‘Election a wake up call’: Espy supporters see positives in Tuesday’s loss

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/ Report for AmericaStudents from Barack H. Obama Magnet School cheer for Mike Espy after he spoke to Millsaps College students during a town hall meeting Thursday, November 15, 2018.
Oleta Fitzgerald, Mike Espy’s campaign manager, was wiping away a tear and answering questions after it had become clear Tuesday night that Espy was going to lose his bid to become the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate from Mississippi when a young man walked up and gave her a hug.
She looked at him and said with a re-assuring smile, “It’s a new South.”
That was part of the dynamics at the Espy election watch party, held at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum where people were gathered hoping to see history being made.
History was made – as Espy’s Republican opponent Cindy Hyde-Smith – became the first woman from Mississippi elected to the U.S. Senate.
But that was of little solace to the people at the Civil Rights Museum Tuesday night.
What was of solace was that based on unofficial and incomplete returns it appears Espy will receive more than 46 percent of the vote – the most for a Democrat running statewide for national office in Mississippi since at least 1988. In the election to replace long-time Democratic Sen. John Stennis, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Wayne Dowdy garnered 46.1 percent against fellow U.S. House member Trent Lott.
In 2008, in another special election to fill a vacancy like the Espy/Hyde-Smith contest,   former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove received 44.7 percent against Republican Roger Wicker, a former U.S. House member.
“The good news is that this is the best Democratic performance (in a race for national office) in 30 years by a man who has not been in public office for 25 years,” said Brad Chism, a senior strategist for the Espy campaign.