JACKSON, Miss. – Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican from Mississippi who had to apologize for a cavalier reference to a public hanging, won a special second round Tuesday defeating Democratic candidate Mike Espy, who was trying to become the first state black senator since Reconstruction.
The victory of Ms. Hyde-Smith, reported by the Associated Press, was presented at the last race in the Senate mid-term elections and will set the Republican majority in the chamber between 53 and 47 years old. once the new Congress is sworn in, a net take of two seats. .
President Trump gave Mrs. Hyde-Smith a last-minute boost after several rhetorical blunders shone the spotlight on her campaign. President Trump, who had participated in two rallies on Monday, had warned the Mississippians that a victory for Mr. Espy would also be winning. one for Democratic leaders like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
The Republican victory was a deep relief for the party and Mr. Trump in a state they rarely struggle with, especially in Senate competitions. Mr. Trump has repeatedly boasted this year of his influence to help his candidates win the election, but the party had to make unusual efforts: two rallies, several tweets from the president, a financial investment and dozens of Republican election workers deployed. in the state – to help Ms. Hyde-Smith on the finish line.
His victory is clearly good news for Senate Republicans, who will now have an enlarged Conservative majority to advance Trump's judicial nominations and negotiate with a Democratic-led House.
Ms. Hyde-Smith garnered just over 54% of the vote with 95% of polling station reports.
"The reason we won, is because the Mississippians know me and they know my heart," she said Tuesday night. "This win tonight is about our conservative values, as well as the things that matter most to us all, Mississippians: our faith, our family."
Mr. Espy was the third prominent Dark Democrat to be inclined in a race to conquer the state in the South this year, following the defeat of two governorship candidates, Stacey Abrams in Georgia. Andrew Gillum in Florida.
Addressing supporters of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum here less than three hours after the polls closed, Mr. Espy said he gave in to Ms. Hyde-Smith. "She has my prayers as she travels to Washington to unite a very divided Mississippi," he said.
The election of Mrs. Hyde-Smith has strengthened the hold of Republicans on power in Mississippi, a state they have mastered since the early 2000s, and have shown that the political realignments underway in some southern regions in were still in their infancy.
Nevertheless, the fact that Ms. Hyde-Smith faced a difficult election, no candidate having obtained a majority of votes on November 6, suggests that the Democrats could make some competitive races again. And frenetic efforts to save his seat have shown that the rhetoric apparently imbued with the racist past of Mississippi is likely to have a modern political price.
Although Ms. Hyde-Smith has never been on a trajectory in power – she was faced with a Republican rival and Mr. Espy in the first round of voting, guaranteeing only the second round of Tuesday – his campaign has was seriously jeopardized by her own statements, including: one in which she said that if a supporter invited him to "a public hanging, I would be in the forefront".
Democrats and Republicans said that without this remark, and some other controversial remarks, the victory of Mrs. Hyde-Smith on Tuesday would have been almost total.
Instead, Mr. Espy, 64, and his allies were able to grasp the speech of Ms. Hyde-Smith and assert that it was an anachronistic representation of the Mississippi, a State that has fought hard to repair his image more than half a century later. the most serious violations of the civil rights era.
At a debate that took place last week, Ms. Hyde-Smith, 59, the state's agriculture commissioner until this year, said her remarks on the "public hanging" reflected nothing "and that she claimed that it was unfair.
Mr. Espy, former secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration and first black member of the Mississippi Congress since the Reconstruction, replied, "It's out of your mouth. I do not know what you have in your heart, but we all know what came out of your mouth. "
Nevertheless, Mr. Espy refrained from attacking his opponent too strongly because of his remarks, aware of the large block of conservative white voters in the state who support the Republicans and are deeply loyal to President Trump. It was a reflection of Democrats must strike a balance when they are trying to break into southern states like Georgia and Texas, where calls to the grassroots of African-Americans, Hispanics and suburban moderates could alienate Whites in rural areas.
Region after region on Tuesday, Mrs. Hyde-Smith was at its peak in the rural and predominantly white counties of Mississippi. voters, such as the suburbs of Memphis, it was less successful, which allowed Mr. Espy to get closer than the Democrats usually do.
Ms. Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to headquarters in April, when Thad Cochran retired for health reasons, will now fill the two-year term. The seat will be voted again in 2020, while a six-year term will be at stake.
Mississippi is not used to stormy Senate races between Democrats and Republicans. Senator Roger Wicker, who was also voting on November 6, won his re-election bid this month with about 59 percent of the vote. (In 2014, Mr. Cochran survived a major challenge and then defeated his Democratic rival in the general election.)
But in the three weeks between the first and second rounds, the rapprochement between Mr. Espy and Ms. Hyde-Smith has become a scrupulous test of Mississippi's racial tolerance and the state's position as a bulwark. Conservative.
Although Mr. Espy announced his campaign a few months ago, it was not until the close of the elections that he began to attract considerable attention from the country. But in Mississippi, rumors about Ms. Hyde-Smith's strength as a candidate have been around since March, when Governor Phil Bryant appointed her to replace Mr. Cochran, rejecting the recommendations of name him himself.
Another Republican, Chris McDaniel, joined the contest, running only four years after almost defeating Mr. Cochran. Some Republican leaders and strategists, including some of the most influential members of the Legislature, have publicly and privately questioned Ms. Hyde-Smith's ability to cope with a well-funded campaign against her. Even the White House had not initially kissed Mrs. Hyde-Smith, who, she feared, would not falter in the run against Mr. McDaniel.
But Mr Trump, relying on his huge personal popularity in Mississippi, finally approved Ms Hyde-Smith, who visited the state in a bus adorned with a photo of her and the president.
On Monday, Trump met with reporters in southern Mississippi. He tried to downplay the "public hanging" remark that was behind the fire storm that had swamped Ms. Hyde-Smith's campaign.
"Really, it was something that was sad and it was a small turnaround," said the president after a panel discussion on the criminal justice legislation in Gulfport. "She called me," she said, "I said something that I meant quite different, and I heard a strong and clear apology.
Democrat and Republican leaders thought Trump's visit would garner support from both candidates after a first round of voting in which Espy won 40.6 percent and Hyde-Smith 41.5 percent. %.
At a glance, the memory and mathematics of Mississippi politics seemed to favor Mrs. Hyde-Smith in a second round: the Republicans had won the Senate elections continuously since the 1980s and the party had won the last four campaigns for the manor of the Greek Renaissance governor East Capitol Street in Jackson.
And in Mississippi, which has the highest proportion of black residents in the country, but where about 60% of the voting age population is white, political lines often stand out from racial boundaries.
Mr. Espy needed a substantial turnout among black Mississippians, who made up more than a third of the voting age population and who, historically, were supporters of Democratic candidates. But the Democrats also acknowledged that Mr. Espy had to win about a quarter of the white vote; to this end, some of his advertisements evoked Mississippi's long-standing frustration with the way he was viewed across the country.
But few people thought Mississippi had many undecided voters in the last days of the campaign. The last candidates presented the different approaches of the duel race.
On Monday evening, in a Jackson church, Mr. Espy sent a message to black voters with a message that he hoped would appeal to discontented centrists, giving up a lively partisan oratory while urging supporters to spend Tuesday in "his go to the polls as a vacation "
And in Tupelo, with Mr. Trump at his side, Mrs. Hyde-Smith eagerly bet once again that a call to the right was the surest way to the political survival of Mississippi.
"I will defend your conservative values," she said, "and that's what's written on the ballot."