Where do the Mississippi U.S. Senate candidates stand on the issues?

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We asked U.S. Senate candidates where they stand on issues such as COVID-19 response, public education, national debt and more. Read what Democrat Mike Espy and Libertarian Jimmy Edwards said in their own words below.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Visit our 2020 Voter Guide to learn more about the November 3 general election.

What role should Congress play in coronavirus response?

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

Congress, along with the President, should be leading a cohesive, coherent, and coordinated national approach to addressing the pandemic and the economic crisis so we do not have this ad hoc approach that has left our states and local governments to fend for themselves.

Instead of minimizing the pandemic and denying during the critical early stages, our Congressional leaders should have come together as a body, sat down with our world-renowned medical experts and come up with a comprehensive approach to shut down parts of the United States.

Jimmy Edwards

They should encourage local cities and counties to determine the level of protection their residents should take. Each state, city, and county/parish has different levels of coronavirus cases, This is where decisions need to be made.

Should safeguards be put in place to limit national debt?

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

As a long-time deficit and debt hawk and former member of the U.S. House’s Budget Committee, I believe we must reduce the national debt. But gimmick safeguards would bring fiscal collapse to our country’s economy, especially during downturns like we are in now.

It will be my utmost priority in Congress to reduce our debt through careful, targeted cuts. By giving tax breaks to the drivers of our economy — the middle class and small businesses — instead of the wealthy, we can reap the benefits of a booming economy and reduce our debt.

Jimmy Edwards

The best way to limit the national debt is to reduce spending as much as possible and to find innovative ways to raise additional revenue.

Should a president have broad power to declare war or send troops to battle without congressional approval?

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

No. As outlined in the Constitution, the President should have to seek approval in order to declare war. I do support the President maintaining authority to keep our country safe and execute tailored missions, such as those against the War on Terror.

My support for the brave men and women who have sacrificed everything for their country is non-negotiable. I am dedicated to Mississippi’s nearly 200,000 veterans and 12,000 active-duty service members and will speak out against any attempt to denigrate their service and their families’ commitment to this country.

Jimmy Edwards

The three branches of government need to apply the War Powers Act as originally written. Furthermore, endless undeclared wars/military actions need to stop immediately. Therefore, my answer is no.

What are your healthcare priorities?

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

I know how important affordable health care is for all Mississippians, because it’s part of my family’s legacy. In 1924, my grandfather, Thomas J. Huddleston, started the first Black-owned hospital in Mississippi at the height of Jim Crow. Like my grandfather, my number one priority will be guaranteeing all Mississippians access to quality and affordable health care. Too many Mississippians are getting crushed by the rising cost of premiums, copays, and prescription drugs.

I am committed to building upon the Affordable Care Act in order to lower health care costs for all Mississippians, including expanding Medicaid in Mississippi — a policy we are already paying for in other states as taxpayers. It’s high time Mississippi had the same benefits for their rural hospitals and lower costs that other Medicaid expansion states like Oklahoma and Missouri do.

Jimmy Edwards

Completely repeal Obamacare, allow states to control healthcare exchanges, provide Medicaid to those who need it worst, allow options for those eligible for Medicare B to find more economical plans, encourage new graduates of professional medical degrees to serve in the Reserves/National Guard while providing healthcare to those in communities who need it the most.

What are your public education priorities?

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

Every child in Mississippi deserves access to a quality education that will allow them to reach their full potential — no matter the school they attend, the color of their skin, or how much money their parents make.

I was fortunate enough to attend a local parochial school in Yazoo City until I integrated the all-white Yazoo City High School. I support all schools in our state. Public dollars should go toward our public schools. For years, our public schools have been underfunded by billions.

Decisions about education are best left to our educators, teachers, parents and school administrators and I will fight to get them the support and funding they need, including increasing teacher pay, adequately funding training programs and expanding federal loan forgiveness programs for teachers.

As Senator, I will work with any president and any legislator to deliver results for Mississippi’s schools — and I will demand answers for policies that hurt our teachers and families.

Jimmy Edwards

Phase out the Department of Education within 10 years of taking office, designate funding in that period for career education and remedial instruction in language arts & mathematics, tax credits for families who choose non-public education for their children in grades K-12, allow exemptions for Selective Service registration for high-achieving high school graduates.

What is your take on the current debate over funding of police?

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

I do not support “defunding” the police. But I have proposed a number of clear steps to reform policing so our law enforcement officers can better serve our communities.

First, we need to hire more officers of color, especially Black men and women. We can attract more applicants by offering competitive salaries and opportunities for continuing education.

Second, applicants and new hires should be subject to stringent background checks on past conduct and previous performance. That’s why we must create a national registry of police misconduct and disciplinary actions. State and local police departments should also be required to report use-of-force incidents to the Department of Justice.

Third, we must mandate bias and de-escalation training. I also want our police officers to receive training from our mental health counselors, social workers, child protection officers, and addiction specialists. On a daily basis, officers are confronted with situations involving these afflictions. I want our departments to work hand-in-hand with these experts so they can better understand these situations in order to better serve our communities. We must create a new prevailing standard of conduct in which the unacceptable standard of “reasonable force” is replaced with “necessary force.” And fourth, chokeholds and other restraint positions should be abolished.

Finally, all officers should be required to wear body cameras at all times while on duty.

Jimmy Edwards

If cities are allowed to defund their police departments, this will set a dangerous precedent for law enforcement at the county/parish and state levels. The “well armed militia” mentioned in the 2nd Amendment needs to be applied to civilian law enforcement as well as our armed forces.

Do you believe criminal justice reform is needed? If so, what reforms would you support?

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

In the last decade, improvements in technology, and better understanding of the impact of sentencing, the criminal justice system and the causes of crime, have forced us to reevaluate policies put into place in the 20th century. I think the FIRST STEP Act was an essential and much-needed bill.

In Mississippi, we have an incarceration problem. There are far too many people, most of whom are Black men, in prison for non-violent crimes and technical violations. It’s a drain on the families of the incarcerated, on our economy, and on our state budget.

Most incarcerated Americans are held in state and local jails. As your U.S. Senator, I would work on a “second step act” to address criminal justice issues at the state and local level and allocate federal funds for new programs to help reduce recidivism. By increasing the funding for and availability of addiction and psychological treatment in prisons, education and job training programs for individuals on the inside and when they are recently released, affordable housing, and private-public partnerships for reentry programs, we can help both incarcerated individuals and their families deal with the financial burden of incarceration and become contributing members of our economy.

Jimmy Edwards

Any reform needs to be carried out at the state, county/parish, and city levels. This is a 10th Amendment issue that needs to be handled at these levels.

The Mississippi Legislature recently voted to remove the state flag with its confederate emblem as opposed to putting that decision before voters. Do you agree or disagree with this and why?

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

Agree. At 66 years old, I never thought I would see the flag come down it in my lifetime.

The confederate battle emblem flag was hurting our state’s economy. With the retirement of the old flag, Mississippi is finally ready to turn the page on that part of our state’s history and start the next decade as one of prosperity and promise.

Jimmy Edwards

This is an area where our Governor has acted unilaterally without consulting with his legislative branch. Whether you want to consider this action, as well as other decisions he has made in recent months, as an “Executive Order” or not, he has acted without considering legislation passed almost 20 years ago.

As a Mississippian, do you think the old state flag should be placed on the ballot for a vote of the people?

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

No. I believe it was the right decision for the legislature to choose to take down the flag. As a former Congressman and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, I know that sometimes leaders have to make tough decisions. The legislature made the right decision to take down the flag and put a new flag up for a vote. With this new flag, we can all move forward together.

Jimmy Edwards

Yes.

What do you think of the removal of confederate monuments across the South and nation?

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

I believe monuments erected in favor of confederate leaders and generals should no longer be displayed on official property. I do support putting these monuments in museums with context to educate the public on the history of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the South.

I do not believe that we should be glorifying a time when one human being was allowed to own another human being or the war that was fought for that very system.

Jimmy Edwards

These actions have been a knee-jerk reaction based on groups that will not forgive earlier generations of Americans for events which happened hundreds of years ago.

Please express your thoughts on any issues we didn’t mention.

Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign staff ignored 13 calls, texts or emails from Mississippi Today in an 18-day period to submit responses for this questionnaire. Hyde-Smith, in the single public event she attended during that time, also ignored a Mississippi Today reporter who asked her questions about her campaign in person.

Mike Espy

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, Mississippi is at a pivotal moment. We often come last in rankings and make do with less. Mississippi is home to the most generous and hospitable people I know. I am tired of our leaders not standing up for our state.

No matter your race, your gender, your age or your political views, you can always call on me as your U.S. Senator. I will be an independent voice for the health, safety, and economic security of Mississippi’s families. Together, we can move Mississippi forward.

Jimmy Edwards

I want to reform Social Security by not penalizing beneficiaries who want to claim benefits before full retirement age and continue gainful employment, allowing those who have not claimed benefits to set up to 50% of their current contributions to a private retirement plan, and raising the full retirement age to 70 for those born in 1990 or later. I want to repeal the income tax in favor of a value-added tax based on mean percentages of federal tax deductions on a state-by-state basis. I wish to enact term limits for House and Senate members while reducing the number of House members from 435 to 399. I am for encouraging registered voters to utilize Article 5 of the Constitution to bring about change unable to be brought by those on Capitol Hill. I support streamlining our military forces abroad by ending infinite occupations of other nations and using forwarding operating bases in Alaska, Hawaii, Germany, and South Korea. Finally I will urge consolidation of the Departments of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs into the Department of Defense.