Mississippi voters – a few of them anyway – will cast their ballots Tuesday, June 5, in the Democratic and Republican 2018 primary elections.
The race for Wicker’s Senate seat
Union County Republican voters will see only one contested position on Tuesday’s ballot, with one challenger qualified against incumbent U. S. Senator Roger Wicker.
Wicker was appointed to the senate by Governor Haley Barbour, following the surprise resignation of Trent Lott on Dec. 18, 2007. Wicker was then elected to serve the balance of Lott’s term in a special election in 2008. He was elected to a full term in 2012. Wicker had previously been elected to the House of Representatives from Mississippi’s First Congressional District in 1994. He served in the House until he resigned to take the Senate seat. Wicker is reported to have $3.4-million in campaign funds on hand and was actively raising more money last week.
Wicker faces a challenge from Richard Boyanton, a businessman from Diamondhead, Hancock County, on the Gulf Coast. ProPublica says Boyanton has raised $60,000 for his campaign.
If Wicker is re-nominated as expected, the November general election will pit him against one of the six Democrats whose names will be on the ballot in this Tuesday’s primary.
Those who take a Democrat ballot in Tuesday’s primary will have more choices. Venture capitalist Howard Sherman, recently of Meridian, is thus far the big spender among Democrats seeking to oust Wicker. Sherman donated half-a-million dollars to his own campaign. Sherman is the husband of actress Sela Ward, who grew up in Meridian.
Sherman has never voted in a Mississippi election. Records in Los Angeles County, California, indicate Sherman voted there 10 times between 2000 and 2016. Sherman and Ward sold a California home for about $30-million in 2016 (more or less than that, depending on sources), and press reports at that time said they intended to move to New York. Instead, they moved to a large estate in Meridian, Ward’s hometown. The Lauderdale County, Mississippi, Circuit Clerk’s office says Sherman has never voted there.
Although he is now running as a Democrat against Wicker, Howard Sherman contributed $5,000 to Senator Wicker’s re-election campaign last year. Sherman now says he did so only because Republican State Senator Chris McDaniel, of Jones County, was running against Wicker. Sherman says he couldn’t abide the idea of McDaniel being elected to the U.S. Senate. It is not known whether Sherman has asked Wicker for a refund. McDaniel dropped his Republican primary challenge to Wicker and is instead running in the November open election for Mississippi’s other U.S. Senate position.
Others running for the Democratic nomination for Wicker’s seat include State Representative David Baria of Bay St. Louis. Baria is the Minority Leader of the Mississippi House of Representatives. Baria had raised $120,000 for his campaign at the time of his March campaign finance report.
Democratic State Representative Omeria Scott, of Laurel, is also a Senate candidate in the Tuesday primary. She has served in the state legislature since 1993. Earlier this year she was a candidate for the Democratic nomination in Mississippi’s Third Congressional District, but withdrew from that race to run as a Democrat for Wicker’s seat.
Other Senate Democratic candidates on the ballot Tuesday include Jenson Bohren, Jerome Garland, and Victor Maurice.
The race for Congressional seats
Except for Wicker’s U.S. Senate seat, Union County voters will see no contests on the 2018 primary elections ballot Tuesday.
Congressman Trent Kelly, who has represented the First Congressional District since winning a special election in June, 2015, has no Republican challenger. He has reportedly spent $349,000 on his re-election campaign and still has at least $120,000 in his campaign fund.
Kelly serves on the Armed Services Committee of the House of Representatives. He is graduate of Ole Miss Law School and previously served as the District Attorney of Mississippi’s First Circuit Court District. He holds a Master’s Degree from the U.S. Army War College. Kelly has had three combat commands in the Middle East since 2005, and has been awarded two Bronze Stars. He was promoted to Brigadier-General in the Mississippi Army National Guard early this year.
Ole Miss chemistry professor, Randy Wadkins, is the only Democrat seeking the First District Congressional nomination. He has reportedly received campaign contributions totaling $32,909. Wadkins has no opponent in the Democratic primary.
Carlton Smith, of Holly Springs, had announced as a Democratic candidate for Wicker’s Senate seat. He raised $21,750 in campaign contributions and spent $22,966. But Smith failed to meet the March filing deadline to register as a candidate, leaving Wadkins the only Democrat seeking the First District Congressional nomination. Smith is Unitarian Universalist clergyman.
Tracella Lou OHara Hill is running for the First District Congressional seat as a Reform Party candidate and has no primary opponent.
Only in Mississippi’s Third Congressional District, where Congressman Gregg Harper is not running for a sixth term, are there any intense contests Tuesday. Two Democrats, six Republicans and one Reform Party candidate are vying to replace Harper. The Third District Congressional seat has been occupied by a Republican since Democrat G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery retired after 15 terms in 1996.
Union County Circuit Clerk Phyllis Stanford said she had issued only 50 absentee ballots for this Tuesday’s primary election and that she expects the turnout to be low. The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. NAnewsweb.com urges you to set aside time to cast your vote on Tuesday. Local results will be posted on NAnewsweb.com when they become available on election night.
The November election to fill Cochran’s Senate seat likely to draw more interest
As noted above, State Senator Chris McDaniel dropped out of the Republican primary race against Wicker, and instead is running in the November open election for the Senate seat vacated by Senator Thad Cochran. Cochran resigned this spring because of poor health, after nearly 40 years in the Senate. Prior to his Senate service, Cochran had served six years representing Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District in the U. S. House of Representatives.
McDaniel challenged Cochran for his Senate seat in the 2014 Republican primary. Known as a “Tea Party” Republican, McDaniel got slightly more votes than Cochran in the first Republican primary in 2014, but Cochran edged him out in a run-off, 51% to 49%. McDaniel then challenged the result, claiming many Democrats had voted in the run-off election. The challenged forced an examination of voting records in Union and many other Mississippi counties. The Mississippi Supreme Court finally ruled that Cochran had lawfully won the nomination. McDaniel is one of three candidates on the ballot for the non-partisan November election to replace Cochran. McDaniel, whose bitter 2014 challenge to Cochran offended many Mississippi Republican voters, was said earlier to be having trouble raising money for his Senate race.
After at least two more prominent Republicans had reportedly refused a temporary appointment to fill Cochran’s Senate seat, Governor Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith, a two-term Republican Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner, to the Senate. Hyde-Smith is running in the November non-partisan election to serve the last two years of Cochran’s term. She has received a $750,000-campaign contribution from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, continuing a trend of large contributions from outside the state financing state-wide elections in Mississippi.
Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Espy, is the third candidate in the non-partisan election to replace Cochran. Espy was elected as a Democrat to four terms in Congress, representing Mississippi’s Second Congressional District, but he crossed party lines to endorse the re-election of Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour in 2007. He was appointed Agriculture Secretary by President Bill Clinton. However, Clinton’s Justice Department indicted Espy in 1997, charging him with 70 counts of receiving improper gifts such as sport tickets and hotel accommodations. At trial, Espy’s defense attorneys put on no defense, simply stating that the Justice Department had failed to make a case, and the federal trial jury quickly acquitted Espy on all 70 charges. The charges against Espy came at a time when President Clinton, himself, faced a host of criminal accusations. Some saw the Clinton administration as having “thrown Espy under the bus” to distract attention from Clinton’s own legal troubles.
Espy, Hyde-Smith and McDaniel are the only candidates on the November non-partisan ballot for the open Senate seat. It is widely anticipated that a run-off election may be necessary to settle that race.