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Mississippi Democrats choose between party stalwart and newcomer in primary runoff

Mississippi Democrats are choosing between a party stalwart and a newcomer in Tuesday's runoff for the nomination to the U.S. Senate. Either state House minority leader David Baria of Bay St. Louis or venture capitalist Howard Sherman of Meridian will face incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker in November's general election.

The Reform Party's Shawn O'Hara of Hattiesburg and Libertarian Danny Bedwell of Columbus are also running in November.

Sherman and Baria finished first and second in a six-candidate June 5 primary, with 32 percent and 31 percent of the vote, respectively. Sherman was endorsed by state Rep. Omeria Scott, who finished third. Many other officials, including Mississippi's only Democratic member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, back Baria.

They question Sherman's Democratic credentials because he donated to Wicker and voted as a Republican in California. Sherman said his donation to Wicker was an effort to prevent a tea party Republican Chris McDaniel from winning office.

Baria, a 55-year-old attorney, said he will advocate for education, health care and transportation in Congress, and voiced opposition to President Donald Trump's immigration policies during the runoff. Sherman says he'll bring a business-focused approach to Mississippi's problems, and touts a 100-day plan that includes some private sector efforts. The 63-year-old is married to actress Sela Ward, and together they founded a children's home in Meridian.

Sherman had raised $850,000 for the race through June 6, including $650,000 in loans to himself. Baria had raised less than $300,000

Wicker, who has held the Senate seat since late 2007, coasted to a primary victory June 5 over low-budget challenger Richard Boyanton. Either Sherman or Baria would face an uphill climb in conservative Mississippi. John C. Stennis, who retired in 1989, was the last Mississippi Democrat to hold a U.S. Senate seat.

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