Divisive race ends with Republican Hyde-Smith victory

30 November, 2018, 03:07 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Supporters of Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith celebrate during an election night party in Jackson Mississippi

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Democratic challenger Mike Espy to retain the Mississippi Senate seat she was appointed to earlier this year, according to the Associated Press.

Hyde-Smith, 59, finished first in the general election among four candidates on November 6, but did not receive more than 50 percent of the vote, which triggered the runoff.

The runoff was rocked by a video showing her praise a supporter by saying she'd attend a "public hanging" if he invited her.

The GOP pumped resources into MS, and President Donald Trump made a strong effort on behalf of Hyde-Smith, holding last-minute rallies in MS on Monday.

Hyde-Smith was seen in another video talking about making voting hard for "liberal folks", and a photo circulated of her wearing a replica Confederate military hat during a 2014 visit to Beauvoir, a beachside museum in Biloxi, Mississippi, that was the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. "We are all very proud of you!"

With 88 percent of votes being reported, Hyde-Smith had 54.2 percent, or 415,356 votes, to 45.8 percent, or 350,590 votes, for Espy, according to NBC News. "I talk to them as Mississippians-Mississippi young people who want to reduce their debt coming out of college, Mississippi young people who want to stay in this state, and not go to Atlanta and Dallas to get a good job", Espy said after voting. She called it an "exaggerated expression of regard".

Chances of a Democratic victory in Mississippi- a state Donald Trump won by almost 18 percentage points in the 2016 election and whose senior senator, Republican Roger Wicker, was re-elected by almost 20 points earlier this month - still appeared remote.

Backlash against Hyde-Smith's comments led to a number of organizations retracting their donations to her campaign, including Google and the Major League of Baseball.

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A week later, she apologized for the public hanging comment but added that it was being "twisted" and "turned into a political weapon to be used against me" by Espy.

In a state with a black population of 38 percent, Espy - the state's first black congressman and later the nation's first black state secretary of agriculture - was formidable from the start.

Her supporters said the furore over her comments was overblown.

On Monday, Trump staged an intervention and swooped into the state, staging two rallies and one roundtable event, in an attempt to seal the deal for Hyde-Smith, whose candidacy has appeared uncertain in the final weeks of her campaign.

The result gives Senate Republicans a 53-47 majority for the next term of Congress - and more breathing room to confirm President Trump's appointees to the federal bench, a top priority of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). "She wasn't trying to send any messages".

Espy, an attorney, said: "I found out later that this guy, the president, was a really bad guy". Mississippi's dark history of lynching is still a contentious issue and one that all decent folks would be wise to avoid making gags about.

In a statement Tuesday night, Espy, an African American politician, said the election is "the beginning, not the end".

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