OXFORD • A crowd of veteran Lafayette County organizers, college students preparing to vote for the first time and citizens new to political action gathered at the Stone Center in Oxford on Monday night for a town hall with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate David Baria.
The meeting was the sixth of 12 community conversations that the state house minority leader has planned for his campaign ahead of the Nov. 6 election against Republican incumbent Roger Wicker. After giving a 10-minute introduction about his background and motivation for running, Baria answered questions from potential constituents for nearly two hours.
“I feel like people don’t want to hear me drone on about any particular issue or policy. They want to see me engage and how I respond to questions. It’s a job interview,” Baria told the Daily Journal before the event. “I’m comfortable on my feet because I’m honest. When I don’t know the answer to something I’m going to be honest.”
More than 150 people attended the event, while another 3,700 watched on Facebook live. The first two questions Baria received were about newly appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the broader issue of the treatment of sexual assault survivors. Sadie Shannon of Oxford asked about President Trump’s attack on Dr. Christine Blasey Ford during a rally in Southaven last week.
“I worry about the impact that it is going to have on survivors of sexual assault who now feel like maybe I can’t come out and tell my story because the leader of the free world is going to make fun of me and demean me,” Baria responded. “And that is the worst part of the whole deal in terms of what the president said. It’s just shameful in many respects.”
Then Baria, who was a professional lawyer before deciding to enter politics, shared his opinion on Kavanaugh and his performance in the senate judiciary hearing about Ford’s allegations.
“Even if you didn’t have those allegations, if you just watched his performance in front of the senate judiciary committee, the overt partisanship, the ill temperance, the way he treated Democratic members, including Senator Amy Klobuchar, was ridiculous,” Baria said. “As a lawyer who represents people, I’m trying to tell them the court is the great leveler. It’s a place where it’s fair, where you have an impartial judge wearing a robe. I don’t know that anyone believes that any more about the highest court in our country, and that’s a crying shame.”
Multiple crowd members expressed concern that the national Democratic party has not provided support to Baria or fellow democratic candidate Mike Espy, who is running against Republicans Cindy Hyde-Smith and Chris McDaniel in a special election.
“I don’t have anything to do with the national Democratic party. They haven’t sent me any money,” Baria said. “ I’ve had people tell me, ‘Well, the Democrats are just going to write you a big check aren’t they? No. If it’s coming, I don’t know anything about it.”
Supporters said they appreciated Baria’s stances as well as his willingness to answer questions from his potential constituents.
”I know he supports the me-too movement, and that’s huge for me that he believes the women,” said Pontotoc resident Angie Garrett, who attended the town hall with her daughter and asked a question about mass incarceration reform. “I appreciate the town hall. I believe that a lot of politicians are disconnected. They don’t reach out to find out what’s important to the rest of us and I think that we lose our voice. I’m really tired of not having a voice.”