Rocked by racial controversy, Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith pulled out a win and beat Democrat Mike Espy Tuesday in a controversial Senate runoff, USA Today reports.
Hyde-Smith’s win makes her the first woman from Mississippi elected to Congress, amid intense scrutiny for comments she made about a public hanging.
Earlier this month, a video surfaced of Hyde-Smith praising a supporter at a Nov. 2 campaign rally, saying she would “fight a circular saw for him.” And then added: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”
Mississippi’s history is notably rife with the lynchings of African-Americans. The state had the highest number of the terroristic murders between 1882 and 1968, according to NAACP records.
Campaign spokesmen for both Hyde-Smith and Espy called the video inappropriate. But her supporters accused Espy of trying to unfairly attack his opponent.
For his part, Espy noted that while Hyde-Smith’s “public lynching” comment “inflamed passions,” he too found the latest ad, which was not produced by his campaign, to be disturbing and racially divisive.
“This is the same out-of-state group that is spending millions of dollars promoting Mike Espy and has now taken his campaign to the lowest depths imaginable,” Hyde-Smith campaign spokeswoman Melissa Scallan said in a statement. “It is time for Mike Espy to tell his group to end this appalling, divisive attack.”
But she was also blasted after a photograph surfaced of her wearing confederate soldier regalia calling artifacts connected to Civil War rebels “Mississippi history at its best.”
The NACCP issued a statement pushing back on Hyde-Smith’s win and calling for parity across the party lines.
“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. We must continue to organize, empower Americans to make their voices heard, and use and harness this power to produce real change in Mississippi and nationwide.”
Despite her incendiary comments which have been blasted as racist, Hyde-Smith told her supporters that she plans to serve all the people.
“You’ve handed me a victory. I’m not going to let you down,” Hyde-Smith told supporters in Jackson. “I am going to Washington, D.C. first thing in the morning.”
Others characterized Hyde-Smith’s win as another step for women in congress.
“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 told USA Today. “While Cindy Hyde-Smith got Mississippi out of that undistinguished club when she was appointed, there still had never been a woman elected, so this is another milestone for the state of Mississippi.”
President Trump who endorsed Hyde-Smith, celebrated her win on social media.
Congratulations to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith on your big WIN in the Great State of Mississippi. We are all very proud of you!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 28, 2018
With Hyde-Smith’s win, a record number of women will take up Congressional residence its 116th session.