Mississippians Vote in High-Stakes Senate Runoff

30 November, 2018, 11:28 | Author: Sue Mclaughlin
  • Tuesday's winner will serve the last two years of retired Senator Thad Cochran's six-year term

MS voters will head to the polls in the final midterm race of the election season. Cindy Hyde-Smith, 59, would be the first woman ever elected to Congress from MS, and Democrat Mike Espy, 64, would be the state's first African-American U.S. senator since Reconstruction.

Nevertheless she is expected to win in the staunchly Republican state.

Hyde-Smith has campaigned as an unwavering supporter of President Trump, who campaigned with her Monday, praising her at a rally in the northeastern MS city of Tupelo for voting to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. The comment stirred deep feelings in MS, where lynchings of black people were once commonplace.

Another sign noted that MS had the highest record of lynchings between 1882 and 1968 - a statement backed by data on the NAACP's website.

Hyde-Smith campaign hammered Espy for his $750,000 lobbying contract in 2011 with the Cocoa and Coffee Board of the Ivory Coast. He was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden and three Democrats who are potential 2020 presidential candidates - former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Senators Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey - travelled to MS to campaign for him.

A video of Ms Hyde-Smith apparently encouraging voter suppression also emerged on Twitter. No surprise there. To see her full videos, flip page.

The president said she has apologised and misspoke, adding that her comments were "taken a certain way but she certainly didn't mean it". More than a week after the video's release, she said she apologized to "anyone that was offended by my comments", but also said the remark was used as a "weapon" against her.

State and federal investigators are trying to find out who hung seven nooses in trees outside the Mississippi Capitol early Monday.

"I am asking all Mississippians to give me your vote tomorrow so I can ... protect our conservative values", she said.

MS last elected a Democrat to the Senate in 1982, but Espy was trying for the same kind of long-shot win that fellow Democrat Doug Jones had almost a year ago in neighbouring Alabama, another conservative state.

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So could a Democrat win?

Cindy Hyde-Smith won a divisive MS runoff Tuesday, surviving a video-recorded remark decried as racist and defeating a former federal official who hoped to become the state's first African-American senator since Reconstruction.

Democrats acknowledge Hyde-Smith will receive a significant boost from the president's campaign rallies on Monday.

"We can't afford a senator who embarrasses us and reinforces the stereotypes we've worked so hard to overcome", one ad for the Democrat said.

Espy, a former congressman and US agriculture secretary, gained new momentum from the furor in a state where 38 percent of residents are African-American. And the simplest, most common reason why they support her?

And they foreshadow the messaging dissonance that could mark the next two years of his presidency as he faces a divided Congress - a Republican-majority Senate and a Democrat-controlled House - after two years of across-the-board Republican power.

Why is the election still ongoing?

With all 35 Senate races decided, the Republicans hold a 53-47 edge - a pickup of two seats. The runoff has drawn attention to the state's history of racist violence.

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy attends an event in Jackson, Miss., Feb. 23, 2018.

Polls close at 8 p.m. ET.

Given the uncertainty about voter turnout, and Hyde-Smith's visible deficiencies as a candidate and public speaker, Republican state and national officials have openly expressed concern that the runoff could produce an upset victory for the Democrat, like that won by Doug Jones in Alabama a year ago, when he narrowly defeated the ultra-right Republican nominee Roy Moore.

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