‘Do your damn job and quit hustling for yourself’: Apathy, distrust run deep for south Mississippi voters

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MOSS POINT – Vern Smith chuckled as he chewed on the butt of a burned out cigar and cast a line into the Escatawpa River from a dock at the Moss Point Community Center.
Smith, a 65-year-old resident of Gautier, recently retired as an electrician at Huntington-Ingalls, the shipbuilding megacorporation a few miles south of where he fished on a late September afternoon. Right before he cast his line, a reporter asked if he follows politics much.
“I try to stay away from politics because to be a politician, you’ve got to be a good liar,” said Smith, who caught two fish during an 18-minute interview. “They always could do something for us, but they ain’t gonna do it. They’re all about themselves – I, I, I. They don’t care about people. They don’t do shit. They’re just there collecting their checks. That’s it. You know, do your damn job and quit hustling for yourself. Hustle for the people for a change.”
Mississippi Today sent reporters to all corners of the state to ask citizens about the most important issues in their communities. In six of the southernmost counties of the state, a large number of people we interviewed were largely unfamiliar with the candidates and only vaguely aware that the midterms are approaching. Every person who agreed to speak with us, without exception, described a disconnect between their needs and the actions taken by politicians in Jackson and Washington.
That feeling might not be contained just to south Mississippi, according to a recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll in which a majority of 1,152 adults expressed distrust in both the federal and state government “to do what is right.” 
In a state with a range of regional diversity and complexity, south Mississippi is an aberration. The three coastal counties collectively serve as an economic anchor, drawing big