Cindy Hyde-Smith is projected to win in Mississippi runoff, ending tumultuous Senate race against Democrat Mike Espy

  • Mississippi voters elected Cindy Hyde-Smith to a full Senate term on Tuesday, ending a closely watched runoff election again her Democratic challenger Mike Espy.
  • Hyde-Smith had a lead of more than 68,000 votes over Espy as of 10:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday night. It is the last Senate election of the 2018 season.
  • She has held the office since March when she was appointed after Sen. Thad Cochran resigned.
  • Espy, a former congressman and Clinton administration alum, had sought to capitalise on Hyde-Smith’s missteps on the campaign trail, but ultimately fell short in the deep-red state.

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith won a Senate runoff election in Mississippi on Tuesday night, beating her Democratic challenger Mike Espy in what had become a tumultuous contest in the state.

Hyde-Smith and Espy were vying for the seat in a deep-red state where President Donald Trump took nearly 58% of the vote in 2016.

Hyde-Smith, the state’s former agriculture and commerce commissioner who was appointed to the Senate seat in March after Sen. Thad Cochran resigned, was favoured to win, despite recent criticism she received after telling a supporter she would attend a “public hanging,” if invited.

That remark conjured Mississippi’s history of racism, lynchings, and Jim Crow laws – and caused a handful of companies to withdraw their support for Hyde-Smith’s campaign. She has apologised for the comment.

Espy had sought to capitalise on the fallout from Hyde-Smith’s missteps, as well as subsequent revelations that his Republican opponent attended a “segregation academy” and celebrated the Confederacy.

But he, too, faced significant headwinds on the road to Washington.

An assessment from FiveThirtyEight indicated that Espy would need an “unprecedented” swing in order to win Tuesday night.

Some Democrats held out hope for Espy citing a resemblance between the Mississippi runoff and the December 2017 special election in neighbouring Alabama, where voters chose Democrat Doug Jones over the embattled Republican Roy Moore, whose campaign was crushed under the weight of a sexual-misconduct scandal.

The Alabama election gave the state its first Democratic senator in more than two decades, but that energy did not transfer to Mississippi, which has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1972.

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