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Hyde-Smith Gained Lead in Runoff Espy Couldn’t Catch

By Anna Grace Usery

Newly-elected Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith pulled the majority of the vote in Mississippi’s U.S. Senate Special Election throughout Tuesday night as polls closed and precincts began reporting across the state. At 9:23 p.m., the New York Times called the race in Hyde-Smith’s favor, deeming her Mississippi’s newest representative to the U.S. Senate. 

Results were neck-and-neck early on between Hyde-Smith and Espy as Warren, Coahoma and Lawrence counties led the charge on reporting votes. At the 7:30 p.m. mark, the New York Times reported 11,497 total votes counted with Hyde-Smith’s 50.2 percent leading Espy’s 49.8 percent.

Hyde-Smith broke a lead Espy distantly followed the entire night.

A few minutes later, with nearly 65,000 statewide votes tallied, Hyde-Smith led 54.6 percent over Espy’s 45.4 percent.

Hyde-Smith’s lead continued to widen over the course of the night.

“A minute ago I did call Cindy Hyde-Smith and I congratulated her on her victory tonight,” Espy said after national news outlets called the race. “She has my prayers as she goes to Washington to unite a very divided Mississippi.”

At 9:15 p.m., Hyde-Smith continued a wide lead as 72 percent of precincts reported with her 56 percent to Espy’s 44.

Lafayette County voters were divided almost equally. Hyde-Smith had just over 50 percent of the votes, 7,677 votes, while Espy garnered just over 49 percent with 7,473 votes.

At 10 p.m. with 91.5 percent of statewide precincts reporting, Hyde-Smith sealed the deal with 433,091 votes against Espy’s 362,673. 

The Senate special election runoff was in response to an inconclusive winner during the midterm election Nov. 6. Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel muddied the midterm results as he pulled nearly 16 percent of the state’s votes, while Espy and Hyde-Smith pulled 43 and 40 percent, respectively. Because no candidate landed half of the vote, a runoff ensued.

Mississippi’s political landscape was heavily charged in the weeks and days leading up the runoff election Nov. 27. Both candidates underwent scrutiny for certain political endeavors, but it’s unclear whether the issues brought to light had an effect on voters.

Mississippi Matters—a coalition of grassroots Mississippi-based organizations and national partners—created a petition asking for Hyde-Smith’s resignation, as well as her removal from the runoff election in response to her recorded comments at a support rally in Tupelo and campaign visit in Starkville.

Both videos of Hyde-Smith’s comments reached a national audience.

“If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” she said in regards to acknowledging Tupelo cattle rancher Colin Hutchinson’s support.

The video that surfaced from the Starkville visit addressed a form of alleged voter suppression.

“There’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who that maybe we don’t want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. So, I think that’s a great idea,” Hyde-Smith said in the video clip.

Espy also faced negative comments after accepting full payment of a lobbying contract from Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo in 2011, who is now on trial in international court for crimes against humanity.

Espy said he halted the business contract and only received a partial payment of the contract in 2011, according to The Clarion Ledger.

On the Monday following the runoff election, President Donald Trump made a special visit to Tupelo and Biloxi to rally Mississippians in support of Hyde-Smith.

As Trump took the stage he publicly announced his support for the Republican candidate by saying, “Cindy is so important, so respected.”

“It is hard to describe the feats tonight for me and my family,” Hyde-Smith said in regards to her Tuesday night victory. “But tonight, in this victory, the reasons we won were because Mississippians know me and they know my heart. Thank you for standing up Mississippi.”

Hyde-Smith’s term will last two years as she enters the seat after former Senator Thad Cochran stepped down in April because of health reasons.

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