Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith Wins Miss. Senate Runoff After Racially Charged Campaign

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith Wins Miss. Senate Runoff After Racially Charged Campaign

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith Wins Miss. Senate Runoff After Racially Charged Campaign

Hyde-Smith, 59, secured more than 53 percent of the vote compared to her opponent, Democrat Mike Espy, at a ballot she described to be about "conservative values".

Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy, who was vying to become the state's first African-American senator since Reconstruction, during Tuesday's runoff.

Mr Trump held a pair of 11th-hour campaign rallies in MS to prop up Hyde-Smith's campaign.

During the campaign, she said she would sit "in the front row" at a "public hanging."

In the final weeks of the runoff, Ms Hyde-Smith's campaign said the remark about making voting hard was a joke.

When the extended footage of the encounter was released for context, the comment became more troubling because it revealed Hyde-Smith was using the phrase in an attempt to thank a supporter for saying she would fight for him. The GOP grew its majority in the Senate by two seats in this year's midterm elections even as Democrats took control of the House. Hyde-Smith received 41.5% and Espy just behind her at 40.6%. A two-term state agriculture commissioner, the Republican was viewed as the best bet to head off a primary challenger from conservative firebrand Chris McDaniel, a state senator who had nearly knocked off Cochran in 2014. She is the first woman to hold a Senate seat in the state - and is now the first woman elected to the Senate in Mississippi.

According to Dent, "here is one of the reasons Democrats have so much trouble down here: Presenting an alternative isn't good enough - they need to remind us how bad we really were in their eyes".

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The runoff to serve the last two years of former Republican Senator Thad Cochran's term was necessary because neither Espy nor Hyde-Smith gained more than 50 percent of the vote in a November 6 special election with four candidates.

The race had appeared to narrow after comments the senator made rekindled memories of Mississippi's history of lynching blacks and voter suppression.

She initially refused to apologize for the hanging remark, but said in a debate last week that she was sorry "for anyone that was offended". Photos on her Facebook page from 2014 showed her wearing a Confederate soldier's hat during a tour of the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library.

Additionally, when Hyde-Smith was in school she attended a whites-only segregated academy, set up by parents to avoid racially integrated schools.

The runoff contest drew comparisons to the Alabama Senate special election a year ago, when Democrat Doug Jones won a narrow victory against Roy Moore, after the Republican faced multiple accusations from women that he had molested them when they were teenagers. She accused Espy of twisting her words for political gain. The caption on the post read, "Mississippi history at its best!"

Yet, Hyde-Smith's win and the (relatively small) size of it makes a lot of sense when put in the context of this election cycle. Trump attended two get-out-the-vote rallies in the state on Monday.

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