Republican in 'public hanging' video wins Mississippi Senate race

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Incumbent Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith was leading Democratic challenger Mike Espy, a former congressman, by 55.2 percent to 44.8 percent with four fifths of precincts reporting, according to Fox News and NBC.

Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy to win Tuesday's runoff. The Associated Press has called the race. But Hyde-Smith proved to be a flawed candidate whose candidacy prompted investment from national groups from both parties.

All of that helped the former state agriculture commissioner tiresome Espy's efforts to paint her as someone who would take the state backwards. Tuesday's victor serves the last two of Cochran's six-year term. Hyde-Smith was already appointed to the Senate by Mississippi's Republican governor, Phil Bryant, after Cochran resigned but faced an election to fill the remainder of his term.

Hyde-Smith's campaign hammered Espy for his $750,000 lobbying contract in 2011 with the Cocoa and Coffee Board of the Ivory Coast. McDaniel's narrow loss in a primary runoff, after he had received the most votes in the initial round of voting, fueled conservative anger at the Republican establishment and became a rightwing cause célèbre for years afterwards.

In the footage, Hyde-Smith could be seen praising one of her supporters, saying, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the first row". She called it an "exaggerated expression of regard".

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The race had appeared to narrow after comments the senator made rekindled memories of Mississippi's history of lynching blacks and voter suppression. 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.

Espy, 64, replied: "I don't know what's in your heart, but I know what came out of your mouth".

Several companies that had donated to Hyde-Smith's campaign, including Walmart, publicly withdrew their support for the senator over the "public hanging" comment. They also stuck by her as a photo was circulated of her wearing a replica Confederate military hat during a 2014 visit to Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. "Mississippi history at its best!" she wrote in the post.

Hyde-Smith became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from MS with her victory.

Hyde-Smith's victory will put the Republican majority in the Senate at 53 to 47.

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For Janice Sandefur, a 60-year-old clinical social worker, the election resurrected memories of the all-white school that her parents sent her to, just like Hyde-Smith, where the mascot was the Confederates.

While Hyde-Smith largely stayed off the campaign trail, the party's infrastructure rallied to her defense.

The election was a direct referendum on the president, whose multiple rallies for Hyde-Smith, who has been embroiled in a series of racist exposes, probably helped push the Republican over the finish line.

Hyde-Smith previously apologized for her hanging comment during a debate with Espy on November 20. Espy would have been the first African-American elected from the state since Reconstruction.

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