Hyde-Smith had 56 percent of the vote to Espy’s 44 percent when the Associated Press called the race with more than three quarters of all precincts reporting. The result means Republicans will hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate next year.
The runoff for the remainder of Thad Cochran’s term was held because neither candidate got a majority of the vote in a crowded race Nov. 6. Since then, Hyde-Smith has drawn scrutiny for saying she would attend a “public hanging” for a supporter, before apologizing and calling the comment an exaggerated form of regard.
JACKSON, Miss. — Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith jumped out to a lead over Democrat Mike Espy Tuesday night as votes are tallied in Mississippi’s Senate runoff.
Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to replace former Sen. Thad Cochran earlier this year, had 56 percent of the vote to Espy’s 44 percent with about 70 percent of precincts reporting. While Hyde-Smith is running behind normal Republican vote totals in several areas of the state and Espy is ahead of typical Democratic performance, the shift has not reached the enormous margins a Democrat would need to flip reliably red Mississippi.
Hyde-Smith faced an unusually energetic special election challenge from Espy, a former congressman and Clinton-era agriculture secretary who inspired slim Democratic hopes of repeating the party’s miraculous Senate victory in Alabama last year, as Hyde-Smith faced a storm of controversy over recent remarks about attending a “public hanging.”
Espy, who is African-American, called Hyde-Smith’s “public hanging” comments a “black eye” for the state. Hyde-Smith ultimately apologized to “anyone offended” by her remarks, which she said were an exaggerated form of regard for a supporter. But the comments, which some viewed as connected to Mississippi’s history of lynching, brought unexpected scrutiny to Hyde-Smith during the runoff, putting Republicans on edge even in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1982.