the country, Senator Hyde-Smith’s refusal to debate is fundamentally disrespectful to Mississippians. Mike Espy has always been committed to hearing from all Mississippians — regardless of political affiliation — about the pivotal issues facing Mississippi during these turbulent times.Mike Espy Campaign
We also learned Hyde-Smith’s Campaign agreed to a 30 minute interview with another station on the same day as the 12 News one-on-one interview.
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