It's been a busy day for congressional candidate Jeramey Anderson. Earlier, he met with the family of Vernon Dahmer, the Forrest County civil-rights leader who died in 1966 after the Ku Klux Klan firebombed his home. Now, sitting at the local Shrimp Basket just across from the University of Southern Mississippi on Sept. 21, the 26-year-old state representative marvels at a supporter's Facebook comment.
"He commented, 'I couldn't be there but I'm excited about this guy,'" his press secretary, Melissa Garriga, reads aloud while gesturing at the comment on her phone as if she's rediscovered the Dodo Bird. The comment shouldn't be extraordinary; Anderson is on day six of his seven-day, 14-county, 19-city "People's Tour" of the 4th Congressional District in southern Mississippi, and he has met excited voters along the way. But this show of support is different.
"Look at it," Garriga says, navigating to the commenter's profile. "There's a pro-Chris McDaniel profile picture, and they like (Texas Sen.) Ted Cruz."
"It's weird," Anderson says, with a mixture of bemusement and appreciation. "I am so far—like super far—in policy from Chris McDaniel," he says of the U.S. Senate candidate.
Indeed, the Pascagoula native is a black millennial and progressive Democrat who, in 2013, became the youngest African American elected to any state legislature in U.S. history. McDaniel, 47, is a white, conservative Republican state senator and, in a separate race, U.S. Senate candidate whose harsh rhetoric on immigrants and women combined with his cutthroat policy on social programs makes him controversial even among state GOP voters.
Anderson supports expanding Medicaid in Mississippi; McDaniel last month suggested the state's black residents have been "begging for federal government scraps" for 100 years. Anderson considers the state flag that bears the Confederate symbol retrogressive; preserving the state flag is a central tenet of McDaniel's brand. "Super far"