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Mike Espy Would Be Mississippi’s First Black Senator in 139 Years, But Governor Bryant Says It’d Begin ‘1000 Years of Darkness’

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (left) dramatically claimed that Democrats' possible Senate victories and the potential election of Mike Espy (right) would begin the reign of "1,000 years of darkness.”

Phil Bryant, Mississippi’s outgoing Republican governor, is warning that the election of Democrat Mike Espy, an African American who served as the US Secretary of Agriculture under President Clinton, would kick off a millennium of “darkness.” Espy is challenging US Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican that Bryant appointed to fill a vacancy in the nation’s upper chamber of Congress in 2018.

“I intend to work for @cindyhydesmith as if the fate of America depended on her single election,” Bryant wrote on January 2. “If Mike Espy and the liberal Democrats gain the Senate we will take that first step into a thousand years of darkness.”

On Monday, Espy responded to that dramatic remark in an email to supporters that included a screenshot of the governor’s tweet.

“Team, take a look at this. … A bit over the top, don’t you think?,” Espy wrote in the email, which included a screenshot of Bryant’s tweet. “Mike’s for accessible, affordable health care and for the lower cost of prescription drugs; he’s for quality public education and higher teacher pay; and he’s for helping rural hospitals and working families. And he’s for the bright future that Mississippi deserves.”

Hyde-Smith Promises ‘Meaner’ Campaign This Time

“Cindy Hyde-Smith said her 2020 campaign ‘will be meaner this time.’ Based on this statement made by the Governor of Mississippi, we can all see where this is going. If we want a leader who aspires to bring us together and who will work on both sides of the aisle, rather than divide, we must elect Mike Espy this year.”

Within his tweet, Bryant shared a video from the National Republican Senate Majority. The video—which flashes clips of Democrats who are almost all either Black, Jewish, or women—warns that “everything is under attack” including “the (Supreme) Court,” the Constitution, and “our way of life.”

In an interview with Y’all Politics, a Mississippi outlet that frequently helps establishment Republicans get their message out, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith lamented that she talked to Donald Trump about how she “went through fire” in 2018, when she was lambasted from the left and the right for her comment about how she would “be on the front row” at a “public hanging.” 

That remark, which was commonly used during a time when Mississippi had the highest rate of African American lynchings in the country, was especially notable because Espy was her opponent in 2018, too.

“I think people may see that, wow, she’s a little meaner than she was last time and, you know, we’re just ready for it,” the senator said. “We know it’s gonna be a battle. We know we’re gonna be accused and called everything that you can possibly be accused and called, but that’s okay. We’re ready for it.”

Bryant Defended Hyde-Smith With ‘Black Genocide’ Remark

The day after Hyde-Smith’s “public hanging” comments surfaced in a video on Bayou Brief last year, Governor Phil Bryant took to a podium, with Hyde-Smith next to him, and said the media should focus, instead, on how Black women who have abortions are committing “the genocide of 20 million African American children.”

“See, in my heart, I am confused about where the outrage is at about 20 million African American children that have been aborted. No one wants to say anything about that. No one wants to talk about that,” Bryant said at the time, the Jackson Free Press reported.

In the recent Y’all Politics interview, Hyde-Smith also bragged about stopping a vote on universal background checks for gun purchases just minutes after the start of a California school shooting last year—a decision that drew criticism from Mike Espy.

“I’m the US senator that stepped up and said, I object and it stopped the entire process,” she said. “Of course I was blamed for school shootings after that. That’s part of the business and you have to be tough.”

Follow Ashton Pittman on Twitter @ashtonpittman and on Instagram @ashtoninms. Send feedback to ashton@deepsouthvoice.com and tips to tips@deepsouthvoice.com. Follow Deep South Voice on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook @deepsouthvoice.