Reuters, November 28, 2018
Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith won a U.S. Senate special election runoff in conservative Mississippi on Tuesday, defeating a black challenger after a campaign that recalled the history of racist violence in the deep South state.
The white former state lawmaker, who was appointed to the Senate in April, overcame a controversy over her comment on public hangings to defeat Democrat Mike Espy in the last contest of the 2018 election cycle.
Having been heavily favored to win the reliably Republican state, Hyde-Smith became engulfed in a political storm over a video showing her praising a supporter at a November 2 event by saying: ‘If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.’
The video sparked a furor in a state with a history of racism and violence against blacks, including lynchings.
[Her supporters] 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.
It also emerged during the campaign that Hyde-Smith had attended a segregated high school and then sent her daughter to a majority white school.
But Hyde-Smith triumphed by depicting Espy as too liberal for Mississippi, which last elected a Democrat to the Senate in 1982, and by touting her support for President Donald Trump, who won the state by 18 percentage points in 2016.
Trump attended two get-out-the-vote rallies in the state on Monday, and tweeted his congratulations to Hyde-Smith after the race was called, saying he was ‘very proud’ of her.
Her victory means Republicans will hold a 53-47 majority in the new U.S. Senate that convenes in January. With almost all precincts tallied, Hyde-Smith led by nearly 8 percentage points.
Espy, 64, campaigned as a moderate who would work with Trump and Republicans to benefit the state.