Howard Sherman, an entrepreneur and venture capitalist and the husband of actress and Meridian native Sela Ward, will square off against David Baria, a trial lawyer from the Mississippi Gulf Coast and state lawmaker, in Tuesday's Democratic runoff primary election for U.S. Senate.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. across DeSoto County.
The winner of that contest will face incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker in November along with Shaw O'Hara (Reform Party) and Danny Bedwell (Libertarian Party.)
Baria and Sherman were the two top vote-getters among six candidates in the June 5 Democratic primary election. In that election, Wicker easily defeated his Republican rival Richard Boyanton of Diamondhead in the Republican primary.
In an interview with the DeSoto Times-Tribune on Friday, Sherman appealed to DeSoto County voters.
"I love that part of the country up there," Sherman said. "They honored my wife and anyone who honors my wife, I honor and appreciate them."
Ward was honored at the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi's Crystal Ball gala this past year for Ward's efforts to establish Hope Village in Meridian for abandoned, neglected and abused children. Sherman is a co-founder of that project.
Sherman, who has a successful track record as a venture capitalist from California, was a Republican in state politics there, largely because he said Democrats in that state were anti-business.
Sherman argued that instead of "party purity," a candidate should be focused on "finding solutions to problems."
"I think Mississippi is ready for a candidate like me," Sherman said, adding that he has been contacted by Democrats, conservatives, independents and progressives who showed their support for his campaign.
"I was born a Democrat and was a Democrat until I was 45," Sherman said, adding that Democrats in California became hostile to business owners in that state. "On federal politics, I've always been a Democrat."
Sherman said he wants to move Mississippi out of 50th place largely through private initiative. "I'm a private sector guy," Sherman said.
Sherman said the 2018 U.S. Senate election is "a referendum on change."
"Mississippi doesn't embrace change easily," Sherman said. "Yet, people every year are hopeful of a different outcome." Sherman said Mississippi has a habit of nominating the same type candidates. "It's time for a change."
Sherman said his 39 years as a business executive is pitted against his opponent who "owns the last 10 years" in state politics. "If you're not bothered by that, then vote for the other guy."
Sherman called his first run for public office in Mississippi "the most gratifying experience of my life."
Noting he started with "zero name recognition," in contrast to his famous wife, Sherman said the groundswell of support for his campaign has been "unbelievable."
Sherman said he is "super confident" the people of Mississippi will give him a chance to make a real difference in Mississippi's future.
For his part, Baria said he and his campaign have been canvassing the state
in the last effort before Tuesday's runoff election.
"We're not going to take our foot off the pedal until we cross the finish line," Baria said. Like Sherman, Baria said he has been hearing from independents and moderates who want a change in leadership for Mississippi in Washington.
Baria said he got a text from a Republican friend in Hancock County who said he was voting for him.
"I have the Indivisible type groups, women's groups, progressive groups, traditional Democrats, as well as moderate Republicans and independents," Baria said. "I'm traveling up and down the state and everywhere I go, I am very warmly received."
Baria also talked about moving Mississippi out of 50th place.
"Obviously, folks are tired of being in 50th place and they are ready for a change," Baria said. "They understand we need to send up our best possible candidate against Roger Wicker in November."
Baria was born and raised in Jackson County. He is a graduate of Moss Point High School, the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi School of Law.
Baria is a Democratic member of the Mississippi House of Representatives who serves the 122nd District. He also serves as the House Minority Leader. Baria was a member of the Mississippi Senate before he was elected to the retiring J. P. Compretta's seat in the Mississippi House of Representatives. He is a trial lawyer by profession.
David Baria has been married to Marcie Fyke Baria for 26 years. They are the parents of Merritt (age 21), Bess (age 20) and Max (age 9). The Barias are members of Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.