MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Incumbent Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith was campaigning with the DeSoto County Republican Party Friday, as the contest against her Democratic challenger Mike Espy heads into the closing weeks.
Both candidates are making their pitch to Desoto County voters over the weekend, with Hyde-Smith at an event in Nesbit on Friday afternoon and Espy in Horn Lake on Sunday.
At this point, it appears there will not be a debate between the candidates, despite calls for one.
“I tell you, people in Mississippi right now, they are really excited about Amy Coney Barrett, that we have the opportunity to place a Supreme Court justice,” Hyde-Smith said on Friday.
With 17 days to go until Election Day, Hyde-Smith said there will be no debate, telling the Clarion Ledger in Jackson this week she did not plan to debate Espy.
WMC Action News 5 pressed her Friday about the lack of a debate in the race.
“He’s talking about the debate because he doesn’t have a record that he wants to talk about,” she said speaking of her challenger Mike Espy, “Losing candidates really want debates. We are just going to run on our record.”
Hyde-Smith’s campaign had previously said debates were still being considered.
Hyde-Smith ran against Espy in 2018 and won in a special election to fill longtime Senator Thad Cochran’s remaining term. This race is a rematch.
Espy told WMC Action News 5 this week he accepted debate offers from two Jackson Mississippi television stations.
“It just smacks of gross disrespect for her constituents and her voters. She does have a record. I personally believe I know more about her record than she does,” Espy said.
Espy points to the fact that Republican senators have debated this cycle like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, among others.
“It just seems to me if you have a record that you’re proud of, you would stand and speak about your record,” he said.
Espy’s campaign said their internal polling has shown the race tightening.
A poll released in late September had Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith up one percentage point, following a separate poll released in Mid-August that had her up 5 points. An additional poll publicized in June gave Hyde-Smith an 8 percentage point lead.
“It’s too bad, because this is a missed opportunity for the voters of Mississippi to learn more about the candidates,” WMC Action News 5 political analyst Michael Nelson said.
Nelson said no debate means the state’s voters are missing out.
Espy’s campaign has said a small increase in black turnout will provide a path to victory.
“I think that gets him within striking distance, but it’s very, very hard for a Democrat in Mississippi to win an election on a statewide basis. If Espy wins, it will be a huge upset,” Nelson said.
Nelson said Hyde-Smith is relying on President Donald Trump’s popularity in the state to carry her across the finish line.
Sen. Hyde-Smith said she will be heading back to Washington D.C. on Monday for an expected vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court next week.
Espy will host a two-hour meet and greet with voters Sunday afternoon at Latimer Lakes Park in Horn Lake.