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.
Earlier this month, Hyde-Smith and Mike Espy (D) were the top-two finishers in the special election to replace Thad Cochran (R), who resigned in April due to health issues. The comments from Hyde-Smith, who is white, were quickly seized upon by Espy, who was vying to become not only the first Democrat the state had elected to the Senate in almost four decades, but also the first African-American senator from the state since Reconstruction.
The Republicans pumped resources into Mississippi, and USA president Donald Trump made a strong effort on behalf of Ms Hyde-Smith, holding last-minute rallies in Mississippi on Monday. Hyde-Smith will serve in the seat until 2020, the end of the six-year term Cochran won in 2014. She at first refused to apologize, and only at last week's debate did she offer a conditional apology "to anyone offended".
Hyde-Smith and Espy emerged from a field of four candidates November 6 to advance to Tuesday's runoff.
Speaking to supporters after her win, Hyde-Smith vowed to fight for everyone in the state when she goes to Washington.
The victory of Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to fill the seat of Sen.
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. An ad from his campaign released that day said, "We can't afford a senator who embarrasses us and reinforces the stereotypes we've worked so hard to overcome".
"And then they remind me, that there's a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don't want to vote", she said at a campaign stop. Hyde-Smith now leads 56 percent to 44 percent, although the remaining uncounted vote figures to be Democratic-leaning. "Mississippi history at its best!" she wrote in the post.
That created a possible opening for Espy. It was the centerpiece of her campaign.
Democrats hoped Espy would be able to peel off some educated white voters who were turned off by Hyde-Smith's controversial comments.
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.
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. 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. Working with the state Democratic Party, the campaign sent millions of text messages reminding potential supporters to vote.
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