Cindy Hyde-Smith wins MS senate seat in special election

Geraldine Edwards
November 30, 2018

Given Mississippi's recent pro-Republican complexion (it's been a long time since a Democrat won a Senate, gubernatorial or presidential election there) and history of racial polarization, the idea of an African-American Democrat like Espy winning seemed remote, even though Hyde-Smith ran a bad campaign marked by serial gaffes of a racially inflammatory nature.

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

A week before the runoff election to decide who would permanently fill the seat Hyde-Smith was appointed to after longtime Sen.

"Congratulations to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith on your big WIN in the Great State of Mississippi". About 30 minutes ago as I write this the race has been called and Cindy Hyde-Smith has defeated Mike Espy pretty handily.

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When the extended footage of the encounter was released for context, the comment became more troubling because it revealed Hyde-Smith was using the phrase in an attempt to thank a supporter for saying she would fight for him.

Her victory means Republicans will hold a 53-47 majority in the new U.S. Senate that convenes in January.

Espy, a former cabinet member in the Clinton administration campaigned as a moderate who would work with Trump and Republicans to benefit the state. Under all circumstances, in an incredibly bitter race, Espy remained collected and did not give in to the controversy swirling around Hyde-Smith. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, who retired for health reasons. There's one more House seat in contention in California. The state last elected a Democrat to the Senate in 1982.

Espy said he called Hyde-Smith to concede the race and wish her well. Ultimately, the lack of a more honest apology, and the questions surrounding why Hyde-Smith would make the comment in the first place - especially in light of Mississippi's bleak history of public hangings of black Americans - is deeply troubling.

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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. Over the weekend, the Jackson Free Press reported that Hyde-Smith had attended a segregated high school in the 1970s.

In 2014, Hyde-Smith posted a picture on Facebook of herself wearing a replica of a Confederate army hat.

Her supporters said the furore over her comments was overblown. She accused Espy of twisting her words for political gain.

Hyde-Smith won the election on a variety of promises including lower taxes, lighter regulations, protecting the life of unborn babies, and better support for the military, police, and war veterans. Trump attended two get-out-the-vote rallies in the state on Monday.

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The runoff contest drew comparisons to the Alabama Senate special election past year, 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.

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