President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, looks over his notes during a third round of questioning on the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington, to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Not surprisingly, the views on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh by the candidates in Mississippi’s two U.S. Senate races break down along partisan lines.

Kavanaugh appears to still have the support of the state’s two incumbent Republican senators – Roger Wicker of Tupelo and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven – amid allegations that he sexually assaulted a girl while a high school student in Maryland in the 1980s.

Before the sexual assault allegation surfaced, Wicker and Hyde-Smith indicated they would vote to confirm the Donald Trump nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Nothing I have learned so far has changed my opinion of Judge Kavanaugh,” Wicker said earlier this week.” I believe that Chairman (Chuck) Grassley (of the Senate Judiciary Committee) is handling this allegation seriously and in a way that is fair to the accuser, Judge Kavanaugh, and the American people. I look forward to watching the hearing next week with an open mind.”

Wicker’s comments came earlier in the week before the accuser – California research psychologist Christine Blasey Ford – indicated Thursday that testifying Monday before the Senate committee is not possible.

Sen. Roger Wicker
Rep. David Baria

Wicker’s opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, state Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, had contended the Senate confirmation process should be slowed even before the Ford allegation was made.

Of the latest allegation Baria said, “A fair and impartial investigation into the allegations made by Dr. Blasey Ford needs to happen before the confirmation process can move forward. Dr. Ford deserves to be treated with respect by the U.S. Senate and the American people deserve to learn all the facts.”

In the state’s other Senate race slated for Nov. 6 – the special election to replace Thad Cochran, who retired in March for health reasons – Democrat Mike Espy said, “I agree with Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee that these allegations are serious and troubling. The matter must be fully investigated before the Senate moves forward with the lifetime appointment of a U.S. Supreme Court justice.”

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith
U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy
State Sen. Chris McDaniel, U.S. Senate candidate

Hyde-Smith, who was appointed in the interim to replace Cochran and is also vying in the Nov. 6 special election, said earlier “Having met with Judge Kavanaugh, I found him to be imminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court, and remain confident of his confirmation. I have serious reservations regarding the questionable timing and handling of this last-minute allegation. The Democrats knew about this months ago and chose to wait until now to release it. The Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the allegation. This process should go forward so both sides can be heard.”

Tanner Watson, a spokesperson for state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, who also is running in the special election, said “The left wants to be able to falsely accuse anyone they don’t like of anything to shut them up …

“Right thinking Americans will not stand by while the left prosecutes these modern-day lynchings. And where are the Republicans in the U.S. Senate? Where’s Cindy Hyde-Smith? Why are Senate Republicans sitting silently? Do they want President Trump’s nominee to fail? Why won’t they stand and fight? Judge Kavanaugh needs to be confirmed.”

The comments from the McDaniel campaign come shortly after he drew criticism for an interview where he said, “These allegations, 99 percent of the time, are just absolutely fabricated.”

While Gov. Phil Bryant, who appointed Hyde-Smith to the interim Senate post, was critical of McDaniel’s comments, he also is a staunch supporter of Kavanaugh.

“As I said in my op-ed that was introduced into the Senate Judiciary Committee’s record during his hearing earlier this month, Judge Kavanaugh is the single most qualified person in the country to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court,” the governor said. “The Committee has developed a fair and accommodating strategy to handle recent developments, and I believe that process should move along as quickly as possible. I look forward to Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.”

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.