Mississippi: Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeats Mike Espy

Mississippi: Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeats Mike Espy

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith won a U.S. Senate special election runoff in conservative MS on Tuesday, U.S. media projected, defeating a black challenger after a campaign that recalled the state's history of racist violence.

Hyde-Smith's visible backing from her national party and from Donald J. Trump (who appeared at two rallies with her on the eve of the runoff) pulled her through, even though Espy improved on his November 6 performance. About 30 minutes ago as I write this the race has been called and Cindy Hyde-Smith has defeated Mike Espy pretty handily.

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. A separate video showed her talking about "liberal folks" and making it "just a little more difficult" for them to vote.

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 Democrats a reliable GOP Senate seat in the Deep South.

The rhetorical gaffe that got the most attention was an off-hand comment about being willing to sit in the front row of a hanging that Hyde-Smith made a couple weeks ago.

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.

Trump visited the state to campaign for her. But she also struck a unifying note saying, "I want everybody to know, no matter who you voted for today, I'm going to always represent every Mississippian".

"So many things are taken out of context", said Elizabeth Gallinghouse, 84, from Diamondhead, Mississippi. Hyde-Smith's daughter later attended a similar private school established around the same time, according to the Free Press. Republicans defeated Democratic incumbents in Florida, Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota, but lost GOP-held seats in Arizona and Nevada.

Her supporters said the furor over her comments was overblown.

During a televised debate nine days after the video was publicised, she apologised to "anyone that was offended by my comments", but also said the remark was used as a "weapon" against her.

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's the first woman elected to the Senate from Mississippi.

"Mr. President, thank you so much for all of your help", Hyde-Smith said in a victory speech to supporters, reiterating her win was a triumph for conservative values. Thad Cochran retired, a photo of the GOP candidate wearing Confederate garb and smiling resurfaced.

"To the lawless caravans and illegal trespassers marching toward our border, it is very simple: Turn back now, go back home, we will not let you in", Trump said.

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