By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Voters in Yalobusha County and across the state will return to the polls on Nov. 27 to vote in the special election runoff for U.S. Senate and if last Tuesday’s General Election results are an indicator, it could be a close one.
Cindy Hyde-Smith narrowly carried the state with 41.4 percent of the vote, with former Democratic Agricultural Secretary Mike Epsy trailing with 40.7 percent in the special election last Tuesday. A third candidate, state Senator Chris McDaniel came in a distant third with 16.5 percent of the votes cast statewide in the special election to fill the seat of Thad Cochran.
With no candidate receiving the required majority of the votes in the special election, which is considered non-partisan with no party affiliation listed on the ballot, Hyde-Smith and Epsy advance to the runoff in a race that is capturing national attention as both parties plan to pump millions into the race. Democrats are hoping to cut into the Republican’s Senate majority with an Epsy victory in a state that is considered pro-Trump.
Hyde-Smith was appointed by Governor Phil Bryant following Cochran’s retirement and was heavily endorsed by the Republican party over McDaniel, who was considered a hard right candidate and an obstacle for electing a Republican senator because of the votes he would pull from Hyde-Smith. Now the focus shifts to voter turnout in the runoff.
Epsy narrowly carried Yalobusha County, earning 21 more votes than Hyde-Smith in an election Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney reported sparked as much turnout in the county as in a typical four-year county election when the ballot is filled with local races. Burney said the voter turnout was 4,647, or 53 percent of the county’s 8,808 registered voters.
Last week’s ballot included two local school board races, one from each district. In the Water Valley School District, Rodney Phillips defeated Elizabeth “Betsy” Person, 375 to 141 votes, in the race for District 2 school trustee. In the Coffeeville School District, incumbent Roger L. Jackson, Sr. beat Estalla Ray Townes, 348 to 244, for District 2 school trustee.
In a four-county race for Circuit Court Judge, incumbent Jimmy McClure captured 68 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Bob Morris by almost 10,000 votes of the 26,400 votes cast in Yalobusha, Panola, Tate and Tallahatchie for District 17-2, Post 1. In Yalobusha, McClure earned 72 percent of the votes.
Burney reported absentee voting is already underway for the runoff election. His offices in the Water Valley and Coffeeville courthouses will be open the next two Saturday,s from 8 a.m. to noon to cast an absentee ballot. Registered voters are eligible to vote absentee because of age, health or work demands, or their affiliation with the U.S. Armed Forces. For example, voters who will be outside their county of residence on election day are entitled to vote by absentee ballot.