Mike Espy

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Mike Espy


Mike Espy (born November 30, 1953) is a United States Democratic politician.

"From 1987 to 1993, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Mississippi. From 1993 to 1994 he was selected to be the Secretary of Agriculture by president Bill Clinton. He was both the first African American and first person from the Deep South in that position. He was indicted in 1997 for receiving improper gifts, but acquitted of all 30 charges in 1998."

On March 5, 2018, Espy announced his candidacy for Thad Cochran's U.S. Senate seat in the wake of Cochran's retirement.

Campaign staff

  • Mike Espy asked Doug Jones for campaign tips when they crossed paths this summer.

“I picked his very fertile brain and I learned a lot from him and I’ve hired a lot of his people,” Espy said.

Espy’s team includes some of Jones’ former campaign staffers such as Joe Trippi as a media adviser and Rich McDaniel to handle his get-out-the-vote strategy.[1]

Democrat help

Some high-profile Democrats have campaigned with Espy. Deval Patrick, a former Massachusetts governor, joined Espy this past weekend in Mississippi.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, was there in July. Booker also campaigned for Doug Jones in Alabama last year.

Eric Holder, former attorney general under President Barack Obama, said he will also help Espy.

Marty Wisemann, a member of the state Democratic Executive Committee, said a visit from Obama would be a bonus.

“I’ve sat back and daydreamed about what would happen if Obama landed in Memphis, then took a whistle-stop tour through the Delta and made a few stops in Mississippi …,” he said. “It certainly wouldn’t cost (Espy) any support. The voters that Obama would turn off aren’t about to vote for Obama or Espy anyway.”

Espy says he hasn’t asked, but he’s open to visits from Obama and even from former President Bill Clinton, his former boss. He talked with Clinton recently about his bid.

“He didn’t offer to come, but I’m open to whatever he wants to do,” Espy said.

For Espy, that would include Clinton helping raise money for his campaign.

“I really don’t need anyone to come to Mississippi to generate a vote for me,” said Espy. “We’re going to do pretty well already because I have a 94 percent name recognition in Mississippi. So it’s better for me to try to raise money outside and that’s what we’re doing.”

Booker and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., recently introduced Espy to their colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, a largely Democratic group. The caucus’ political action committee contributed $5,000 to his campaign.

“We feel very good about his chances,” said Thompson, who holds Espy's old House seat. "He’s working hard and raising the money necessary to become a viable candidate.”

Thompson plans to join Espy at fundraisers in Washington, including one hosted by Rodney Slater, the former transportation secretary under Clinton. Slater contributed $1,000 to Espy’s campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Moak said national party support has also stepped up in part because of Jones' win and Gov. John Bel Edwards' upset in Louisiana.

“We’ve probably got the best line of communication with the DNC (Democratic National Committee) since I’ve been aware of the Mississippi Democratic Party,” Moak said.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said it’s closely monitoring Espy’s race, but won’t say how much it has or plans to invest in it.

“Much like the Doug Jones race, this is going to be a race run and won on the ground in Mississippi,” said a committee aide.

Jones said national Democrats helped with his campaign, but noted he competed in a special election weeks after other competitive races were over.

“I was one race so there wasn’t a lot of competition,” he said. “Now you’ve got 10 Democrats that are up … and about four or five of those are very close. We got to keep those that we have.”

Espy said he has met with Minority Senate Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, whose political action committee contributed $10,000 to his campaign.[2]

PowerPAC+

PowerPAC+ endorsed candidates 2018 Mike Espy - US Senate, Mississippi

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Mike is totally committed to ALL Mississippians having access to their rights of citizenship, due process, full equality, and specifically civil rights, regardless of age, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Mike believes that ALL Mississippians should have the support of their government to protect against any efforts that prevent our citizens from pursuing their life’s ambitions. [3]

"Under the radar"

According to Steve Phillips the PowerPAC+ team, Andy Wong, Marvin Randolph, worked with in-state voter mobilization phoned 200,000 Black voters under the radar.[4]

PowerPAC+ money

From Mississippi based website Y'all Politcs:[5]

While what’s left of the state press establishment seems to be in a state of suspended animation, over the last two weeks, a PAC called POWERPACPLUS has, according to FEC reports, quietly launched nearly a $400,000 spend in the US Senate race in Mississippi. Based on the money raised by Espy an outside group spending $400K is pretty substantial, and so far, not a single column inch has been printed about it.
Five separate independent expenditures (based on weeding out some duplicate entries) totaling $392,200.16 have been made by the San Francisco based PAC in the last two weeks.
Banking billionaire Herbert Sandler of California dropped $600K into the PAC on 8/24/18, and the PAC is closely associated with the Sandler family.

POWERPACPLUS starting with the October 2018 quarterly filing was almost entirely bankrolled for the most immediate spend by Herbert Sandler.
Herbert Sandler and his wife owned Golden West Savings and Loan, which was one of the largest thrifts in the US before getting purchased in 2006 by Wachovia for $26 billion before the 2008 meltdown. The Sandler’s reported share of the sale was $2.4 billion.

Sandler has been active at the highest levels of Democratic giving and has contributed to groups like ACORN, the ACLU and Human Rights Watch as well as put in a reported $1.5M into Stacy Abrams race in Georgia. His foundation has engaged John Podesta in the past, who was the architect of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Steven Phillips, Sandler’s son in law - is listed on the team at PowerPAC+PowerPACPlus - and has been active himself in southern democrat causes including PAC contributions that ostensibly went to back Doug Jones in Alabama.
Of the $392K, about $99K is going to radio ads. Those ads have been placed through a widely respected advertising shop in St. Louis that specializes in connecting businesses and campaigns the black community. FUSE, run by St. Louis businessman Cliff Franklin, has a cadre of top brand name clients to his credit.
About $75K is going to Facebook ads.
About $71,000 has gone to a company called Onyx Communications for phonebanking. Y’all Politics was unable to identify online any meaningful information about a company operating by Onyx Communication at the address listed on the IE report. However, they were listed as one of the companies that POWERPAC.org used for the Doug Jones effort in Alabama. Those transactions through the affiliated PowerPAC.org were largely funded by Sandler’s son in law Steve Phillips.
$146K of money went for GOTV/canvassing efforts from the PowerPACPlus to Mississippi Together LLC. Mississippi Together, LLC is a privately owned concern. When we reached out to the LLC’s registered agent/manager, he declined to identify the owners of the entity citing privacy concerns. The entity, which has been largely inactive until recent Secretary of State filings, has no website or other identifying public persona. The agent did identify Jared Turner as the individual who was contracted by Mississippi Together to execute the GOTV initiative paid for by the PAC. Turner, when contacted, characterized the spend as not geographically specific and more a “shotgun” effort to boost voter turnout.

Turner has been involved in a variety of campaigns, primarily for Democrats, including work on Johnny Dupree’s 2011 effort and campaigns for Gary Anderson, Jonathan Lee and Jim Kitchens.

Lynching ad

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PowerPAC+, which has put nearly $2,000,000 to work on behalf of Espy this cycle, produced and released an ad featuring Cindy Hyde-Smith, and a group of white people at a lynching with graphic depictions of the victims.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant responded to the ad as follows.

"The use of these horrific images to sow the seeds of racial division, strictly for political purposes, is reprehensible. Mike Espy should immediately call for the removal of this despicable Political Ad and condemn its use in his campaign."[6]

According to the Washington Post:

A political ad uses a 1930 photo of a white crowd in Indiana posing around a tree as the lifeless bodies of two black men hang above them, lynched in nooses. The ad superimposes an unrelated photo of a current white senator from Mississippi as text appears: “This is where U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith would like to be.”
The ad on Facebook is paid for by PowerPACPlus, a California-based political action committee that has spent nearly $1.8 million in other advertising to support Mike Espy, Hyde-Smith’s Democratic challenger in a Nov. 27 runoff.[7]

Mailers and doorhangers

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The second week in November 2018, Mississippians started receiving undisclosed political direct mail with the postal slug TBW. TBW stands for Terris, Barnes, Walters. Based in San Francisco (as PowerPAC+ is also), TBW is at the tip of the spear for advocacy for ultra-liberal causes and candidates like the AFL-CIO, NARAL, Clinton for President, and Planned Parenthood. They also feature Bennie Thompson as a client and success story. Thompson has endorsed Espy.

On Friday, October 26, PowerPAC+, which we’ve referenced as putting over $1 million into the Espy race, dropped another $380,000 in independent expenditures. $312,000 of that was to Terris, Barnes, Walters, Boigon, Heath for “Doorhangers and Direct Mails” to “support” Mike Espy.

Mississippians began receiving the following mailer which quotes a widely discredited Breitbart piece asserting that Cindy Hyde-Smith voted for Hillary Clinton in 2008, which she has repeatedly denied.

One might think that this mail piece was as a result of intra-party Republican jockeying. However, the mailpiece features the TBW mailslug, but obviously doesn’t mention PowerPAC+ or Mike Espy at all.

When reached for comment, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s communications director, Melissa Scallan, stated, “The message of this anonymous mailer is a lie, and it’s equally ridiculous that Mike Espy’s allies from California are trying to mislead voters with such negative, inaccurate information as a last second dirty trick.”[8]

Booker support

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When Mississippians head to the polls in November to elect their next United States senator their decision will have a profound effect on the rest of Washington, D.C., according New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

Booker, a Democrat, was in Jackson to help raise money for Senate candidate Mike Espy on Friday evening. Espy, a former congressman and agriculture secretary under the Clinton Administration, is competing in a November special election to finish the term of Sen. Thad Cochran.

During a brief press conference at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Booker, whom many Democrats believe could mount a presidential run for 2020, stressed the importance of the state’s upcoming Senate elections.

“I could be in a lot of places,” he said. “But I’m here because I think that of all the races that are going on right now, none will be more of a game changer than this Senate race right here.”

Cochran announced his retirement earlier this year, which set into motion a political frenzy. As a result, Mississippi now has two Senate seats up for grabs in November. With state Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, running to unseat Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, Mississippi could send a Democrat to the U.S. Senate for the first in the modern political era.

In addition, either Baria or Espy have the potential to swing the tilt of power in the Senate. And depending on how the dominoes fall on Election Day, and the race for the Cochran seat goes to a runoff three weeks later, Mississippi voters could be crucial to determining the composition of the Senate. Currently, Republicans hold 51 seats while Democrats hold 47.

“Mississippi will send a delegation to Congress that in its very makeup will be about working together across party lines,” Booker said. “Mississippi will have a voice on both sides of the Senate with two people that will say ‘We gotta bring home the bacon for this state.'”

Espy’s campaign has been relatively quiet up until now, with one of his first major public appearances coming last weekend at the Jackson Black Rodeo. On Friday, Espy urged the community to get registered and vote and repeated a familiar message — that he would work across the aisle to do what’s best for Mississippi.

“We want to be that bridge that connects all Mississippians of goodwill, regardless of age or gender or race or religion or even regardless of political party,” Espy said. “We want to help forge common purpose with all Mississippians regardless of differing distinctions.”

Booker was confident in Espy’s prospects against Republican challengers state Sen. Chris McDaniel and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, whom Gov. Phil Bryant appointed to replace Cochran after in March, as well as in Espy’s ability to work with Senate Republicans.

“I’m sure he’s going to go against the Democratic party, the majority of us, on a lot of issues, because Mike Espy has always been an independent thinker doing what he thinks is best,” Booker said. [9]

Lumumba endorsement

August 31, 2018 almost three dozen current and former mayors from around Mississippi gathered in Jackson to formally endorse U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy.

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“What you have before you is a representation of Mayors who are representing cities in need,” Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. “We need leadership in the United States Senate who represents the ideas that will move Mississippi forward. That is why I’m supporting Mike Espy.”

“Mike Espy’s experience in Washington and his work with Hope Enterprises proves he understands municipality’s needs and has a track record of assisting those municipalities in obtaining the resources they need to provide quality of life for their citizens,” said Magnolia Mayor Anthony Witherspoon, president of the Mississippi Conference of Black Mayors. “We’re here today to ask all voters across this great state to swing their support behind the most qualified candidate — Mike Espy.”

“I am honored to stand with this group of mayors and receive their endorsement,” Espy said. “And I promise each of them that I will stand with, not only the mayors here today, but all mayors across this state to address the issues that are important to them, their communities, and all Mississippians when I am elected to represent the people of Mississippi.” [10]

Alabama style campaign

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy announced what he called “the most modern headquarters that I think any Democrat has had in Mississippi’s history” at a ceremony for the opening of his new Jackson campaign office Saturday, Aug. 25.

Leaders from across the state joined Espy at the new headquarters, along with a crowd of about 200 supporters as the campaign estimated.

The headquarters includes several rooms that serve as dedicated call centers with enough seats for dozens of volunteers to phonebank. Earlier this month, Espy told the Jackson Free Press that, unlike the shoestring budgets Democratic Senate candidates have run in recent cycles, he’s running a “national campaign” and intends to win. As if to make the point, Espy hired as his media strategist Joe Trippi, who successfully worked to elect Democrat Doug Jones in a U.S. Senate special election in Mississippi’s Deep South sister state, Alabama, last year.

One of Espy’s guests, Latosha Brown, served an instrumental role in that victory. In Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate last year, Brown led the Alabama Grassroots Mobilization Project, which put “boots on the ground” in 18 counties, helped pay for around 400 organizers, and provided voter transportation services. For the first time since 1986, Alabama sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate.

“We’re tired of Mississippi being last,” Brown, who is also the co-founder of the Black Votes Matter Fund, said. “Are you tired of Mississippi being last? I think it’s your time. I think it’s your time to be first.”

She urged Mississippi Democrats to outdo their Alabama counterparts. “We’re gonna turn out in record numbers,” Brown said. “We’re gonna beat Alabama. You think they overperformed? We’re gonna shut it down.”

“Yes, Doug Jones is in the Senate,” Espy said. “But I know, because I studied that race, if it were not for Latosha Brown, Doug Jones would not be in the Senate today.”

The Espy campaign’s voter-turnout models estimate that, if black voter turnout for Mississippi’s special election equals turnout in Alabama’s last year, black voters would make up 39 percent of the electorate, and Espy would need the support of just 22 percent of the state’s white voters. Analysts attribute Jones’ 2017 victory in Alabama to a surge in turnout among black voters. However, the Espy campaign assumes black voters turnout will be closer to 2016 numbers, 33 percent, and believes an issues-oriented campaign is key.

Espy, who served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1994, opposes President Trump’s tariffs on China. He says the tariffs are hurting Mississippi’s farmers because China retaliated by imposing tariffs on agricultural goods in the U.S. like soybeans.

“They do not want tariffs, and they do not want handouts,” Espy said of the state’s farmers, who he said oppose Trump’s plan to subsidize their losses through an aid package that runs in the billions. “They want open markets. They want fair trade.”

At the podium, former Mississippi State Sen. Gloria Williamson offered a more blunt critique of Hyde-Smith.

“Now, I’m not going to say anything ugly about his opponent,” Williamson said, noting she had served in the Legislature with Hyde-Smith. “But I will say this: Just because someone is a woman does not mean they take up for women. I have been a victim of that myself.”

Mississippians, Williamson said, “need someone who is willing to ask for equal pay” and “to vote for equal pay.”

“Now, I know she’s been endorsed by the president,” Williamson said. “Something tells me that he ain’t gonna ask for equal pay for women. I believe that she will follow him wherever he will go.”

  1. Women, Williamson said, should look to Espy.

State Rep. Jeramey Anderson is a millennial who is running for Congress against incumbent Republican Steven Palazzo in the Fourth District. He also joined Espy for the opening of his headquarters. He called on his fellow millennials to do their part.

“We’ve got to get our peers out to the polls,” Anderson said. “We talk a good game, we rally behind good issues, but we fail to act when most needed, and that’s at the polls. So all millennials and college students, if you hear my voice, I need you to go to your college campus. I need you to make sure folks understand what’s at stake. I need you to make sure you’re getting your students and fellow peers absentee ballots.”

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba praised Espy’s ability to move Mississippi forward.

“As we’ve seen a country that has experienced great booms, or even when it has been in a recession, Mississippi has stayed the same because it has always been at the bottom,” Lumumba said. “And so we need that leadership to go to Washington to change that dynamic. No matter whether you consider yourself Democrat or Republican, we need a Mississippi that is represented better.”

Espy, Lumumba said, “has not only made history in the past, but is prepared to make history right now.”[11]

Attacking Cindy

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith is facing former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary Mike Espy, a black Democrat, in a runoff Nov. 27 2018. She was captured on video praising a supporter by declaring, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."

After the video was made public Sunday, Hyde-Smith said her remark Nov. 2 at a campaign event in Tupelo was "an exaggerated expression of regard" for a friend who invited her to speak. "Any attempt to turn this into a negative connotation is ridiculous," she said.

Mike Espy on Monday called the remark "disappointing and harmful."

"It reinforces stereotypes that we've been trying to get away from for decades, stereotypes that continue to harm our economy and cost us jobs," he told MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

At a news conference Monday with Republican Gov. Phil Bryant by her side, a stone-faced Hyde-Smith refused to answer questions about the hanging remark.

"I put out a statement yesterday, and that's all I'm going to say about it," she said.

"It really rocked folks," said Democrat Rukia Lumumba, co-director of The Electoral Justice Project and a native Mississippian whose family has deep roots in the state's politics and civil rights activism. "The fact that she has yet to apologize, to recognize the impact of her comments or that people have suffered ... I hope it makes us feel the urgency."[12]

Congressional Black Caucus

Mike Espy October 19 2018:

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Very proud to accept the endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Thanks Rep. Cedric Richmond, Rep. Terri Sewell, and Rep. Bennie Thompson for standing with Mississippi today and every day.

Hollis Watkins connection

Hollis Watkins was involved in managing, advising and working on many political campaigns, including the 1967 campaign for Robert Clark to become the first African-American elected to the Mississippi State Legislature since Reconstruction, both Presidential Campaigns of Rev. Jesse Jackson, the 1986 campaign of Mike Espy who was elected as the first African-American Congressman, and the 1993 campaign of Congressman Bennie Thompson.

Lumumba connection

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Chokwe Antar Lumumba, Mike Espy, August 2018.

Voted against support for "Contras"

The Congressional Record of February 3, 1988 shows that the following leading Democratic Party Congressmen voted against aid to the Nicaraguan Freedom Fighters - the "Contras"- then fighting against the Marxist-Leninist Sandinista government of Nicaragua:

Supported by Council for a Livable World

The Council for a Livable World, founded in 1962 by long-time socialist activist and alleged Soviet agent, Leo Szilard, is a non-profit advocacy organization that seeks to "reduce the danger of nuclear weapons and increase national security", primarily through supporting progressive, congressional candidates who support their policies. The Council supported Mike Espy in his successful House of Representatives run as candidate for Mississippi.[13]

References