Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith returns to Washington as a solidly loyal Trump supporter after the president stumped for her in what was a divisive runoff marked by racial turmoil over a video-recorded remark Hyde-Smith made decried as racist.

Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy, who was vying to become the state’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction, during Tuesday’s runoff.

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, speaks to supporters as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Hyde-Smith will now serve the final two years of retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's six year term. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, speaks to supporters as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Hyde-Smith will now serve the final two years of retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran’s six year term. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The race was rocked by the video, in which Hyde-Smith said of a supporter, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” A separate video showed her talking about “liberal folks” and making it “just a little more difficult” for them to vote.

Democrat Mike Espy, right, who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., shakes hands with a supporter in a crowded auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., after losing the runoff election, Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)
Democrat Mike Espy, right, who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., shakes hands with a supporter in a crowded auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., after losing the runoff election, Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)

The comments by Hyde-Smith, who is white, made Mississippi’s history of racist lynchings a theme of the runoff and spurred many black voters to return to the polls Tuesday.

Democrat Mike Espy speaks with reporters after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss.  Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.  (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Democrat Mike Espy speaks with reporters after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

In the aftermath of the video, Republicans worried they could face a repeat of last year’s special election in Alabama, in which a flawed Republican candidate handed Democrats a reliable GOP Senate seat in the Deep South. The GOP pumped resources into Mississippi, and President Donald Trump made a strong effort on behalf of Hyde-Smith, holding last-minute rallies in Mississippi on Monday.

Poll manager Larry Greer hands holds a roll of
Poll manager Larry Greer hands holds a roll of “I Voted” stickers given each person after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Speaking to supporters after her win, Hyde-Smith vowed to fight for everyone in the state when she goes to Washington.

“I want everybody to know, no matter who you voted for today, I’m going to always represent every Mississippian. I will work very hard and do my very best to make Mississippi very proud,” she said. Speaking to reporters later she said Trump had called to congratulate her and said she’d “been through a storm” and “survived it with grace.”

Democrat Mike Espy's campaign supporters stand around waiting for election results in the auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith won a divisive Mississippi runoff Tuesday, surviving a video-recorded remark decried as racist and defeating Espy, a former federal official who hoped to become the state's first African-American senator since Reconstruction. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)
Democrat Mike Espy’s campaign supporters stand around waiting for election results in the auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith won a divisive Mississippi runoff Tuesday, surviving a video-recorded remark decried as racist and defeating Espy, a former federal official who hoped to become the state’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)

Her supporters said the furor over her comments was overblown. They also stuck by her as a photo was circulated of her wearing a replica Confederate military hat during a 2014 visit to Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

Susan Fino, left, holds a sign for U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy and Logan Liddy holds one for Susan Liddy, a candidate for judge in the Chancery Court, District 18, Place 1 race at the Oxford Community Center in Oxford, Miss. on Tuesday, November 27, 2018. Mississippians are casting their ballots in runoff elections, including a U.S. Senate race pitting Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith against Democrat Mike Espy. (Bruce Newman/The Oxford Eagle via AP)
Susan Fino, left, holds a sign for U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy and Logan Liddy holds one for Susan Liddy, a candidate for judge in the Chancery Court, District 18, Place 1 race at the Oxford Community Center in Oxford, Miss. on Tuesday, November 27, 2018. Mississippians are casting their ballots in runoff elections, including a U.S. Senate race pitting Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith against Democrat Mike Espy. (Bruce Newman/The Oxford Eagle via AP)

“So many things are taken out of context,” said Elizabeth Gallinghouse, 84, from Diamondhead, Mississippi. “The fact that she toured Jefferson Davis’s house. You or I could have done the same thing. They said, ‘Put this cap on. Hold this gun.’ It was a fun time. She wasn’t trying to send any messages.”

Democrat Mike Espy, left feeds his ballot into the submission machine, as directed by poll manager Larry Greer, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.  (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Democrat Mike Espy, left feeds his ballot into the submission machine, as directed by poll manager Larry Greer, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

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. With Hyde-Smith’s victory, Republicans control 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats. The GOP lost control of the House, where Democrats will assume the majority in January.

Kathleen McCann walks to cast her vote  in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Gulfport, Miss.  Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Democrat Mike Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.  (John Fitzhugh/The Sun Herald via AP)
Kathleen McCann walks to cast her vote in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Gulfport, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Democrat Mike Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. (John Fitzhugh/The Sun Herald via AP)

In the final weeks of the runoff, Hyde-Smith’s campaign said the remark about making voting difficult was a joke. She said the “public hanging” comment was “an exaggerated expression of regard” for a fellow cattle rancher. During a televised debate nine days after the video was publicized, she apologized to “anyone that was offended by my comments,” but also said the remark was used as a “weapon” against her.

Democratic opponent Espy, 64, a former U.S. agriculture secretary, replied: “I don’t know what’s in your heart, but I know what came out of your mouth.”

Democrat Mike Espy leaves his precinct after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss.  Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.  (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Democrat Mike Espy leaves his precinct after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Addressing his supporters Tuesday night, Espy said: “While this is not the result we were hoping for, I am proud of the historic campaign we ran and grateful for the support we received across Mississippi. We built the largest grassroots organization our state has seen in a generation.”

Poll manager Larry Greer hands holds a roll of
Poll manager Larry Greer hands holds a roll of “I Voted” stickers given each person after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S. Senate race of the midterms, choosing between Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The “public hanging” comment also resonated with his supporters. “That really offended me,” said Charles Connley, 60, a black voter from Picayune.

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, speaks to supporters as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Hyde-Smith will now serve the final two years of retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's six year term. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, speaks to supporters as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Hyde-Smith will now serve the final two years of retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran’s six year term. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Some corporate donors, including Walmart, requested refunds on their campaign contributions to Hyde-Smith after the videos surfaced.

Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when Republican Thad Cochran retired, high fives a supporter as others look on in a crowded auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., after losing the runoff election, Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)
Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when Republican Thad Cochran retired, high fives a supporter as others look on in a crowded auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., after losing the runoff election, Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)

Hyde-Smith was in her second term as Mississippi agriculture commissioner when Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to temporarily succeed GOP Sen. Thad Cochran. The longtime lawmaker retired in April amid health concerns.

Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when Republican Thad Cochran retired stands with family members and talks to supporters in a crowded auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., after losing the runoff election, Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)
Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when Republican Thad Cochran retired stands with family members and talks to supporters in a crowded auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., after losing the runoff election, Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)

The win makes Hyde-Smith, 59, the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi.

Hyde-Smith and Espy emerged from a field of four candidates Nov. 6 to advance to Tuesday’s runoff. Her win allows her to complete the final two years of Cochran’s six-year term.

Gov. Phil Bryant welcomes Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith as they celebrate her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Hyde-Smith will now serve the final two years of retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's six year term. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Gov. Phil Bryant welcomes Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith as they celebrate her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Hyde-Smith will now serve the final two years of retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran’s six year term. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Shortly after the win Tuesday, Trump tweeted: “Congratulations to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith on your big WIN in the Great State of Mississippi. We are all very proud of you!”

Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when Republican Thad Cochran retired gets a hug from his wife Portia as supporters in a crowded auditorium look on at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., after losing the runoff election, Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)
Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when Republican Thad Cochran retired gets a hug from his wife Portia as supporters in a crowded auditorium look on at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., after losing the runoff election, Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)

____

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith calls on her family members to identify themselves as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Hyde-Smith will now serve the final two years of retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's six year term. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith calls on her family members to identify themselves as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Hyde-Smith will now serve the final two years of retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran’s six year term. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Associated Press writers Jeff Amy and Janet McConnaughey contributed to this report.

Gov. Phil Bryant welcomes Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith as they celebrate her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Hyde-Smith will now serve the final two years of retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's six year term. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Gov. Phil Bryant welcomes Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith as they celebrate her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. Hyde-Smith will now serve the final two years of retired Republican Sen. Thad Cochran’s six year term. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

____

Source: The Associated Press

Sign up to receive our latest news!

By submitting this form, I agree to the terms.