Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Democrat from South Carolina and assistant Democratic leader in the House, speaks during the Democratic National Committee Winter Meeting on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, a top Democrat in Congress, will travel to Jackson this weekend with fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson to help energize voter turnout ahead of Mississippi’s November statewide election. 

Clyburn, assistant Democratic leader in the House, is expected to meet with Mississippi’s Democratic leaders, visit local churches, interact with college students and dine with statewide Democratic candidates. 

“Elections in Mississippi have far-reaching consequences for people all over the state and the country,” Clyburn told Mississippi Today in a statement. “Congressman Thompson and I are proud to stand up and encourage Democrats to do what’s right and head to the polls on Nov. 7.” 

The string of visits will culminate in a reception for Clyburn in downtown Jackson on Sunday night, doubling as a celebration of the state party and its candidates. 

The South Carolina congressman’s visit comes roughly a month before Mississippians will vote on who should represent them in state offices, with the competitive governor’s race at the top of the ticket. 

Brandon Presley, the Democratic nominee for governor, has raised a significant amount of money in his quest to defeat Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’ reelection bid, and public polls have shown the governor could face trouble in capturing an outright majority of the ballots cast on Nov. 7.

Reeves is almost certain to seize on the event as a way to link Presley to national Democrats — a strategy he has relied on throughout the campaign.

But to become the first Democratic candidate to win a governor’s race since 1999, Presley will need an energized base of support to turn out on Election Day, something Clyburn could help deliver.

As north Mississippi’s current utility regulator, Presley has previously worked with Clyburn and Thompson on legislation to expand broadband internet to rural areas and cultivated a relationship with them. But the underlying purpose of the events goes beyond Presley and the November election. 

The focus of much of the weekend is to raise funds for the state party infrastructure and strategically finalize plans to mobilize Democratic voters, the foundation of which is Black Mississippians. 

And Clyburn is one of the nation’s most prominent Black public officials and has touted the growing influence Deep South states such as Georgia and his home state of South Carolina have on national elections.

Mississippi Democrats have long struggled with successfully organizing and remaining competitive this century, with the Republican Party now holding every statewide office and a supermajority of seats in both chambers of the Legislature.

Two of the primary reasons are a lack of funding and virtually little from national progressive organizations. But that could be changing.

Before Clyburn’s weekend visit, Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison surprised south Mississippi Democrats in August when he visited the Gulf Coast, an area of the state typically viewed as a GOP stronghold. 

Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Cheikh Taylor told Mississippi Today that he hopes that a competitive slate of state races mingled with intentional grassroots movement could lead to a new chapter for the progressive party.

“You can’t organize quietly,” Taylor said. “We’re not ducking and dodging and hiding anymore. We’re here to organize in Mississippi.”

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Taylor, a native of Grenada, covers state government and statewide elections. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and Holmes Community College. Before joining Mississippi Today, Taylor reported on state and local government for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, where he received an award for his coverage of the federal government’s lawsuit against the state’s mental health system.