Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith Wins 2018 Senate Race in Mississippi

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BREAKING: Republicans Win Mississippi Senate Race Despite Media Blitz, Report Says

Mississippi Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Democratic challenger Mike Espy in the state's runoff Senate election on Tuesday night, according to reports.

U.S. media projected that Hyde-Smith would defeat her black challenger in a campaign that recalled the state's history of racist violence. The final tally isn't in yet but with 88% of precincts reporting, Hyde-Smith leads 54.8% to Espy's 45.2 percent.

Hyde-Smith became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from MS with her victory. But when video surfaced earlier this month of the senator telling a supporter, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row", the state's racial wounds were re-opened. Therefore in a political environment in which Democrats are winning the national vote by high single digits, we wouldn't expect a Democrat to win a Senate seat in Mississippi.

Trump remains exceedingly popular there with most of the state's white voters, and attended a pair of rallies on her behalf on election eve to make sure GOP turnout didn't drop off enough to put her in real jeopardy. The outcome gives Republicans a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, while Democrats will take control of the House after gaining at least 39 seats.

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"While this same-sex couple's request for a permit to utilize one of our state's facilities for a "commitment ceremony" is not being defined as a marriage ceremony, it is personally troubling for me", she said at the time, citing her "personal and religious beliefs".

Hyde-Smith is now giving a victory speech.

In a state with a black population of 38 percent, Espy - the state's first black congressman and later the nation's first black state secretary of agriculture - was formidable from the start.

The runoff to serve the last two years of former Republican Senator Thad Cochran's term was necessary because neither Espy nor Hyde-Smith gained more than 50 percent of the vote in a special vote earlier in November. His performance in the state looks to be better than any Democratic Senate candidate in 30 years.

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The AP has called the runoff for Hyde-Smith, more or less officially putting a cap on the evening. 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.

Her supporters said the furore over her comments was overblown.

In 2014, Hyde-Smith posted a picture on Facebook of herself wearing a replica of a Confederate army hat.

However, she immediately insisted that "this comment was twisted and it was turned into a weapon to be used against me". And she strategically avoided press questions as Espy's campaign criticized her for the comments. Trump attended two get-out-the-vote rallies in the state on Monday.

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Several companies that had donated to Hyde-Smith's campaign, including Walmart, publicly withdrew their support for the senator over the "public hanging" comment.

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