Hyde-Smith led former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy (D) by 56 percent to 44 percent with 76 percent of precincts reporting.
MS voters went back to the polls today for an unusual special U.S. Senate election runoff, with incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith (who was appointed to the position earlier this year) heavily favored over former congressman and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.
The comedian, angry over the fact that Hyde-Smith managed to win the race despite telling supporters she would "sit front row" at a "public hanging" while running against a black Democratic candidate, expressed her feelings on Instagram.
A week before the runoff election to decide who would permanently fill the seat Hyde-Smith was appointed to after longtime Sen. The victory will make her the first woman ever elected to Congress from Mississippi.
U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy votes at a polling station in Ridgeland, Mississippi, U.S., November 27, 2018.
(A Marist College poll last month had his approval rating at 56% among all voters.) Hyde-Smith, who tied herself very closely to the president, was winning pretty much all of those approvers.
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Hyde-Smith's win marks the end of the final Senate contest of 2018, leaving the balance of control in the Senate at 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, a 2-seat pickup for the GOP. Trump visited the state to campaign for her.
So Republicans will maintain a 53/47 margin in the U.S. Senate, at least until 2020 (when Hyde-Smith among others will again face voters in the very different, high-turnout context of a presidential cycle). 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. Espy would have been the first African-American elected from the state since Reconstruction. Her ongoing scandals gave Democrats legitimate hopes of flipping one more red seat in the deep South.
Hyde-Smith is a former state agriculture and commerce commissioner who was appointed in April by the state's governor after the sudden retirement of Republican Senator Thad Cochran for health reasons. The comment made Mississippi's history of racist lynchings a runoff theme. Even Republicans say she badly mishandled the fallout, refusing to apologize for more than a week before issuing a quasi-apology to "anyone that was offended" during her debate with Espy. Hyde-Smith's daughter later attended a similar private school established around the same time, according to the Free Press.
When asked to elaborate on her remarks, she added: "I'm a cowgirl, and when a cowgirl references western movies that I've seen hundreds of, and somebody twists it, that's just it, you've got to roll with the punches", reports ABC News. The caption on the post read, "Mississippi history at its best!"
The controversies surrounding her set off a major push by national Republicans to avoid the same embarrassment they'd suffered previous year in Alabama over the Senate campaign of Roy Moore and save Hyde-Smith.