Connect with us

Politics

Cindy Hyde-Smith claims narrow victory in Mississippi Senate race

Published

on


President Donald Trump with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.
President
Donald Trump with Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

Rogelio V. Solis/AP

  • Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy
    on Tuesday in a Mississippi Senate race defined by the
    Republican’s racially-charged comments. 
  • Hyde-Smith’s runoff victory in the last race of the midterm
    elections was far from resounding in a deep red state, and may
    indicate increasing support for Democrats in the South. 
  • Espy, who was vying to become Mississippi’s first black
    senator since the end of the Civil War, was buoyed by strong
    turnout among the state’s large black electorate. 

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy in
Mississippi’s Senate runoff on Tuesday by an unusually small
margin in the deep red state after transforming the contest into
something of a
referendum on Mississippi’s racist past
with jokes about

public hangings and voter suppression

Hyde-Smith’s runoff victory in the last race of the midterm
elections was far from resounding — she took 54% of the vote to
Espy’s 46% — in a state that President Donald Trump won by nearly
18 points two years ago. The result came as a relief to
Republicans, who will have 53 senators to Democrats’ 47 in the
new Congress — a two seat gain. 

In the three weeks since Election Day, the Mississippi race
became defined by comments Hyde-Smith made on the campaign trail,
including her statement that if a supporter asked her
to attend “a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” that
dredged up the state’s dark history of racial violence and
oppression. 

Espy, who would have become the state’s first black senator since
the end of the Civil War, gained seven points over the Nov. 6
vote, in which 58% of the electorate supported Hyde-Smith
and another GOP candidate, while 42% voted for Espy. (The runoff
was triggered because no candidate received 50% of the
vote). 

Part of Espy’s boost can be attributed to energized black voters,
who showed
up in greater numbers
in many parts of the state than they
did three weeks ago, according to exit polling. And while 60% of
Mississippi’s voting-age population is white, the state has the
largest share of black voters in the country. 

Espy framed Hyde-Smith’s missteps, and subsequent revelations
that she attended
a “segregation academy” and celebrated the Confederacy,
as an
embarrassment to the state. 

“It’s given our state another black eye that we don’t need.
It’s just rejuvenated old stereotypes that we don’t need
anymore,” Espy said of Hyde-Smith’s remarks in a debate last
week.



Read more:

Another
black eye’: Accusations of racism swirl in contentious
Mississippi Senate runoff


The former Clinton administration agriculture secretary also did
better in
suburban areas
 (full of college-educated white voters),
including outside of Memphis and Jackson, than Barack Obama did
in 2008. 


Democrat Mike Espy shakes hands with a supporter at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson after losing the runoff election on Tuesday.
Democrat
Mike Espy shakes hands with a supporter at the Mississippi Civil
Rights Museum in Jackson after losing the runoff election on
Tuesday.

Charles A.
Smith/AP


Overall,
Hyde-Smith, the state’s first female senator, received 87% of the
GOP voters who turned out for the election three weeks ago, while
Espy received an impressive 101% of Democratic votes compared to
those who voted earlier this month. And this came after
Republicans directed significant resources to boost Hyde-Smith,
including several presidential rallies, tweets, and an injection
of GOP election staffers. 

The unusually competitive Mississippi race could indicate a
favorable trend for Democrats in the South. Espy is the third
black Democrat to come close to winning a big ticket contest in
the South this year, after Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum came
up short in Georgia and Florida’s gubernatorial races.

And it comes a year after neighboring Alabama elected its first
Democratic senator in a quarter-century. Notably, Alabama
Democrat Doug Jones’ stunning victory in last year’s special
election was facilitated in part by
a significant surge in black voter turnout
. Black Alabamians
made up a larger percentage of the electorate in that contest
than they did in both 2008 and 2012 when Barack Obama
was on the ballot. (96% of black voters cast their ballots for
Jones).

But Jones’ opponent, right-wing Republican Roy Moore, was a
particularly weak candidate and was partially crushed under the
weight of 
a sexual-assault scandal
and a
long record of racial animosity

Continue Reading
Advertisement Find your dream job

Trending