Sen. Cory Booker traveled from New Jersey to campaign for fellow Democrat Mike Espy at 4 p.m. Monday in the Lucky Day Multipurpose Center. Espy will be running against Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in the runoff election Nov. 27.
About 150 people watched Booker for 30 minutes in the center while more were forced to stay outside of the building for safety purposes.
“There’s something about this moment that to me demands a certain level of commitment,” Booker said.
“This is why Mike Espy, who could be doing a lot of things with his life. He’s already served as House member. He’s already served as Secretary of Agriculture. He could be resting, but he understands that God is not finished with him yet. When your country calls, you stand up and serve,” he said.
Booker said Espy could unite Republicans and Democrats in Washington.
“I believe in him,” Booker said. “I know he is the anecdote to what Washington is being ailed with. He is the cure to so much of this petty, tribal partisanship.”
“What goes on in Mississippi affects what’s going on in New Jersey,” Booker said.
Junior communication studies major Brandon Rue said he got a call from Espy’s campaign about Booker coming to Southern Miss Saturday. Rue was then contacted by someone in the campaign and asked to organize the event.
“It was a very stressful 48 hours, but a turnout like this makes it all worth it,” Rue said. “When I found out that this is the only stop he’s making in the state of Mississippi, I was like ‘Wow, Southern Miss is on the map right now.’”
Junior political science major Taylor Baker said she did not know about Booker before the event, but that his message about love and tolerance for all people made her attendance worth it.
“I honestly didn’t know who he was until I came to this, but now I’m very glad that I got to come to this and got to know who he is and know that there are people in our Senate that are working for us young people and the minorities in America,” Baker said.
Senior English major Emily Rasch said she learned about Booker coming through social media. She said she excited about him coming because she’s followed his political career for years.
“It is so easy to feel like the lone blue dot in this sea of red, so I was ecstatic,” Rasch said.
Rasch said she plans to vote for Espy, but she said she does not believe Mississippi will turn blue or purple because people are not “desperate enough to vote for someone unlike them.”
“I think that [Cindy Hyde-Smith’s] comments were abhorrent, but I do not think that she will lose voters over [her controversial comments,] Rasch said. “In my opinion, this is largely due to the undereducated and over privileged white people in the Bible Belt. I do not think that she will lose voters because of the GOP coupled with Donald Trump’s flashy ways, and I find it unfortunate.”
Baker said she came because she wanted to learn more about Espy.
“I like him because he seems more like a person more so than Cindy Hyde-Smith, and I knew more of his values,” Baker said.
Baker said Smith has shown “her disregard for the political tensions in Mississippi.”
“The fact that she won’t apologize for her actions is just the worst,” Baker said. “Knowing the tensions in Mississippi with the history of lynchings shows that she doesn’t really care about the minorities or anyone else other than the Republican Party.”
Rue said Southern Miss is “the most active” Mississippi campus in regards to voting and that Booker’s visit should increase the number of student voters.
“Booker coming to Southern Miss is a big deal because Southern Miss is the school that is progressive enough and is trying to make students get out to vote,” Rue said. [For Booker] to make Southern Miss feel as important as he did today, that’s such a great thing.”
During the Nov. 6 election, Rue organized “Walk to the Polls,” where he said 250 students gathered on Centennial Lawn to walk together to cast their ballots. He plans to host the event again Nov. 27 at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.