Tuesday night, November 20, Mississippi Farm Bureau hosted a debate between Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy. The debate was intended to focus on the issues and bring to light each candidates platform on things like education, the 2nd amendment, infrastructure, abortion, immigration, and tax reform. The debate lasted one hour and there were 14 questions asked of the candidates as shots were fired from one side to the other.

Things started to get “less polite” when the debate got to healthcare and where each candidate stood on the current policy.

Sen. Hyde-Smith held strong on her commitment to repeal ObamaCare even going so far as to call it the worst thing that’s happened to the United States. She then went on the attack saying that that her opponent, Mike Espy, is in support of funding healthcare for illegal immigrants.

Espy fired back, saying her statements are about a vote that happened 20 years ago spinning the conversation back to a topic that has hit the media over the last few days concerning Hyde-Smith’s stance on pre-existing conditions. Espy says that Hyde-Smith’s voting record doesn’t match up with her claims of supporting healthcare that will cover pre-existing conditions and even called the bill she is currently co-sponsoring to protect those with pre-existing conditions is “bogus.”

The conversation quickly became heated as panelists asked questions regarding the candidates public mishaps. First up was Cindy Hyde-Smith to finally make an additional statement, other than the press release her campaign sent out, on the “public hanging” comments.

Hyde-Smith took the time to apologize for any offense she caused claiming that her comments were twisted, but many took to social media to criticize what they felt was a “scripted” answer as Hyde-Smith took several moments to refer to a paper on her podium when offering the apology.

To this Espy argued, that they weren’t twisted, they were words straight from her mouth.

Next was Espy’s turn to answer for a full blown investigation during his time in the Clinton administration, into whether or not he was taking gifts while serving as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.  He was ultimately acquitted of manipulating any USDA decisions in exchange for the gifts.  However, the trial lasted for seven weeks.  The investigation resulted in 15 guilty pleas and over $11 million in fines from those seeking to curry favor with Espy.

However, in a 1994 article Espy made a public apology for not managing his personal handlings better. Things only get more tense for Espy when he was asked about his involvement in the support of Ivory Coast dictator Laurent Gbagbo, while in a business contract. Espy accepted $750,000 from Gbagbo while in a contract to support him, even though he says he later terminated that contract because he just felt like he was “a bad guy.” Gbagbo is now on trial for war crimes in international court.

Panelists redirected the conversation back to the policy issues.

Both had similar stances on education, in that they both see a need for funding. Espy stands by MAEP being fully funded and getting Title 1 dollars to Mississippi, while Hyde-Smith believes there is too much federal government interference with local schools, and communities and families should be able to decide what is best for their children.

The two vastly disagreed when it comes to a solution in addressing Mississippi’s growing infrastructure needs and where those funds should come from.

The final questions were written by each candidate for the other, on topics frequently discussed throughout the debate. Espy’s question, delivered via the moderator, asked Hyde-Smith if she lied about voting for pre-existing conditions, which she answered that she did not.

Hyde-Smith’s question via the moderator asked Espy if he’ll donate the $750k he took from the contract with Gbagbo to a good cause.

Espy never gave a clear answer as to whether or not he would donate the funds.

In their closing statement Senator Hyde-Smith made sure to again plug the President’s visit to Mississippi coming up next Monday to campaign for her in both Tupelo and Biloxi. Espy pointed out the harmful comments the Hyde-Smith has made in the public eye and the reflection that put’s on Mississippi. Espy says we need to move forward and not look backwards at how things used to be.

After the debate Espy met with reporters to answer a few questions, however Hyde-Smith did not make an appearance, Senator Roger Wicker spoke on her behalf.