JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - The U.S. Senate Debate between Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy is Tuesday, November 20 at 7 p.m. at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Complex.
The debate is televised exclusively on WLBT for Jackson viewers and shared across the state with various affiliates: WDAM (Hattiesburg), WLOX (Gulfport), WMC (Memphis/North Mississippi), WTOK (Meridian) and WTVA (Tupelo).
The debate is not open to the public and there will be no live audience.
WLBT’s Maggie Wade will be the debate moderator.
The panelists are Courtney Ann Jackson (WLBT), Geoff Pender (Clarion-Ledger) and Caleb Bedillion (Daily Journal).
- Candidates will each have one hour in the auditorium the day of the event to get familiarized with the room, mic checks, etc.
- Candidates will be allowed to have one staffer in the room during the debate.
- No audience will be in attendance; only the candidates, one staff member, panelists, and personnel from WLBT and Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation will be allowed in the room during the debate.
- Campaigns will have credentialed access to the MFBF building beginning the morning of the debate.
- Both campaigns will have full access to an area of the MFBF building for preparation and viewing.
- No campaign signs will be allowed on MFBF property.
- Candidates may bring notes, pen, etc. to be placed on podium.
- Questions were carefully chosen by the panelists, moderator and other WLBT editorial staff.
- Panelists will rotate questions.
- Candidates will have 2 minutes to answer question and a 1-minute rebuttal will be allowed if needed. Questions will resume after one rebuttal.
- Each candidate will pre-submit one question for their opponent which will be asked by the moderator midway through the panel
- Props and campaign stickers will be prohibited, however lapel pins will be allowed.
- Cell phones prohibited on podium.
- Closing statements by each candidate (order determined by draw) limited to two minutes (4 minutes).
The campaigns are in crunch time, with this being the final week of campaigning. But they’re also aware of the statewide audience they’ll have for Tuesday’s debate. National party leaders are still weighing in on the Mississippi Senate runoff.
President Trump is again reinforcing his support of Cindy Hyde-Smith. Meanwhile, Mike Espy’s campaign is pushing a new endorsement from former Vice President Joe Biden.
Analysts say there’s a lot for the campaigns to consider.
“One of the most important things for a candidate to do in a debate is to survive," said Republican analyst Austin Barbour. "You don’t want to make the big mistake, but you also want to try to find momentum. You want to try to find ways to be endearing to the audience. You want to find ways to prove to the audience ‘this is why I believe in these particular things.’”
“This will be the first time that many voters have a chance to hear from the candidates themselves on issues that are important to them,” noted Democratic analyst Brandon Jones.
BEFORE and AFTER tonight’s debate, join Wilson Stribling who will have Austin Barbour and Brandon Jones on Facebook Live. At 6 p.m. they’ll discuss what to expect and at 8 p.m. they’ll talk about what they saw.
Much is at stake for both candidates going in to tonight’s debate.
This will be the only chance to see Espy and Hyde-Smith face off before the Nov. 27 runoff election, which will decide who serves out the final two years of Sen. Thad Cochran's term.
On April 2, 2018, Hyde-Smith became the first woman to represent Mississippi in the United States Congress. Espy, if elected, would be the first black senator from Mississippi since Reconstruction.