This story is part of Mississippi Today’s Senate Runoff 2018 election coverage.

Mike Espy hit the ground running Wednesday – the day after finishing a close second to interim U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, in Tuesday’s election.

He campaigned early Wednesday morning at a Jackson restaurant and wasted no time challenging Hyde-Smith to a debate.

“Mississippians deserve to hear our views and understand where we differ, whether it’s on health care, education, or job opportunities. The stakes are just too high.,” he said in a letter to Hyde-Smith.

He challenged her to three debates throughout the state.

On Tuesday night at her election watch party, of the possibility of a debate, Hyde-Smith said, “We’re getting our team together to decide on that to get the plans together to figure out how we’re going to move forward on that. … That would be an easy, easy forum to go into. I want the voters to hear everything we have to say, when you go against me – a conservative vs. a Democrat. We’ve got a good message and we’re willing to put it out there”

Before Tuesday’s election, Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to the Senate in April by Gov. Phil Bryant to replace Thad Cochran who retired for health reasons, refused to debate. At first, she said she did not have time to debate because of Senate commitments in Washington, D.C.

She later was captured on video saying she did not want to be involved in a debate with fellow Republican, anti-establishment state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville. McDaniel garnered 16 percent of the vote in unofficial returns on Tuesday and endorsed Hyde-Smith in his concession speech.

In unofficial results, Hyde-Smith appeared to have won the most votes, 364,176, or 41.4 percent to 358,578 or 40.8 percent for Espy. They will face each other one more time in a Nov. 27 runoff election.

Click here for Mississippi Today’s full coverage of the historic runoff election between Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy.


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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.

Larrison Campbell is a Greenville native who reports on politics with an emphasis on public health. She received a bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and a master’s from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.Larrison is a 2018 National Press Foundation fellow in public health, a 2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts fellow in health care reporting and a 2019 Center for Health Journalism National Fellow.