Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith wins divisive Mississippi Senate vote

Cindy Hyde Smith and Mike Espy

US Senate candidate Mike Espy and US Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. REUTERS Jonathan Bachman and REUTERS Jonathan Ernst File

She was projected by the Associated Press and NBC News to have defeated Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and Agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton.

Hyde-Smith, appointed to the seat seven months ago, becomes the first woman elected to the upper chamber from MS, and will finish a term that ends in two years.

"Mr. President, thank you so much for all of your help", Hyde-Smith said in a victory speech to supporters, reiterating her win was a triumph for conservative values.

But the runoff turned into a referendum on race and Mississippi's racial past after two videos surfaced earlier this month that thrust Hyde-Smith into controversy and put her uncomfortably in the national spotlight. Hyde-Smith's victory came after she joked about hangings on the campaign trail, and after photos emerged showing her posing with a Confederate Army cap and rifle. 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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In the wake of her remarks, several organizations, including Major League Baseball and Walmart, asked that their donations to Hyde-Smith's campaign be returned. But there was no mention of returning the funds before Tuesday's election.

Hyde-Smith's comment on a public hanging is not dissimilar to other gaffes she has made.

With 76 percent of precincts reporting, Hyde-Smith led former Democratic Rep.

Republicans tightened their grip on the Senate last night in a fraught final contest of the 2018 midterm elections.

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The runoff contest drew comparisons to the Alabama Senate special election a year ago, 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. But in reality, racism won as the state's citizens cast ballots for a woman who has made no secret of her affinity for white supremacy.

The results of Tuesday's runoff finalize the balance of power in the Senate. Her election gives Republicans a 53-47 majority in the Senate, up from their current 51 seats.

This is obviously a win for the GOP which further expands control of the Senate. Republicans defeated Democratic incumbents in Florida, Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, but lost seats in Arizona and Nevada. Hyde-Smith should be asking themselves.

It would not be business as usual for Democrats to celebrate a Republican victory, but with the special circumstances involved, a neutral observer might wonder why the left is not cheering for the GOP today. She has since touted her conservative stances on issues like abortion, immigration and gun rights.

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"Congratulations to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith on your big WIN in the Great State of Mississippi", Trump tweeted Tuesday night. The state could soon have its first elected female senator or first black senator since Reconstruction.

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