Mississippi Republican Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith has defeated Democratic challenger Mike Espy in the state's runoff election for the U.S. Senate seat.
Back in the primary when all the Democrats and Republicans ran against each other, the Republicans combined for 58% of the vote to the Democrats 42% of the vote. Hyde-Smith was initially defensive about the comments and eventually offered an apology to "anyone that was offended" at the only debate of the runoff.
Hyde-Smith tried to tether herself as close as possible to President Trump, touting her pro-Trump voting record and campaigning in a bus dubbed the "MAGA Wagon".
A Republican candidate supported by President Trump has won a US Senate seat in MS, after a race overshadowed by racial acrimony.
"It's a circus; that's what it is", said Emily Johnson, a 65-year-old retired cook who voted for Espy.
Chances of a Democratic victory in Mississippi- a state Donald Trump won by almost 18 percentage points in the 2016 election and whose senior senator, Republican Roger Wicker, was re-elected by almost 20 points earlier this month - still appeared remote.
Espy followed the strategy of moderation that now-Sen.
The controversies surrounding her set off a major push by national Republicans to avoid the same embarrassment they'd suffered past year in Alabama over the Senate campaign of Roy Moore and save Hyde-Smith. The accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore were the final straw, while Hyde-Smith had room to spare.
While Espy didn't win, the strategy of moderation that he and Jones followed is one Democrats must continue if they hope for the party to become less toxic in rural areas. "When this many people show up, stand up and speak up, it is not a loss".
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Espy, meanwhile, would have become Mississippi's first black senator since the era of Reconstruction. Unfortunately for him, the African-American vote did not come out in large enough numbers to give him an upset victory, and he did not score well enough among white voters.
Espy's camp, meanwhile, painted Hyde-Smith as a candidate who was not accountable to Mississippians and "has rekindled images of the state that most want to leave behind".
Her win on Tuesday means Republicans will hold 53 seats to Democrats' 47 seats in the Senate in January.
Hyde-Smith's campaign website describes her as a "rock-solid conservative".
Her supporters said the furor over her comments was overblown. 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.
She thanked President Donald Trump for his support, including two campaign stops he made Monday.
I am hesitant to label anyone a racist given the complexities involved with determining a person's intent.
Hyde-Smith, 59, is the first woman ever elected to either chamber of Congress from Mississippi. Photos on her Facebook page from 2014 showed her wearing a Confederate soldier's hat during a tour of the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library.
"She has my prayers as she goes to Washington to unite a very divided Mississippi", Espy said. The caption on the post read, "Mississippi history at its best!"