Hyde-Smith tops Espy after racially-tinged Senate campaign

Hyde-Smith tops Espy after racially-tinged Senate campaign

The runoff to serve the last two years of former Republican Senator Thad Cochran's term was triggered after neither Espy nor Hyde-Smith secured more than half of the vote needed to settle the November 6 special election.

Along with the joke in which the Republican said she'd attend a "public hanging" at the behest of a friend she admired, other facts about Hyde-Smith - including that she and her child both attended all-white schools sometimes referred to as "seg academies" - have made race a deciding factor in her runoff election against her black Democratic opponent.

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is the projected victor of the Senate runoff in MS, according to the Associated Press, overcoming a series of missteps that brought the state's dark history of racism and violence to the forefront.

He tried to recreate the coalition that propelled Democrat Doug Jones to a Senate win in neighboring Alabama a year ago by energizing black voters, particularly women, and winning support from white swing voters.

Hyde-Smith's win marks the end of the final Senate contest of 2018, leaving the balance of control in the Senate at 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, a 2-seat pickup for the GOP.

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.

But it was her odd gaffes that prompted intense discussion in the state and nationally about Mississippi's dark racial history.

With the GOP holding onto the seat in MS, they have achieved a net gain of two seats in the Senate, entering the next Congress in January with a 53-47 seat advantage.

They also stuck by her as a photo was circulated of her wearing a replica Confederate military hat during a 2014 visit to Beauvoir - the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. And it was revealed that she'd attended a private high school that was created to avoid desegregation - and sent her daughter to one as well.

The comments by Hyde-Smith, who is white, made Mississippi's history of racist lynchings a theme of the runoff and spurred many black voters to return to the polls Tuesday. She initially called the public hanging remark "an exaggerated expression of regard". Even Republicans say she badly mishandled the fallout, refusing to apologize for more than a week before issuing a quasi-apology to "anyone that was offended" during her debate with Espy.

Several companies that had donated to Hyde-Smith's campaign, including Walmart, publicly withdrew their support for the senator over the "public hanging" comment. 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. Thad Cochran. The longtime lawmaker retired in April amid health concerns.

President Donald Trump is congratulating Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith on her election win. "We are all proud of you".

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