TUPELO • Mississippi holds primary elections on Tuesday, and citizens can cast their votes for presidential and congressional candidates.
In Northeast Mississippi, the only contested congressional primary election on the ballot is the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.
Mississippi’s incumbent junior U.S. Senator, Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, is up for re-election, but she does not face a primary opponent. Three candidates, however, are competing for the Democratic nomination to face off against Hyde-Smith in the general election.
The Daily Journal attempted to interview all three Democratic candidates who will appear on the ballot Tuesday to gain a greater understanding of their campaign strategy and policy positions.
Jensen Bohren is running as a self-described Democratic Socialist and describes himself as a person who is not rich and believes this perspective gives him a better opportunity to represent the people of Mississippi.
Bohren is not only campaigning for himself – he’s also advocating that Bernie Sanders should be the next president. He feels the two most important issues in his platform are advocating for a “Medicare for All” health care plan and promoting the legalization of cannabis.
“Mississippi would benefit from a progressive D.C. government,” Bohren said. “I’m trying to push that message, and let people know it’s time to vote. This time we have twice as big of a chance. Last time, it was predicted I had a 5% chance of winning. This time, someone volunteered to do analytics with me, and they said I have a 9.5% chance.”
Bohren has never held political office before, but in 2018, Bohren unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate for the seat held by Republican Roger Wicker. Bohren was defeated in the Democratic primary by former state Rep. David Baria.
In the current race, Bohren said the only reason why Espy is polling higher than him is because Espy has more financial resources to advertise.
“I believe if we were on equal footing financially, I would be polling at 70%,” he said.
Bohren said he has twice as many campaign volunteers as he did from his previous campaign, and he’s been campaigning at political events. Before the primary election, he said he hopes to spend every dollar at his disposal to buy a Facebook advertisement.
“The progressive movement is building,” Bohren said.
Mike Espy, a former U.S. representative for Mississippi and former agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton, is hoping to once again represent the state in Washington 25 years after last holding public office.
Espy told the Daily Journal on Thursday he was running to be a leader who ensures Mississippi is a “forward leaning” state and to improve the quality of education and healthcare in the state.
“So many of our children are leaving Mississippi to go to college,” Espy said. “As a senator, I want to do something about that.”
Espy unsuccessfully ran in the special election in 2018 to fill the seat left vacant by former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. Espy ultimately lost to Hyde-Smith and believes he didn’t adequately have enough time to campaign in the shortened timeline of the special election.
He admitted that in 2018, he struggled to adequately campaign against the “Republican machine,” but believes this time he has “already built a major machine” out of his campaign through early fundraising efforts.
Espy said he thinks the state might as well have a senator from Kentucky, since Hyde-Smith is just “doing what Mitch McConnel asks her to do.” McConnell is the Senate majority leader.
“I’m going to be an independent senator,” he said. “I’m going to write my own bills and my own proposals. That’s why I’m running again.”
Espy believes he can mount a victory in his second bid for the Senate by campaigning longer and investing more heavily in different areas of the state, such as the Delta region.
“I believe the voters of Mississippi coming out in November will be more diverse and more college-aged and have more African American voters,” Espy said.
Tobey Bartee did not respond to requests for comment for this article. He has served in the U.S. Navy and worked for the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
According to his website, he’s running to identify “solutions that best position Mississippi and the United State for success throughout the 21st century” and to pursue “policies that address the strategic concern of the United States.”
Bartee also ran in the special election in 2018 to fill Cochran’s seat, but he did not advance to the special runoff election.
When voting Tuesday, Mississippians must tell poll workers if they want to vote in the Democratic or Republican primary. These candidates will only be on the Democratic ballot.
The winner of the Democratic primary will go on to face Hyde-Smith in the general election. After Tuesday’s election, Mississippians will have an opportunity to vote in the general election on Nov. 3.