A prominent Mississippi Democrat is trying once again to capture the state’s junior U.S. Senate seat and is requesting help from Leflore County residents.
“Please sir, please ma’am, please vote for me to be your next United States senator,” Mike Espy told a crowd at Wednesday night’s Greenwood Voters League meeting. “And when I win, I’m going to be up there with (U.S. Rep.) Bennie Thompson to right wrongs.”
Thompson, a fellow Democrat, also spoke to the league. Due to restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting was held outside the historic Elks Lodge.
Espy, who was the first African American to represent Mississippi in the U.S. House since Reconstruction and served as the U.S. secretary of agriculture under President Bill Clinton, ran against incumbent Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith during the 2018 midterms.
Espy captured about 46% of the vote statewide and 71% of the vote in Leflore County.
In his second attempt to unseat Hyde-Smith, Espy said he’s running to bring justice to those who have been abused, such as Black victims fatally shot by police.
He said his platform also includes increasing teacher pay and making college tuition more affordable.
However, Espy’s top issue, as he emphasized several times Wednesday evening, is bringing better health care to Mississippi.
“Everybody knows that we have so many people needing better health care,” he said. “We have so many people who can’t pay their prescription drug bills because it’s so high. We have so many rural hospitals that are closing.”
If the state were to expand Medicaid, then Mississippians could seek treatment and doctors sooner since they would receive assistance with their bills, Espy said.
“You would know that the rural hospitals wouldn’t be closed, because when you get your bill you would be able to pay it, and that hospital would not have to give treatment for free,” he added.
Explaining the importance of rural hospitals, Espy brought up the story of Shy Shoemaker, a 23-year-old Chickasaw County woman who died in January of last year following an asthma attack. Family had tried to bring Shoemaker to the Houston hospital’s emergency room but were told by dispatchers that the ER had closed several years ago, according to the Chickasaw Journal. Shoemaker was transported to a hospital in Calhoun City but later died.
Espy cited conservative states such as Missouri and Oklahoma that have expanded Medicaid along with other states as a reason to expand the program.
Espy said he, like Shoemaker, grew up with asthma.
He recalled suffering an asthma attack at the age of 6 that nearly killed him. He was whisked away by his father to the Black hospital in Yazoo City, but there were no canisters of oxygen to treat him, he said. So his father drove to the white hospital, where two white nurses who had overcome “their moral, racial predispositions of their day” gave his father a canister of oxygen to take back to his son.
Espy said his views and political platform are inclusive for all people.
“I am running not only to lift everyone up, but I believe that poverty has no race and poor has no color,” he said. “There are white citizens needing Medicaid expansion. There are white citizens needing greater income. There are white citizens needing someone like me who’ll go to the U.S. Senate and help everybody regardless of race.”
As he has done at past Voters League meetings, Thompson took aim at President Donald Trump’s leadership while also endorsing people to vote Democrat this November.
He said he could not fathom four more years of Trump and said “we’re in one heck of a mess” under Trump’s leadership during the pandemic. “The only way to get out of this pandemic is to elect Joe Biden as president,” Thompson said.
Hyde-Smith “hasn’t done anything for the people who assemble here today,” the congressman said, without naming her. “I won’t call her name; I’ll just say we can do better.”
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