On Nov. 21, 2017, Omeria Scott received a life changing birthday present — a pathology report officially declaring her cancer-free.
The state representative from Laurel was in Houston, Texas at the time, recovering from a battle with breast cancer. It was also the day she told her siblings she was running for the United States Senate.
Her sister thought it was a joke at first, considering she was in the midst of 10 months of active treatment.
“It seems to me that some people are trying to say that a person can’t have been sick and come back and continue to live,” Scott, 61, told Mississippi Today.
“The Lord blessed me and if he wanted me to be in the ground, he would have put me in the ground. Until my last breath I’m going to continue to work for the betterment of people.”
Before her name appears on a Nov. 6 ballot, the state representative and devout Baptist from Laurel must defeat fellow Democratic contenders, which include Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, and California venture capitalist Howard Sherman in the June 5 primary. Each are vying to replace U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Republican who has held the position since 2007.
Scott’s approach to fundraising is different from that of her opponents. A search of the Federal Election Commission database returns no documents for her, not even a statement of organization for her campaign. Her siblings donated to her campaign, she said, but when asked how much she could not cite a figure. She also said she’s paid for a few radio ads scheduled to air soon.
“God has blessed me to have a few dollars,” she explained when asked how she would pay for the spots.
By contrast, fellow candidate and House member Rep. David Baria currently has $120,000 in cash on hand, and Howard Sherman recently provided a $500,000 personal loan to his own campaign, campaign-finance records show.
According to her most recent economic-interest statement, which all public officials must file with the state ethics commission, Scott owns a restaurant in Laurel called Aunt Ann’s Front Porch, which she said she named after her mother.
Scott is one of a close-knit group of six siblings. She said she chose to receive cancer treatment in Houston because her brother, Hal Huff, owns a home health agency in town and she wanted to be around family. The day she received her pathology report, her siblings came from around the country to be with her on her birthday.
When contacted by a Mississippi Today reporter, several of Scott’s House colleagues declined an interview because they wanted to remain impartial in the Senate race that includes Scott and fellow democratic state representative Baria.
Scott is known in the House for her outspoken manner and pointed questions to her fellow legislators presenting bills on the floor. Often when someone presents a bill to the House and rushes through an explanation, she pauses to ask “Can you tell us what this means?” so the presenter is forced to lay out more detail.
Occasionally she and Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, get into friendly arguments on the House floor when she claims she was skipped over for a question and Gunn tells her he didn’t hear her or notice she wanted to talk.
This is what makes her stand out from the other candidates, she says — her experience and track record in the Mississippi capitol. One of her campaign flyers reads: “They used to say women were not qualified but they can’t say that about me.”
“My legislative experience really sets me apart from all of the people that are running,” Scott said. “Understanding how monies work is critical for the poorest state in the Union because every one of those 13 appropriations that are addressed at the United States capitol can be life or death for some entities or someone in our state.”
In the Mississippi Legislature, Scott serves on committees for insurance, Medicaid, public health and human services, tourism and ways and means.
This year, Scott returned to the capitol midway though the session due to her recovery from cancer treatment.
“When the devil comes after your health, you have to keep going,” Scott said. “I came back to that Legislature and hit the ground running.”
In the last two sessions, Scott filed dozens of bills about health, corrections and educational topics such as expanding Medicaid and implementing new measures to help inmates. None of the more than 200 pieces of legislation made it out of committee aside from the occasional House resolution honoring specific individuals. The House and Senate both have Republican supermajorities, meaning they do not need any Democratic votes to pass legislation.
In the weeks since the legislative session ended, Scott spends her time traveling to different parts of the state to meet with constituents and ask for their vote. Some of those stops included Indianola, Holly Springs, Greenwood and other towns, where she handed out flyers and gave speeches about her candidacy.
At a community event at the Claiborne County Multi-Purpose Center in Port Gibson earlier this month, many attendees were unfamiliar with Scott but were engaged during her speech, nodding along and laughing when she told them if they voted her into the Senate she would “bring a voice to something other than Playboy Bunnies and porn stars,” referring to current events involving President Donald Trump.
The veteran legislator told the crowd they must send a messenger to Washington who will represent Mississippi’s needs, noting she would work to address the state’s worsening infrastructure crisis, expand broadband access, and combat the issue of brain drain.
“We just have to get out and actually see people and talk to them,” Scott said. “I want people to understand when they elect me, it doesn’t matter where they live in the state, they’re not going to be forgotten.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misidentified Rep. David Baria’s party affiliation. He is a Democrat from Bay St. Louis. We apologize for the error.