Photo credit: Rogelio V. Solis
The runoff between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy was a close one that drew intense scrutiny for comments made during their respective campaigns. Hyde-Smith was set to win at 54 percent of the vote compared to Espy's 46 percent with 95 percent of precincts reporting.
The result of the four-week runoff campaign means Republicans will hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate next year. The victory also makes Hyde-Smith the first woman ever elected to represent Mississippi in the Senate. Republicans were optimistic about Hyde-Smith's victory but still held reserves over comments that marred her in controversy over remarks about public hangings.
Sen. Cory Gardner, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee spent over $1 million on TV ads during the four-week runoff campaign. Gardner said, "Cindy Hyde-Smith has been a strong conservative voice since joining the Senate, so it should come as no surprise that she was elected by Mississippians to represent them in Washington."
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Hyde-Smith made a proud victory speech where she referred to the runoff as an "unbelievable campaign". Hyde-Smith also specifically thanked President Donald Trump for his two rallies in the state Monday which is credited with helping get Republicans up and voting.
The bewildered and joyful Hyde-Smith said, "This win tonight, this victory, it's about our conservative values. It's about the things that mean the most to all of us Mississippians: our faith, our family." Hyde-Smith said she spoke to Trump after the victory and said he told her she had "been through a storm and you've survived it."
Hyde-Smith told media she apologized to the President for her controversial comments and planned to look forward from here. She added, "This is not for the faint of heart and I'm certainly not the faint of heart." Her competition in the race Espy is an African-American, and he called Hyde-Smith's "public hanging" comment a "black eye" for the state.
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After the results were clear, Espy's losing side said, "While this is not the result we were hoping for, I am proud of the historic campaign we ran and grateful for the support we received across Mississippi. We built the largest grassroots organization our state has seen in a generation, through a coalition of voters who shared our belief that Mississippi's future will be brighter than our past."
Austin Barbour, a veteran Republican strategist played an influential role in the victim and said Hyde-Smith should have apologized for her "public hanging" comment more quickly. "I know she said it, she regrets what she said and obviously that statement gave Espy a better chance to win," Barbour said. He added that Trump's two rallies in support of Hyde-Smith Monday were clearly influential.
"The president is such a motivating factor for people in Mississippi who want to go out to vote, for both sides but obviously more for him than against him," Barbour said. "Trump coming to the state the night before the election, there was no way for Espy to counter that."
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