Democrat Mike Espy could be the next U.S. senator from Mississippi, renowned conservative columnist George Will wrote in a Sept. 5 piece in the Washington Post.
"The odds are somewhat, but only somewhat, against Espy, so the possibility of victory is not an illusion," Will wrote.
In June, Will, an opponent of President Donald Trump's takeover of the GOP, urged conservatives to vote to turn control of Congress to Democrats in November to punish the GOP for submitting to Trump and failing to hold his administration accountable.
In 1986, Espy became the first elected African American congressman. He then served as U.S. secretary of agriculture under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1994. If he wins in November, he will also become the first black U.S. senator from the state since the Reconstruction era.
Those aren't the only historical winds Espy faces. Mississippi has not sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1982. In his column, though, Will highlights reasons he thinks Mississippi Democrats should be optimistic about Espy's chances.
For one, Will writes, "Mississippi voted slightly less emphatically for Trump (57.9 percent) than did the four contiguous states: Alabama (62.1), Tennessee (60.7), Arkansas (60.6) and Louisiana (58.1)."
Mississippi sits wedged between two states that have elected Democrats in statewide races in the past three years. In Louisiana, Democrat John Bel Edwards beat Republican David Vitter in a governor's race in 2015; in Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones edged out Republican Roy Moore in a U.S. Senate special election last December. Both races, however, featured scandal-plagued Republican candidates. Vitter admitted to hiring prostitutes in Washington, D.C., and Moore faced accusations from multiple women that he sexually assaulted or preyed upon them when they were teenagers.
Black Voters Seen As Key
Espy is unlikely to benefit from a sex scandal as he faces off against two Republicans—incumbent U.S. Sen.