Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith won re-election Tuesday in a MS runoff that should've been an easy victory but turned unexpectedly competitive after a late-stage controversy.
He told the crowd that he had called Hyde-Smith to congratulate her after a grueling campaign that drew national attention in large part because of Hyde-Smith's comments about attending a public hanging and supporting voter suppression.
During the campaign, she said she would sit "in the front row" at a "public hanging."
Hyde-Smith has campaigned as a supporter of Trump, who campaigned with her in Tupelo and Gulfport.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith speak to supporters during a Make America Great Again rally in Biloxi, Mississippi, U.S., November 26, 2018. "We are all proud of you". The final tally isn't in yet but with 88% of precincts reporting, Hyde-Smith leads 54.8% to Espy's 45.2 percent. In and itself that is not necessarily problematic, but the caption Hyde-Smith posted below the photo, presumably written by her, clearly said that Confederate artifacts and weapons represent "Mississippi history at its best!" Espy, who is black, called her comments "reprehensible".
The contest caps a campaign season that exposed persistent racial divisions in America - and the willingness of some political candidates to exploit them to win elections.
The worry stemmed from an unguarded moment on her campaign trail when Hyde-Smith revealed her racist attitude toward African Americans.More news: Warriors star Stephen Curry OK after scary auto crash, report says
"While we are hopeful that the Senator-elect will prove herself worthy of her new office, this election demonstrates the need to continue broadening the tent of civic and democratic participation in our nation", the pioneering civil rights organization said in a brief statement.
"Mississippi was one of the last two states to have never elected a woman to Congress", said Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, according to USA Today.
Her supporters said the furor over her comments was overblown. Fellow Democrat Doug Jones used the same election promise to win his seat on the Senate in Alabama back in 2017.
But Hyde-Smith and Trump insisted that she's a loyal supporter of the president's agenda. A two-term state agriculture commissioner, the Republican was viewed as the best bet to head off a primary challenger from conservative firebrand Chris McDaniel, a state senator who had nearly knocked off Cochran in 2014.
Tuesday's victor will fill the last two years of the term of longtime Republican senator Thad Cochran, who resigned because of health problems, and have to run again in 2020. She later sent her daughter to a similar school. But if black voters rise to 40 percent of the electorate and Espy wins 9 out of 10, he needs less than a quarter of white votes for victory.
Espy, an attorney, said: "I found out later that this guy, the president, was a really bad guy". She quickly pivoted to accusing her opponent of twisting her comment into a political attack against her. Mississippi's dark history of lynching is still a contentious issue and one that all decent folks would be wise to avoid making gags about.