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Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith wins Mississippi Senate race after joking about lynching

30 November 2018

The comments from Hyde-Smith, who is white, were quickly seized upon by Espy, who was vying to become not only the first Democrat the state had elected to the Senate in almost four decades, but also the first African-American senator from the state since Reconstruction.

Mississippi Republican Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith has defeated Democratic challenger Mike Espy in the state's runoff election for the U.S. Senate seat.

Espy says he called Hyde-Smith to congratulate her and that she has his prayers.

Hyde-Smith appeared likely to coast to election after November 8, when she took 42 percent of the vote to Espy's 41 percent and Tea Party-aligned Chris McDaniel's (R) 17 percent in the all-party primary. She's the first woman elected to the Senate from Mississippi.

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"Mr. President, thank you so much for all of your help", Hyde-Smith said in a victory speech to supporters, calling her win a triumph of "conservative values".

However, it was her remarks earlier in the campaign that became the focus of this final Senate election vote.

But Hyde-Smith and Trump insisted that she's a loyal supporter of the president's agenda.

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'd be a "disaster" for MS, the ad says, suggesting her views would cost the state jobs. Hyde-Smith received 41.5% and Espy just behind her at 40.6%. Hyde-Smith will serve in the seat until 2020, the end of the six-year term Cochran won in 2014. Espy would have been the first African-American elected from the state since Reconstruction. Remember her Republican opponent in round one was the even more conservative Chris McDaniel, whose voters would not be inclined to vote for Espy. Thad Cochran who retired earlier this year.

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The runoff was marked by racial acrimony over comments Hyde-Smith made. She later called the comments an "exaggerated expression of regard", but her use of the phrase brought memories of Mississippi's history of lynchings to the forefront and put the contest under the national microscope.

"The reason we won is because Mississippians know me, they know my heart", Hyde-Smith said Tuesday night.

"This comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me", Hyde-Smith said. The caption on the post read, "Mississippi history at its best!" And she strategically avoided press questions as Espy's campaign criticized her for the comments.

Several businesses, including giant retailer Walmart, had demanded Hyde-Smith return their donations after her public hanging comment. Trump attended two get-out-the-vote rallies in the state on Monday.

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In the aftermath of the video, Republicans anxious they could face a repeat of last year's special election in Alabama, in which a flawed Republican candidate handed the Democrats a reliable Republican Senate seat in the Deep South.

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith wins Mississippi Senate race after joking about lynching