Divisive race ends with Republican Hyde-Smith victory

Republican wins US Senate runoff in Mississippi

Cindy Hyde-Smith beat the African-American Democratic candidate Mike Espy with an estimated 55% share of the vote.

President Donald Trump visited MS on Monday to rally Republican voters behind Hyde-Smith after her comments about a "public hanging" set off weeks of controversy.

President Donald Trump is congratulating Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith on her election win.

The win makes her the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi. "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row", she told one of her supporters.

Espy's campaign hammered Hyde-Smith with television ads that cast her as an embarrassment to a state that has attempted to overcome its history of slavery and racism.

(A Marist College poll last month had his approval rating at 56% among all voters.) Hyde-Smith, who tied herself very closely to the president, was winning pretty much all of those approvers.

With all 35 Senate races decided, the Republicans hold a 53-47 edge - a pickup of two seats. Hyde-Smith was appointed to temporarily succeed him. The 64-year-old Democrat previously served in the House of Representatives for six years before going on to serve as President Bill Clinton's secretary of agriculture from 1993 to 1994.

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Espy, meanwhile, would have become Mississippi's first black senator since the era of Reconstruction. "And that's why I believe this is one of the most important elections in our lifetime".

"It's a huge significance, because if you look at Republican women across the nation and in our state we're not having the same gains in electing women as our colleagues in the Democratic party are", said state Sen.

The runoff to serve the last two years of former Republican Senator Thad Cochran's term was triggered after neither Espy nor Hyde-Smith secured more than half of the vote needed to settle the November 6 special election. He tried to recreate the coalition that propelled Democrat Doug Jones to a Senate win in neighboring Alabama previous year by energizing black voters, particularly women, and winning support from white swing voters.

When asked to elaborate on her remarks, she added: "I'm a cowgirl, and when a cowgirl references western movies that I've seen hundreds of, and somebody twists it, that's just it, you've got to roll with the punches", reports ABC News.

During a televised debate nine days after the video was publicised, she apologised to "anyone that was offended by my comments", but also said the remark was used as a "weapon" against her. 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. Hyde-Smith's daughter later attended a similar private school established around the same time, according to the Free Press. The caption on the post read, "Mississippi history at its best!"

As it stands now, major American corporations and brands including Walmart, Major League Baseball, Google and AT&T have all demanded that Hyde-Smith return their donations to her campaign.

Her supporters said the furor over her comments was overblown.

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