Myrlie Evers-Williams, the civil rights leader who was the wife of slain NAACP activist Medgar Evers, endorsed Democrat Mike Espy's bid for U.S. Senate on Nov. 5.
Photo by Imani Khayyam.
JACKSON Civil rights leader Myrlie Evers-Williams endorsed Democrat Mike Espy's bid for U.S. Senate in a radio ad his campaign released Monday, calling on Mississippians to help stave off a return to the past in tomorrow's election.
"We are at a crossroads, Mississippi," she said. "Will we use our sacred right to vote and move forward, or let our souls be dragged back to the past?"
Evers-Williams' late husband, Medgar Evers, was a field secretary for the NAACP in Mississippi who advocated for voting rights for African Americans and fought to end segregation in the state. In 1963, white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the racist Citizens' Council, shot him dead in his driveway. The slaying drew national attention to the state.
"My late husband, Medgar Evers, had a vision of a better Mississippi," Evers-Williams said in the Espy ad. "On November 6, we can make his vision a reality and elect Mike Espy to the United States Senate."
She pointed to Democratic Sen. Doug Jones' victory in Alabama last year. In that race, Jones beat Trump-endorsed Republican Roy Moore and became Alabama's first Democratic U.S. senator in over two decades. Election analysts largely attribute Jones' win to an increase in black voter turnout, particularly among black women.
"We made history last year in Alabama, and black women led the way," Evers-Williams said. "We can do it again in Mississippi, but we need every single person to get out and vote. It's our duty to fulfill what we worked so hard to earn."
In addition to radio, the ad was also delivered out to Mississippians with robocall-style phone calls.
"I am humbled and honored to have the endorsement of Myrlie Evers-Williams," Espy said in a press release Monday. "She knows all too well the struggles of Mississippi. I am proud to join her in moving our state forward."
In Fayette, Miss., in 1969, Medgar's brother, Charles Evers, became the first African American mayor to win election in Mississippi since the Reconstruction era, the southern rebuilding period that followed the Civil War. Evers, who joined the Republican Party in 1978, has drawn notoriety in recent decades for taking many conservative stances. In 2016, he endorsed Donald Trump's campaign for president.
Last month, Charles Evers' daughter, Wanda Evers, confronted Mississippi Sen. Chris McDaniel—one of Espy's opponents in the U.S. Senate race—over comments he made about black Mississippians "begging for scraps." McDaniel said he was talking about Mississippians as a whole—not just African Americans.
Espy became the first black congressman from Mississippi since the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era when voters sent him to the U.S. House in 1986. From 1993 to 1994, he served as secretary of agriculture under President Bill Clinton. This year, he could become the first black U.S. senator from the state since Reconstruction, when Sens. Hiram Revels and Blanche K. Bruce represented the state in Washington.
Espy and McDaniel are both challenging incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. When Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her in April after former Sen. Thad Cochran stepped down due to poor health, Hyde-Smith became the first woman from Mississippi to serve in Congress and could become the first elected come November.
On Nov. 6, the same day as the national midterms, voters choose between Espy, Hyde-Smith and McDaniel in a nonpartisan special election. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will face one another in a Nov. 27 runoff. Incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker and Democratic rival David Baria also face off that day, and U.S. House seats are up in all four of Mississippi's congressional districts.
Voters must bring a valid form of photo ID such as a driver's license or a student ID to vote. Polls in Mississippi are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Ashton Pittman covers politics and elections for the Jackson Free Press. Follow him on Twitter @ashtonpittman. Email him at [email protected]. Read more 2018 campaign coverage at jfp.ms/2018elections.
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