GOP senator wins divisive Mississippi runoff

Republican Senator Cindy Hyde Smith has won Mississippi’s US Senate runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy

Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith has won Mississippi's US Senate runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy. Praising a supporter she said: "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row".

In the final stretch, she portrayed the contest as a battle of ideologies and was aided by President Donald Trump, who visited the state on Monday for two rallies, as well as GOP groups who poured resources in the final stretch to bolster her campaign.

But Hyde-Smith's win proved how solidly conservative the state is, and how big the challenges still are for Democrats. "We are all proud of you".

Speaking to reporters during her victory speech, Hyde-Smith briefly mentioned her comments, which threatened to derail her campaign.

The video sparked a furor in a state with a history of racism and violence against blacks, including lynchings, and fueled Democratic hopes of an upset in a state where 38 percent of the population is black. "I talk to them as Mississippians-Mississippi young people who want to reduce their debt coming out of college, Mississippi young people who want to stay in this state, and not go to Atlanta and Dallas to get a good job", Espy said after voting.

The Hyde-Smith and Espy runoff was tainted by race-related controversies. She said it was "an exaggerated expression of regard".

A runoff election was forced after neither candidate won a majority on Election Day.

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Hyde-Smith's victory secures the party's 53rd Senate seat for the next two years, compared to 47 for Democrats, up from the current 51-49 Republican majority.

"While we are hopeful that the Senator-elect will prove herself worthy of her new office, this election demonstrates the need to continue broadening the tent of civic and democratic participation in our nation", the pioneering civil rights organization said in a brief statement. Thad Cochran stepped down due to health issues.

Her supporters said the furore over her comments was overblown.

U.S. President Donald Trump had said at the Biloxi campaign rally on November 26 that illegal immigrants, such as those participating in the caravans between Mexico and the United States, are unfairly disadvantaging American workers. Hyde-Smith was already appointed to the Senate by Mississippi's Republican governor, Phil Bryant, after Cochran resigned but faced an election to fill the remainder of his term. But if black voters rise to 40 percent of the electorate and Espy wins 9 out of 10, he needs less than a quarter of white votes for victory.

With the GOP holding onto the seat in MS, they have achieved a net gain of two seats in the Senate, entering the next Congress in January with a 53-47 seat advantage. Hyde-Smith's daughter later attended a similar private school established around the same time, according to the Free Press.

Espy, an attorney, said: "I found out later that this guy, the president, was a really bad guy".

The public outcry against her marks was loud and angry and "moved the dial" to Espy, according to political columnist Geoff Pender of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. "Mississippi history at its best!" she wrote in the post.

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