Will they debate? Espy calls for three, Hyde-Smith willing to put her message out there

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

Voters walk in and out of Byram City Hall during the midterm elections Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

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.

Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

Mike Espy takes photos with supporters during his watch party at the Hilton Jackson on County Line Road Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Espy will be in a run-off with Republican interim Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

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.

Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

Republican interim Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks during her watch party at the Westin Jackson Tuesday, November 6, 2018.

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.