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By Allan Smith
Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy at the Senate's Special Election on Tuesday in Mississippi, a controversial race-related controversy over NBC News projects.
With 78% of the votes cast, Hyde-Smith had 55.2%, or 363,567 votes, against 44.8%, or 296,254 votes, for Espy, according to NBC News.
Hyde-Smith, who will become the first woman elected to the Mississippi Congress, will serve the last two years of the term of former GOP Senator Thad Cochran, whom she has been appointed to replace earlier this year. after his resignation.
With his victory, the Republicans will begin the new Congress in January with a 53-47 majority in the Senate. The GOP extended its majority in the Senate in the mid-term elections, while the Democrats won at least 39 seats in the House with a race to go.
Hyde-Smith and Espy, a former congressman who had been secretary of agriculture under former president Bill Clinton, quarreled after the second round, having received more than 50 percent of the vote on polling day. In this three-man election, Senator Chris McDaniel, of the GOP state, who ran to the right of Hyde-Smith, garnered over 16% of the vote.
The waters of Hyde-Smith and Espy have been tainted by a number of controversies related to race. More particularly, the images of a remark made by Hyde-Smith earlier this month on his willingness to attend a "public hanging" drew the country's attention.
Hyde-Smith insisted that the remark should have no racial overtones, but many have interpreted it as such in a state where lynchings were once common and racial tensions were still deep.
In a debate last week, Hyde-Smith apologized to anyone who was offended, but added that his words were "twisted" to be used against her. Espy accused Hyde-Smith of giving the state "another black eye".
President Donald Trump on Monday made a three-stop visit to Mississippi to reinforce Hyde-Smith's bid, staging two rallies for the senator. At a round table at Gulfport, Trump said he heard Hyde-Smith apologize for the public's "loud and clear" remark, adding that he knew that "his heart is good" .
At a previous rally, Trump had called Espy "far left", asking "how does he fit into Mississippi?"
The controversy around Hyde-Smith's commentary on public hanging was only the first in the run-up to the vote. A few days after this first remark became viral, additional images were published showing Hyde-Smith saying that it might be a "good idea" to make it more difficult for some people to vote, which was what his campaign said. She was joking "of course".
Soon, the publications began to unearth more disturbing information for Hyde-Smith. The Jackson Free-Press reported that Hyde-Smith attended a white and private "segregation academy" while sending his daughter a year later. It was also reported that Hyde-Smith, as a senator, had called for a resolution commending the efforts of a Confederate soldier to "defend his country", while photos showed Hyde-Smith posing with Confederate artifacts.
As a result of the controversy, leading companies such as Walmart and Major League Baseball have requested that their donations to the Hyde-Smith campaign be returned.
In the last few weeks of his campaign, Hyde-Smith has held few events and has generally avoided speaking to the press.
Espy faced a difficult climb in a state where Trump had won by 18 points in 2016 and where Hyde-Smith and McDaniel combined had won about 58% of the votes earlier this month. He also faced some controversy as Republicans highlighted his past lobbyist activities and being charged in the 1990s for corruption, of which he was later acquitted. This investigation led to his resignation from the post of secretary of agriculture.