Cindy Hyde-Smith will win Mississippi's US Senate runoff election, CNN projects, in a contest that centered on her actions and comments evoking the state's dark history of racism and slavery. Hyde-Smith received 41.5% and Espy just behind her at 40.6%. The Associated Press has called the race.
Joe Trippi, a strategist for the Espy and Jones campaigns, said before Election Day that MS would be tougher than Alabama because it's "rural and it's less urban, less suburban, and more conservative" as well as more polarized. National Republicans alone had spent almost $3 million here by Tuesday.
Hyde-Smith was also helped by an election eve visit by President Trump, who held two rallies with her on Monday.
All of that helped the former state agriculture commissioner tiresome Espy's efforts to paint her as someone who would take the state backwards. "This looks like a mid-to-high single digit Hyde-Smith (R) win at the moment". Thad Cochran who announced his retirement back in March.
Trump congratulated Hyde-Smith on Twitter late Tuesday night. Neither candidate got more than 50% of the vote, which triggered a special election.
This was a runoff election to fill the seat vacated by Sen.
During the campaign, she said she would sit "in the front row" at a "public hanging." My feelings on her are best expressed by the above video, ' wrote a pregnant Schumer, who in the accompanying video could be seen vomiting.
The remarks were condemned for their insensitivity in a state with a history of lynching and the fact her rival Espy is black. She at first refused to apologize, and only at last week's debate did she offer a conditional apology "to anyone offended". She accused Espy of twisting her words for political gain.
Hyde-Smith, who originally was elected to the Mississippi State Senate as a Democrat, switched parties in 2010 and was elected state agriculture commissioner in 2011, the first woman elected to that office.
Espy denied the charge and said "we all know what came out of your mouth".
The furor sparked by the comment led to a number of corporate donors to demand refunds of campaign donations to the appointed incumbent. Photos on her Facebook page from 2014 showed her wearing a Confederate soldier's hat during a tour of the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library.
The same progressive blogger who published the video of her using the phrase "public hanging" later published one in which Hyde-Smith told a small group at Mississippi State University that suppressing the votes of students at other colleges was "a great thing".
And Espy, while a serious candidate, had baggage of his own. Hyde-Smith was appointed to temporarily succeed him.
But all that was not enough to fell her in a state with the most racially polarized voting in the country.
The runoff was marked by racial acrimony over comments Hyde-Smith made. While he was eventually acquitted on all charges, the Mississippi Democrat has been out of public office for almost 25 years, spending the past decade as a private attorney. The campaign knocked on over 100,000 doors and volunteers made over 600,000 phone calls, just for the runoff.
The controversies surrounding her set off a major push by national Republicans to avoid the same embarrassment they'd suffered a year ago in Alabama over the Senate campaign of Roy Moore and save Hyde-Smith.