Familiar themes repeat at debate: Public hangings, African despots, pre-existing conditions and ducking the media

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On Tuesday night, after just under 10 minutes of questions, U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy thanked a crowd of reporters and walked away from the podium.
The two dozen members of local and national media then waited for Espy’s opponent in the U.S. Senate race, interim Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who had just debated Espy in a room twenty yards from the podium, to take questions.
Instead, Mississippi’s other U.S. Senator, Roger Wicker, appeared. Asked if Sen. Hyde-Smith would be speaking to reporters, Wicker was curt.
“No. I think the debate speaks for itself,” Wicker said.
“I am glad to be here tonight as a spokesman… I think the story should be about the debate” and not what the candidates said after the debate, he added.
Until Tuesday night’s debate, sponsored by the Farm Bureau and WLBT-TV, the interim senator, who was appointed to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in March, had avoided public events and media appearances. After the debate, time was set aside to allow the candidates to answer questions from the media.
Democrat Mike Espy responds to a statement from his opponent, appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., during a televised Mississippi U.S. Senate debate in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, POOL)
Espy was elected in 1986 as the state’s first African American U.S. House member since Reconstruction and later became U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in the 1990s. He and Hyde-Smith, a former state senator and state agriculture commissioner, are running in a special election to replace long-term Sen. Thad Cochran, who stepped down for health reasons. Hyde-Smith was appointed to the post in the interim by Gov. Phil Bryant and is the first woman Mississippi has sent to Congress.
Although Tuesday’s debate performance was intended to quell a perception that Hyde-Smith is unable to speak for herself, it may