Yazoo native Mike Espy launches campaign for US Senate seat

By JASON PATTERSON,

On Friday Yazoo City native Mike Espy formally announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by longtime Sen. Thad Cochran.

Espy said his family history helped shape him into the man he is today, and instilled the qualities he would use to serve if elected.

“My grandfather’s legacy serves as the foundation of this campaign,” Espy said. “Born as the son of slaves, Thomas Jefferson Huddleston rose to relative affluence amidst the failed promise of federal Reconstruction. Except for the period of slavery, he lived in perhaps the most dangerous time to be an African‑American in Mississippi. Yet he defied the odds and led his community with courage and resolve. Under the organizing theme of “group economics” he built a health insurance company; 36 funeral homes; a newspaper that boasted a circulation of 100,000 subscribers, and a hospital, in which my twin sister and I were born. He didn’t foster guilt, or let hate overcome him. And he refused to let his emotions and the conditions of his time destroy the goals he envisioned for his community. He simply had too much work to do. “

Espy also cited the influence of his father.

“Similarly, the selfless example of my father, Henry Espy Sr., still serves useful purpose for me. Dad was the ultimate agriculturist, graduating as the protege of

Dr. George Washington Carver, of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. After graduation he became one of the first black USDA County Extension agents in Arkansas. On my first day as United States Secretary of Agriculture, one of my staffers went to the basement vault and unearthed my Dad’s reports. As I silently read, I recognized that his refrains still echo forward into modern times: he felt that the agriculture agency in Washington was too large and slow, and that the stodgy bureaucracy didn’t treat farmers as priority ‘clients,’ as it should have; he bemoaned the high costs of production, and believed that the farmers were not being offered enough support through the federal farm programs to secure markets for the crops grown by farmers under his tutelage. Dad soon left USDA to move to Mississippi to take over the funeral homes from my aging grandfather. Cutting the grass, driving the family cars, comforting the bereaved, and ‘making’ the funerals on weekends, I did almost every job required to sustain our small business.”

Espy said that his parents instilled a strong work ethic and respect for all people.

It is during this formative period that I learned the value of hard work, of being responsible, and of having to make a payroll. Our parents, Jean and Henry Espy, passed on to each of their seven children certain beliefs that I continue to hold today – beliefs that I pledge to pursue and defend on behalf of every Mississippian if privileged to become your next United States Senator: I believe in the worth of every Mississippian regardless of age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or varying levels of disability. God made us all in his image. My role as a public official is not to judge, but to assist every person to reach his or her God given potential. And this I will do.”

A special election will be held to fill Cochran’s unexpired term.

Gov. Phil Bryant has appointed Mississippi’s Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to serve until the special election. Hyde-Smith was sworn in Monday.