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Democratic mayor jumps into US Senate race in Mississippi

JASON SHELTON

Another Democrat is entering the race for a U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi, and the governor has set a filing deadline for candidates.

Second-term Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said Tuesday that he’s running in the special election for the seat long held by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, 80, who retired Sunday because of poor health.

Gov. Phil Bryant appointed fellow Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was state agriculture commissioner, to temporarily succeed Cochran. She takes office next week.

Bryant said Tuesday that April 24 is candidates’ qualifying deadline. The election is Nov. 6, with a runoff Nov. 27. Party labels won’t be on the ballot, although candidates tell voters their political affiliation.

The winner of the special election will serve the rest of the six-year term, which ends in January 2021.

Hyde-Smith, Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel and Democratic former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy have already announced they will run in the special election.

Shelton said he would help Mississippi residents navigate the federal bureaucracy and would work with other senators to “push back the rising tide of debt swallowing our nation.”

“Working with others in my hometown, we reduced our city’s overall debt and reached a place where we have revenue left over at the end of each year,” Shelton said. “We have recruited new jobs, balanced budgets, and created a better quality of life for our neighbors.”

Republicans are trying to maintain their slim Senate majority in this year’s midterm election. Though Mississippi is a conservative state, Democratic leaders are pointing to their party’s victory in a special U.S. Senate election in Alabama in December as proof that the party can compete in the solidly Republican South. The last time Mississippi had a Democrat in the Senate was in January 1989, when John C. Stennis retired.

Mississippi’s other Republican U.S. senator, Roger Wicker, faces a political newcomer, Richard Boyanton of Diamondhead, in the June 5 primary. In the Democratic primary that day are state Rep. David Baria of Bay St. Louis, Jensen Bohren of Benton, Victor G. Maurice of Pass Christian, Jerone Garland of Kosciusko, state Rep. Omeria Scott of Laurel and Howard Sherman of Meridian.

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