Two veterans of Mississippi’s politics — a Republican and a Democrat — reviewed the results of the Nov. 6 election and offered commentary on the extraordinary runoff for a U.S. Senate seat during the final program of the fall season at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Austin Barbour, who held prominent roles in past Senate campaigns of Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran, joined Brandon Jones, a former member of the state House of Representatives and co-founder of the Mississippi Democratic Trust, in an hour-long discussion with two former national political reporters, Charles Overby, chairman of the center, and Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie.
A focus of the program was the Nov. 27 runoff between Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican appointed to fill a seat vacated by Cochran’s resignation, and Mike Espy, a former Democratic congressman from Mississippian who served as President Clinton’s secretary of agriculture. Hyde-Smith and Espy both won more than 40 percent of the votes in the midterm election, but because neither topped 50 percent, it triggered a rare runoff to determine who would take the remaining two years of Cochran’s term.
The panel also discussed the state of politics in the rest of the country and what the mid-term elections will mean to the 2020 presidential campaign.
“The end of the midterm elections signals the beginning of the presidential race,” said Overby before the event. “We will talk about the ramifications of the midterms in Mississippi and beyond.”
Barbour comes from a First Family of Republicans in the state. His father, Jeppie Barbour, became one of the first members of the GOP to serve as a mayor in Mississippi when he was elected to the post in Yazoo City nearly 50 years ago. Former Gov. Haley Barbour is Austin’s uncle. As a result, Barbour has worked in and around campaigns all his life.
He is managing partner of the Clearwater Group, a regional public affairs firm in Jackson, and also a partner in Strategic Partners & Media, a national advertising group based in Annapolis, Maryland.
Jones is an attorney with Baria-Jones, a law firm with offices in Jackson and Bay St. Louis. (His partner, David Baria, ran unsuccessfully against Wicker for the other U.S. Senate seat at stake this month.)
Jones has also worked as an advisor for Democratic candidates in a number of other state and local campaigns in Mississippi.