Cindy Hyde-Smith overcame racially-tinged verbal gaffes late in her campaign to retain her U.S. Senate seat from Mississippi Tuesday night, defeating Mike Espy, who was seeking to become the state's first black senator since Reconstruction.
A week before the runoff election to decide who would permanently fill the seat Hyde-Smith was appointed to after longtime Sen. She faced off in a special election against Democratic former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.
The Jackson Free Press reported that Hyde-Smith attended a so-called "segregation academy", one of hundreds of private schools in MS that were established in the 1960s and 1970s after federal courts ordered public schools to desegregate.
Hyde-Smith tried to tether herself as close as possible to President Trump, touting her pro-Trump voting record and campaigning in a bus dubbed the "MAGA Wagon". But when video surfaced earlier this month of the senator telling a supporter, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row", the state's racial wounds were re-opened.
In the final weeks of the runoff, Hyde-Smith's campaign said the remark about making voting hard was a joke. He tried to recreate the coalition that propelled Democrat Doug Jones to a Senate win in neighbouring Alabama previous year by energizing black voters, particularly women, and winning support from white swing voters.
The comments from Hyde-Smith, who is white, were quickly seized upon by Espy, who was vying to become not only the first Democrat the state had elected to the Senate in almost four decades, but also the first African-American senator from the state since Reconstruction. "Maybe we want to make it just a little more hard". She called it an "exaggerated expression of regard".
In photos posted to her Facebook account in 2014, Hyde-Smith was pictured posing with Confederate artifacts during a visit to Beauvoir, the home and library of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Her comments brought more scrutiny to her campaign. Trump endorsed her over McDaniel even though the challenger was the more Trump-like candidate.
Hyde-Smith's comments prompted deeper dives into her history. And she delivered perhaps the strongest Senate floor speech supporting Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's troubled nomination.
The victory for Hyde-Smith comes after the left-wing mainstream media launched an all-out effort to stop Hyde-Smith by distorting remarks that she had made and past actions as signs that she was a racist.