Published: Fri, November 30, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith Wins Mississippi Senate Runoff

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith Wins Mississippi Senate Runoff

In Tuesday's race, 59-year-old Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy, a former US agriculture secretary who hoped to become Mississippi's first African-American senator since Reconstruction.

The first video showed Hyde-Smith at a campaign event earlier this month saying that she would be "on the front row" if a supporter whom she knew invited her to a "public hanging".

Meanwhile, her supporters, as well as some political analysts, said the furor over her comments was overblown, something Hyde-Smith alluded to in her victory speech Tuesday night.

Hyde-Smith becomes the first woman elected to the Senate from Mississippi.

"We have worked very hard, and we feel very good", Hyde-Smith said.

In a deep Southern state with a history of lynchings of African-Americans, her remarks took on racial connotations.

Hyde-Smith vowed Tuesday night to "represent every Mississippian" and to "work very hard, do my very best to make MS proud of your U.S. Senator". Hyde-Smith and her allies pounded on him for lobbying for the former president of the Ivory Coast, who faces charges of crimes against humanity. Under all circumstances, in an incredibly bitter race, Espy remained collected and did not give in to the controversy swirling around Hyde-Smith. In another video she appeared to express support for making it "just a little more difficult" for liberal college students to vote. Hyde-Smith won 54 percent of the vote compared to Espy's 46 percent, in what analysts said was an unusually slim margin for a Republican in the ruby-red state.

Democrats had hoped a surge in turnout among black voters - who make up almost 40% of Mississippi's population, the largest share in the nation - could carry Espy to victory in a state that is highly polarized along racial lines, with most white voters backing GOP candidates and black voters supporting Democrats.

But supporters called the reaction overblown and said Hyde-Smith did not intend anything racist by it. 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.

A Senate race in a state President Donald Trump carried by 18 points in 2016 wasn't supposed to be competitive.

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 special vote earlier in November. "She wasn't trying to send any messages".

With all 35 Senate races decided, the Republicans hold a 53-47 edge - a pickup of two seats.

Espy was hoping that the controversy around Hyde-Smith's remarks would lead to a replay of the Alabama special election in 2017 where Democrat Doug Jones won a narrow victory against Roy Moore by wooing Republicans appalled by their party's nominee with moderate rhetoric. "That really offended me", said Charles Connley, 60, a black voter from Picayune.

In a statement Tuesday night, Espy, an African American politician, said the election is "the beginning, not the end".

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