Hyde-Smith kicks off 2020 campaign with show of force

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for America

“I think you can tell I am ready for this campaign,” said Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith as she qualified to run in the 2020 election.

Cindy Hyde-Smith qualified to run for a full six-year term in the United States Senate Friday with a show of force at the state Republican Party headquarters.

“I am so delighted to serve alongside Cindy Hyde-Smith,” said Mississippi’s senior U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo, who introduced the multiple state officials at the event ranging from most of Mississippi’s statewide elected officials to former Gov. Haley Barbour. Speaking of Hyde-Smith, Wicker said, “We are teammates.”

The two most notable Republicans not at the event were outgoing Gov. Phil Bryant and Gov.-elect Tate Reeves, who is the current lieutenant governor. Wicker said Bryant, had taken his family “on a quick little trip out of state for a long weekend.” But Wicker read a statement from Bryant saying, “I am extremely grateful Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has chosen to seek re-election. She has become a driving force for her beloved state of Mississippi and a leader that is respected and appreciated by all who know her, including one of her strongest supporters President Donald J. Trump. Her conservative values are reflective of her Christian principles and rural upbringing. ‘Take that, you city folks’  In short, she is one of us for all of us. I intend to work with all my determination to help re-elect Mississippi’s first woman to serve in Congress and my friend, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.”

Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to the post in April 2018 by Bryant when then-Sen. Thad Cochran stepped down for health reasons, faced Republican opposition from Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel in a special election to finish Cochran’s term. On Friday, the state’s Republican establishment sent a clear message they would be behind Hyde-Smith should someone opt to challenge her in a primary.

“I think you can tell I am ready for this campaign,” she said.

Democrat Mike Espy, the state’s first African American U.S. House member since Reconstruction, who lost to Hyde-Smith in the 2018 special election, already has announced he will challenge Hyde-Smith again in 2020 for the full six-year term. But as of Friday afternoon, Espy, a Jackson attorney, had not officially qualified to run for the office, though, he has been active in social media preparing for the run.

Candidates have until Jan. 10 to qualify to run for the Senate or for the four congressional seats. The party primary will be March 10 with the regular election set for November.

Both Wicker and Hyde-Smith touted the number of federal judges nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate as key accomplishments of recent years. She said the conservative judges would have an influence for the next two generations. They also touted the strong economy. Hyde-Smith highlighted her working relationship with the president.

In the 2018 special election, at times Hyde-Smith, a former state senator and commissioner of agriculture, was viewed as timid on the campaign trail.

But on Friday, Hyde-Smith gave a fiery speech highlighting many of the same issues as the president, such as building a border wall with Mexico and protecting gun rights. She referenced the fact that she entered the motion to prevent a vote on the Senate floor on a bill that would have expanded background checks before purchasing a gun. She said her efforts infuriated liberals. Hyde-Smith received national media attention because she was making the motion as news of a mass shooting was unfolding in California.

Still, Hyde-Smith said the post and the criticism involved with serving in the U.S. Senate can be difficult.

“This is not an easy task,” she said. “As I have said many times it is a J-O-B, but I am ready for a J-O-B.”