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Substitute Democratic Secretary of...

Substitute Democratic Secretary of State candidate Pinkins “in it to win it” but still has an eye on U.S. Senate bid

By: Frank Corder - September 12, 2023

Ty Pinkins (Photo from the Pinkins campaign)

Pinkins’ entry in the Secretary of State race could provide the Mississippi Democrat with a boost in name ID heading into his 2024 U.S. Senate bid.

Last week, the Mississippi Democratic Party tapped Ty Pinkins to be the substitute candidate in the Secretary of State race in this November’s General Election. Pinkins replaced Shuwaski Young as the Democratic nominee on the ballot after Young withdrew for health reasons.

READ MORE: Pinkins tapped as substitute Democratic candidate in Secretary of State race

It is no secret that the Mississippi Democratic Party’s bench is slim as the Magnolia State has increasingly moved to the right over the last 20 years with Republicans, who once struggled to fill a phone booth, now the dominate political party in state government.

To some onlookers, Pinkins’ recruitment by new Democratic Party Chairman Cheikh Taylor was an odd choice given that the Delta attorney had already been campaigning for the U.S. Senate for nine months and was the presumptive nominee heading into the March 2024 Primary Election. However, as Pinkins campaign manager Bernie Miller told Magnolia Tribune on Tuesday, Secretary of State is one of the four highest offices in the state and the party could not let that office go uncontested.

Miller said Pinkins answered Chairman Taylor’s call to serve mainly out of his point of view that the voters of Mississippi deserve a choice in the election.

“Someone had to step into that position in order to preserve what our elections are all about, which is choosing your leaders, and having good candidates to choose from amongst,” Miller said.

Still others view Pinkins’ entry as a means for him to further raise his name recognition in hopes of better competing in next year’s federal election.

Fundraising for the Democrat’s bid for the U.S. Senate seat was nearly nonexistent, as Pinkins has reportedly raised just over $44,000 this calendar year with close to $8,000 cash on hand, according to the last Federal Election Commission filing from July. In comparison, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, the incumbent Republican favored to be the GOP nominee next year, is currently sitting on over $4.2 million cash on hand.

Pinkins’ campaign manager did not shy away for the reality that the Secretary of State run does provide an opportunity to gain more name recognition.

“Yes, this will provide Ty with a significant boost in name recognition—and just as importantly, create an atmosphere where people will be more urgently interested in meeting Ty and listening to what he has to say now, since he’s on this year’s ballot,” Miller said.

Miller said Pinkins’ campaign motto is, “You talk. I listen. We do!” Miller said these next two months allows Pinkins to further engage and encourage people to approach him with what’s on their minds.

“That’s why we’ve been on the road so much, because Ty believes that the very best thing a politician, and an elected official, can do is to actually listen to voters instead of just talking at them—which is what happens so often,” Miller said.

When asked if Pinkins was suspending his U.S. Senate campaign during the months ahead to run for Secretary of State or if he was still running for Senate at the same time, his campaign manager told Magnolia Tribune that their focus was winning this November.

“Let’s basically say that in regard to the Secretary of State race, he’s in it to win it,” Miller said on Tuesday. “What we will be doing up until November 7 is focusing entirely on trying to win the Secretary of State race.”

Miller said many of the things that Pinkins will have to speak on during the state election are exactly the same matters that he would be dealing with as a potential U.S. Senator, namely protection and expansion of voting rights to eligible citizens, attracting businesses to Mississippi that provide secure, satisfying, and well-paying jobs, and working with the appropriate other agencies and authorities to make sure our state has the infrastructure to attract businesses and create economic opportunities, among other issues.

Miller said Pinkins decided to join the Secretary of State race because, while there are some potential downsides to doing so if he is going to contest for the U.S. Senate, “they are far more than balanced by the upsides.”

“Obviously, name recognition is always a huge obstacle when you are running against someone like Senator Wicker,” Miller said, noting the reality that name recognition has been a problem for all our Democratic candidates this year.

Miller said running for Secretary of State allows Pinkins to address the problem while showing voters that Democratic Party policies “are going to be the best and most sensible for them.”

When asked if Pinkins were elected as Secretary of State would he serve his four years or continue his run for the U.S. Senate in 2024, Miller said that was difficult to address at this point, “as until last Wednesday we really hadn’t at all thought about anything except the Senate race.”

“Ty has had to hit the ground running, literally, for this new opportunity to serve. The reason Ty accepted the State Democratic Party’s invitation to step into the race was because the Secretary of State’s office is hugely important to all our citizens,” Miller said. “Particularly as it oversees voting and elections – at a time when we need to reassure people that our elections are secure and fair, and that everyone who has the right to vote gets to do so – and it has so much to do with generating economic opportunity for our state which we sorely need so we can start working our way off the bottom of so many rankings of wealth, economic security, and economic opportunity.”

Ty Pinkins (Photo from the Pinkins campaign)

Miller said if Pinkins were to win the Secretary of State race, “having him in that office for a full term would quite possibly—I’ll even say probably—be the best way for him to serve the people of Mississippi.”

“And that is his ultimate aim, to do the best he can for the people of our state—all of them,” Miller added.

As for which seat would be his goal, Miller said Pinkins, a relatively young man at 49 years old, has a lot of energy for the opportunities ahead of him.

“If elected, Ty would certainly put all his efforts into serving the people of Mississippi well and successfully,” Miller said. “If his performance in that office persuaded people he was indeed suited for higher office, then given Ty’s age I’m sure he’d examine those possibilities.”

Miller said the campaign is looking forward to the two-month stretch as it gives Pinkins a real chance to listen to voters.

“We’ve already been doing that for nearly nine months at this point, and this will just accelerate that process—which is a good thing,” Miller said.

Pinkins will face incumbent Republican Secretary of State Michael Watson in the November General Election.

Pinkins filed his state campaign organization paperwork on Monday, September 11th. He does not show any campaign donations at this juncture. Watson, however, reported nearly $884,000 cash on hand in the July reporting period.

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father. Email Frank: