Stephen Benjamin

Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Stephen Benjamin speaks with a Mike Bloomberg support on arrival ahead of giving remarks at a campaign luncheon Tuesday. Benjamin’s stop in Southaven was to speak for Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York, New York now running for the Democratic nomination for president.  

While New Hampshire residents were going to the polls for the first-in-the-nation primary vote on Tuesday, Presidential politics arrived in DeSoto County for likely the first time in this election cycle, ahead of the Mississippi primary date of March 10.

Supporters of Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg came to the Southern Elegance event center in Southaven to hear from one of Bloomberg’s first endorsers in Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Stephen K. Benjamin.

Benjamin, who was the city’s first African-American mayor when he was initially elected in 2010, said what listeners wanted to hear: Bloomberg can beat President Donald Trump in November if the Democratic Party gives him the nomination later this year.

“We see incredible polling that shows Mike doing very well with Democrats and doing incredibly well with independents and actually cutting deeply into Trump’s Republican base,” said Benjamin, who is a National Co-Chair for the Bloomberg campaign. “The Republicans that historically have believed in fiscal responsibility and believe strongly on keeping the deficit and national debt in check, both exploding under Donald Trump, believe that a real businessman like Mike Bloomberg gets that under control.”

Benjamin’s background in politics has been impressive himself, and Walls Alderman Dr. Leslie Burl McLemore, who introduced Benjamin, believes Benjamin could eventually be heading for the White House himself.

The Columbia, South Carolina mayor was first elected in a 2010 special election. Benjamin was re-elected in 2013 and in 2017 was declared the winner again, this time without a single vote taken because no one else ran against him and Benjamin was the only declared candidate running for the office.

Bloomberg, while not personally in Mississippi, has been active on the political scene in the Magnolia State. The businessman, and former mayor of New York City, has been seen frequently in television advertisements.

Bloomberg also has publicly injected himself into a DeSoto County legislative race with his support of state Rep. Hester Jackson-McCray (D-Horn Lake) in her defense of a challenge from former state Rep. Ashley Henley, who sought to reverse her 14-vote defeat in last November’s election. The challenge was later voted down in the full House after a recommendation to that effect by a special committee.

“He is the man for the job,” Benjamin said of Bloomberg. “Mike has a record of getting things done, leading in business, in public policy and in public life, and leading in philanthropy. He is a self-made man who represents what I believe is the American dream. He wants to make sure that every single one of us has the opportunity to do the same.”

Benjamin also addressed Bloomberg’s stance on guns, stressing that “with gun rights, come gun responsibility.”

Before Benjamin appeared, a video was shown touching on Bloomberg’s Greenwood Initiative, directed in particular to the African-American audience.

The initiative is what Bloomberg’s website details as creating “generational wealth through expanding access to homeownership and strategic investments in Black-owned businesses while also addressing systematic discrimination and other social and civic barriers.”

The goal under the plan is to create 100,000 new Black-owned businesses in the next 10 years, create one million new African-American homeowners in the next decade, invest $70 billion in the country’s 100 most disadvantaged neighborhoods, increase access to capital, and collect better data on hiring, pay, procurement, and lending.

While clearly the backer of Bloomberg. Benjamin ended his remarks stating that he and other Democrats should come together once the party determines who the person they select will be.

“Whoever is the nominee of the Democratic Party, we’re going to unite and get behind him and work to beat Donald Trump in November,” Benjamin said.

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.