The North Mississippi Guide to the 2018 Midterm Elections

No matter your party affiliation, Election Day is a day in which we see our democracy in action. We, the people, cast a ballot to either retain or replace those who represent us in Washington. They’ll also be a few local races on the ballot as well.

For those of us who live in the Tip of the ‘Sip, election season can be a confusing time, namely because we live in the Memphis, Tenn. media market. This means if you turn on your television or listen to most radio stations, you’re likely to hear an ad for a candidate running in Tennessee– someone we cannot vote for.

This is the definitive guide for the midterms for those of us who live in DeSoto County.  This is meant as an exploratory guide to help you learn more about the candidates.

Before we get too far along– are you registered to vote? You can check the rolls and make sure your name and address appear in the database by clicking here. Once you see your name in the database, click “display” and you can see the address and a map of your polling place. Important note: you can only vote at your precinct.

If you live in DeSoto County, this is what your ballot will look like (see photo below). If you’ve never voted in Mississippi, you may be surprised to learn we do not vote electronically. Our ballots look similar to one of those standardized fill-in-the-bubble sheets you might’ve used in high school or college.

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Sample Ballot in DeSoto County in Mississippi

You’ll notice there are 10 elections in North Mississippi, but many are races in which there is only one candidate on the ballot, meaning you will have to vote for the only candidate listed, write in your own choice or skip that box.

Let’s take a closer look at the contested races.

United States Senate (six-year term)

The incumbent in this seat is Roger Wicker, a Republican from Pontotoc. He was appointed to the office Dec 31, 2007 to replace former Senator Trent Lott. Wicker successfully ran to retain Lott’s seat in Nov. 2008 and won re-election for the seat in Nov. 2012. Wicker served in the United States Air Force and Air Force Reserves. Wicker is married, has three children and six grandchildren.

As U.S. Senator, Wicker serves on the Armed Services Committee, the Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee, the Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Committee on Rules & Administration and the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

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Roger Wicker and family

On June 5, 2018 Roger Wicker was endorsed by President Donald Trump via Twitter.

According to FEC reports, as of Oct. 17, Wicker has raised $5,369,249.28 and spent $4,876,820.50 in the 2018 election cycle.

Learn more about Roger Wicker: 
Roger Wicker’s Campaign Website
Roger Wicker on Facebook / Roger Wicker on Twitter
Roger Wicker’s Campaign Financials 

Wicker’s main opposition comes from Democrat David Baria. Currently, Baria serves as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives. The Pascagoula native is an attorney and former contractor. He is the senior partner in the Baria-Jones law firm and operated a company that removed rubble and debris from Hurricane Katrina. Baria is married and has three children.

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David Baria and family

According to the FEC reports, as of Oct. 17, 2018, Baria has raised: $953,051.50 and spent $941,076.13 in the 2018 election cycle.

Learn more about David Baria: 

David Baria’s Campaign Website
David Baria on Facebook / David Baria on Twitter
David Baria’s Campaign Financials 

In addition to Wicker and Baria, two others are running for this seat: Libertarian Danny Bedwell and Shawn O’Hara of the Reform Party.

United States Senate Special Election (two years remain on the term)

This special election is to fill the vacancy left by Thad Cochran, who retired due to health issues after serving in the United States Senate for 40 years. After Cochran vacated his seat, Gov. Phil Bryant appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith to serve as the interim Senator. In doing so, Hyde-Smith became the Mississippi’s first ever female Senator.

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Cindy Hyde-Smith at a campaign event

Prior to being appointed to the U.S. Senate, Hyde-Smith served as Mississippi’s Agriculture Commissioner– a post she held since 2012. One of her major accomplishments as the Agriculture Commissioner was helping reopen the markets in China for American beef exports.

Hyde-Smith, a Brookhaven native, is married and has one child. Hyde-Smith received an endorsement from President Trump and attended a rally with him in Southaven in October 2018.

According to FEC reports, as of Oct. 17, 2018 Hyde-Smith has raised $2,768,835.20 and spent $2,194,121.87 in the 2018 election cycle.

Learn more about Cindy Hyde-Smith: 
Cindy Hyde-Smith’s Campaign Website
Cindy Hyde-Smith’s Facebook / Cindy Hyde-Smith on Twitter
Cindy Hyde-Smith’s Campaign Financials

Hyde-Smith is facing a tough challenge from Mississippi State Senator and Republican Chris McDaniel and Democrat Mike Espy. Tobey Bartee is also in the race, but is not considered to be a contender in this race.

McDaniel ran against Cochran for the seat in the 2014 Republican Primary, nearly defeating Cochran, loosing in a run-off. McDaniel is a former federal law clerk and attorney. He currently represents the 42nd district of Mississippi’s State Senate.

McDaniel is married and has two children. He’s a native of Ellisville, Mississippi.

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Chris McDaniel and family

According to FEC reports, as of Oct. 17, 2018 McDaniel has raised $527,847.92 and spent $507,816.74 in the 2018 election cycle.

Learn more about Chris McDaniel: 
Chris McDaniel’s Campaign Website
Chris McDaniel’s Facebook / Chris McDaniel on Twitter
Chris McDaniel’s Campaign Financials

Mike Espy, a former United States Secretary of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton, is the Democrat’s contender for this seat.

Mike Espy served as a Congressman for Mississippi’s 2nd District from 1987-1993 and as the 25th United States Secretary of Agriculture from 1993-1994.

He resigned from his position as Secretary of Agriculture due to allegations that he used his position to receive perks and gifts. He was acquitted of all 30 corruption charges.

President Clinton, upon learning of Espy’s acquittal, released a statement through the White House encouraging him to continue his public service.

“I am heartened that he has, as he said, emerged from this ordeal stronger. I hope that as he moves forward he will continue his notable record of service to the country,” President Clinton said in the 1998 release.

Espy has noted on the campaign trail that he endorsed Republican Haley Barbour for re-election in 2007, citing his leadership and momentum gained from dealing with Hurricane Katrina.

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Mike Espy was a former Secretary of Agriculture under President Bill Clinton

Espy is married and has three children. One of his children played for Ole Miss as a wide receiver with Eli Manning.

According to FEC reports, as of Oct. 17, 2018 Espy has raised $1,867,166.42 and spent $1,240,181.42 in the 2018 election cycle.

Learn more about Mike Espy:
Mike Espy’s Campaign Website
Mike Espy’s Facebook / Mike Espy on Twitter
Mike Espy’s Campaign Financials

In this special election, the candidates will be listed as “non partisan.” If you look at the sample ballot, you’ll notice the Republican and Democrat labels are missing on this election. Additionally, in order to win this seat, the winner must accumulate more than 50% of the vote. If none of the candidates get at least 50% of the vote, a run-off election will be held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 27), featuring the top two candidates.

Whoever wins this seat will serve out the remainder of Cochran’s term, which was slated to end in 2020.

U.S. Congress – District 01 (two-year term)

Trent Kelly, a Republican from Union, Mississippi, is the incumbent Congressman for District 1. Prior to becoming a Congressman, Kelly served a District Attorney in the 1st Judicial District of Mississippi from 2012-2015.

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Kelly has served in the United States National Guard since 1985, where he currently serves as a Brigadier General with the Joint Force Headquarters in Mississippi. Kelly has received numerous awards for his military service, including two Bronze Stars.

Kelly is married and has 3 children. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the Agriculture Committee and Small Business Committee. Additionally, Kelly serves as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight, and Regulations.

According to FEC reports, as of Oct. 17, 2018 Kelly has raised $866,801.90 and spent $580,571.80 in the 2018 election cycle.

Learn more about Trent Kelly: 
Trent Kelly’s Campaign Website
Trent Kelly’s Facebook / Trent Kelly on Twitter
Trent Kelly’s Campaign Financials 

Randy Wadkins is the Democrat candidate running against incumbent Trent Kelly. Wadkins is a Chemistry Professor at the University of Mississippi, where he has taught there for the past 14 years. Prior to that, he analyzed policy for Memphis-area Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09). He also worked at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

When he’s not teaching, he’s working on research that focuses on developing improved anti-tumor drugs to treat cancer.

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According to FEC reports, as of Oct. 17, 2018 Wadkins has raised $152,519.05 and spent $101,858.45 in the 2018 election cycle.

Learn more about Randy Wadkins: 
Randy Wadkins’ Campaign Website
Randy Wadkins’ Facebook / Randy Wadkins on Twitter
Randy Wadkins’ Campaign Financials

Tracella Lou O’Hara Hill is also on the ticket, running as a member of the Reform Party.

Circuit Court – District 17 (four-year term)

Celeste Embrey Wilson was appointed to the 17th District Circuit Court Judge in February 2017 by Gov. Phil Bryant. Prior to that, she served as an Assistant District Attorney and was later elected County Judge.

Judge Wilson is a life-long DeSoto County resident and volunteers her time working for various organizations and courts in the area.  She worked her way through law school as the Membership Director for the Southaven Chamber of Commerce.

Judge Wilson is married and has two children. She and her family are members of the Getwell Church in Southaven.

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Learn more about Celeste Embrey Wilson: 
Celeste Embrey Wilson’s Campaign Website
Celeste Embrey Wilson’s FacebookCeleste Embrey Wilson on Twitter

Stan Little is a businessman, entrepreneur and attorney, based in Hernando. While a student in law school, Little started his own restaurant and employed nearly 50 students. Little lists broadcaster, magazine publisher, newspaper columnist and cotton merchant as some of his ventures.

Little’s most successful venture is Southern Airways, a regional airline that has turned into the third-largest commuter airline in the country with more than 100 daily departures.

Little has practiced law for 15 years now and runs a small solo law firm, located on the square in Hernando.

Little is married and has one child.

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Learn more about Stan Little: 
Stan Little’s Campaign Website
Stan Little’s Facebook

Things to Remember on Election Day

  • Make sure you have proof of ID. Some common and acceptable proof of identity are a drivers license, Voter ID card, military ID or passport
  • Need a ride? Pull up the Uber app– they are offering free rides to your polling place (you’ll have to pay to get home or wherever you need to be after you vote)
  • Remember the polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. Today is the only day you can vote– Mississippi does not participate in Early Voting.
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