by Anna Saischek
David Baria, candidate for Mississippi’s regular congressional race for senator, held a townhall at Millsaps College and addressed the millennial voters. The event, open to the public, drew in an audience from not only Millsaps, but also other interested residents of Mississippi. Throughout the townhall, spectators got to ask the candidate about his stances on various issues ranging from healthcare to infrastructure and beyond.
According to Dr. Nathan Shrader, co-chair of the political science department, incumbent Republican candidate, Roger Wicker, who is running as Baria’s opponent, announced almost as soon as the election year started he was not participating in any debates.
“What David Baria, who is his challenger, has been doing is he simply said that if his opponent won’t debate, his own campaign would schedule dates of townhall meetings all around the state and should Roger Wicker want to come, he is invited.” Shrader adds that even though Wicker has yet to attend, Baria still went ahead and set up multiple townhalls in several different counties.
One of these townhall meetings was held Thursday, October 11, in Millsaps’ Leggett Living Room with around 70 attendees from Millsaps and beyond. Baria introduced himself as a Mississippian from the Gulf coast who acted first as a practicing lawyer and then went on into politics where he has served for the past 11 years. Currently he is the minority leader in the Mississippi House and running for a U.S. senate seat for the first time.
A common theme throughout the townhall meeting was Baria’s insistence on a “no-labels approach” to politics. He explained that this is a principle he adheres to for a particular reason.
“I belong to a group called ‘No Labels.’ It is essentially a group of state legislators who agree to this principle: You might have to run Democrat or Republican or some other party label, but you govern with no label. You represent everyone. It means I am responsive to all the people not only those who voted for me,” Baria said.
Baria took a stance in front of the college students on issues like healthcare, infrastructure and education, criticizing the current and former legislators and their policies. According to him, they had not prioritized what is really important during their governing periods. His most apparent example of such was Mississippi’s health care system, which, at one point, had around 60 county health clinics, meaning one for almost everyone of the 82 counties. Baria then explained that these are often the first line of healthcare for folks who don’t have gold standard health insurance policies.
“Now we have two such clinics in our state. That is a direct result of prioritizing cutting your revenue in the form of tax cuts for out-of-state corporations. One of the big reasons I am running is because I believe that our leaders have incorrect priorities and they have not been good stewards of your tax money, and because of that, we have underfunded education system, a failing healthcare system with our rural hospitals and crumbling infrastructure around the state,” Baria said.
Some students were glad to see a candidate running for office publicly take a stance on issues like these. Emily Hines, a sophomore political science major from Ponchatoula, Lousiana, but current Mississippi resident, said, “…it is great that the candidate took the time to listen to our concerns. In my opinion, it is critical for politicians to do this in order to stay in touch with who they represent.”
According to Shrader, Millsaps is going to continue accepting requests for townhalls such as this from other candidates if their campaigns should contact them like David Baria’s did. As of publication only a town hall featuring candidate Tobey Bartee has been announced for October 30.