Cory Booker, a rising Democrat who could be a contender for the 2020 presidential nomination, said the Mississippi Senate special election is possibly the most important in the nation, Mississippi Today reported.
Booker was in Mississippi to raise money for Democratic candidate Mike Espy, who was the former agriculture secretary under Bill Clinton, and is running against Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and state Sen. Chris McDaniel to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Thad Cochran.
"I could be in a lot of places," Booker said during a press conference at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. "But I'm here because I think that of all the races that are going on right now, none will be more of a game changer than this Senate race right here."
Why is it so important?
Democrats are hoping to take control of the Senate in November, and they'll have two chances to gain ground in Mississippi due to the retirement of Cochran earlier this year.
Realistically, Espy is a long shot against Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to fill the seat by Gov. Phil Bryant in April. Even he admits that he needs some extraordinary support to become the first Democrat to represent Mississippi since 1989.
"I need Obama-level turnout numbers," Espy has said of his chances in the traditionally red state.
Nonpartisan in a nonpartisan election?
While Espy is a Democrat, he touts himself as a more independently affiliated politician who will cross party lines to get things done if elected. However, his close ties to the Clinton administration could be hard to shake in the eyes of voters.
Booker, while campaigning for Espy, tried to hammer home the emphasis that Espy was independent.
"I'm sure he's going to go against the Democratic party, the majority of us, on a lot of issues, because Mike Espy has always been an independent thinker doing what he thinks is best," Booker said.
The candidates will not be identified by party on the ballot during the Nov. 6 election, although they can publicize their affiliation while campaigning. The election is likely to head to a Nov. 27, since none of the candidates seem poised to capture a majority of the vote. Espy trails Hyde-Smith in recent polls, but is ahead of McDaniel.