Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith defeats Michael Espy in Mississippi upset

Cindy Hyde-Smith was elected to the U.S. Senate after racially charged election


Photo obtained via Wikimedia Commons.

Kyle Hawley, Reporter

The 2018 U.S. Senatorial election has finally concluded this past week with the results of the Mississippi runoff. The Republicans managed to win a narrow majority in the Senate securing 53 seats to the Democrat’s 47.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy to fill the vacant seat left by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran.

Former Sen. Cochran resigned from Congress in April due to health-related issues. The governor of Mississippi appointed then-Agriculture commissioner, Hyde-Smith, to the highest chamber in the bicameral congress.

Hyde-Smith announced her Senate bid to hold Cochran’s seat and immediately began campaigning. Her time in the Senate so far has a good Republican voting record with a yes for both Justice Kavanaugh and CIA Director Gina Haspel.     

The special election to fill Sen. Cochran vacant seat was set for Nov. 6, along with the rest of the midterm elections. However, no candidate received a simple majority of the votes after the precincts were recorded. The two candidates with the most votes, Hyde-Smith and Espy, advanced to the runoff elections.

What seemed like a Republican shoo-in due to the fact Mississippi is in the deep south and President Donald Trump winning the state in the 2016 presidential election with 18-points was under scrutiny.

Hyde-Smith, a conservative who appeals to Mississippians with her stance on pro-life and supporting our military, made them question whom they’d vote for when a racial comment emerged. A video of Hyde-Smith saying she’d be in “the front row [of a] a public hanging” surfaced on the campaign trail earlier this month.

Hyde-Smith was referring to lynching, a public execution event in the South used during the segregation era. According to the NAACP, between 1882-1968, 4,743 documented lynchings have occurred in the U.S. Out of those, a total of 581 took place in Mississippi, the highest out of any state in the nation.

“Think about what happens if a video of a racist remark is recorded of a high school student. The colleges will most likely repeal their acceptance. It should apply to our government officials as well,” sophomore Emma Steel said. 

Many voters did not like that insensitive comment and did more research on the U.S. Senator. According to The New Yorker, she praised Beauvoir, the home of the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, as “Mississippi history at its best!” She also graduated from an academy that avoided the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling of the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education to have her school remain segregated.

“As America, we have come past our racist history. By voting for a candidate who has a habit of making racist remarks allows this into our government. This a government that is supposed to represent everyone, regardless of their background,” Steel said.

Democratic challenger Secretary Espy, an African American, said in a debate between the two, “I don’t know what’s in your heart, but we know what came out of your mouth.” Hyde-Smith tried playing it as a “joke” when the video came to air. However, she finally apologized during the last debate.

“Her apology probably saved enough votes to put her over the edge in Mississippi,” said Claire Akard, Secretary of McLean’s Turning Point USA.

This election now had national attention. It managed to pull the spotlight away from the Florida recount between outgoing Florida Governor Rick Scott, now the Senator-Elect, and outgoing incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson.

This situation had many similarities to the U.S. Senate Special Election upset in Alabama last year. After Trump nominated now-former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to run the Justice Department, it left his seat vacant.

The Alabaman governor nominated former Republican Sen. Luther Strange to Congress. While Strange did run to hold the seat permanently, he lost the Republican nomination to Roy Moore.

Roy Moore, the charismatic nominee, was going to win especially walking on stage during a campaign rally baring a revolver pistol claiming he will always support the Second Amendment.      

However, Moore’s future of being a representer died when The Washington Post reported allegations of sexual misconduct from four women. At the time, the women were teenagers while Moore was a legal adult.

Moore declined the allegations all the way through the campaign trail. He claimed that corrupt Democrats are targeting him. 

Trump strongly endorsed him to keep the seat in the Senate, a majority of congressional GOP representatives and popular governors condemned him, and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah began a write-in campaign to re-elect Sen. Luther Strange.

The Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, was elected the next U.S. Senator from Alabama on Dec. 12, 2017. According to the New York Times, He won with exactly 50.0 percent while Moore, who never conceded the election, exited the race with 48.3 percent of the vote. Sen. Jones is the first Democrat to serve on behalf of Alabama in the U.S. Senate in 21 years.

“People know good from bad, and everyone in Alabama should be proud of their choice not to elect a pedophile to be their representative, unlike Mississippi,” Steel said.   

As the runoff election drew nearer, the White House began to panic. Come this January, the House of Representatives under Democrat control. The GOP needed a right amount of seats in the Senate if they hope to get any new bills passed.

In a final effort to persuade the Mississippians, President Trump and Vice President Michael Pence traveled to the state on Nov. 26, with a mission of rallying the voters and urge them to vote for Sen. Hyde-Smith.

On stage in front of hundreds upon thousands of Americans, Trump exclaimed: “I am asking every citizen from every party, community, background, race, color, creed, religion for your support tomorrow: Cindy Hyde-Smith,” Trump said. “I need the great people of Mississippi to send a message to crying Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, the radical Democrats by electing Cindy.”

Regardless of their personalities, Trump is campaigning on behalf of these Republicans candidates.

“It comes to which you value more: good American values or a good voting record,” Akard said. “It’s going to be a tough sacrifice either way. Either we have a racist in Congress or have one less conservative representative.”

From being merely a Republican, an endorsement by President Trump, and an apology statement, Mississippians voted to elect Cindy Hyde-Smith on Nov. 27. According to the New York Times, She received 53.9 percent of the vote, and Secretary Espy conceded the election with 46.1 percent.

However, Sen. Hyde-Smith did lose tons of Republican support. Incumbent GOP Sen. Roger Wicker’s seat was due for an election and sought re-election which he won with 58.8 percent of the vote. His Democratic challenger, State Rep. David Baria, conceded with 39.8 percent. He won around 20 percent of the statewide vote, more than President Trump did in 2016.

Secretary Espy even managed to flip a few counties that swung Sen. Wicker’s way. Unfortunately for Senate Democrats, it was not enough to be elected.

In her victory speech, the first woman from Mississippi ever to be elected to the U.S. Senate said, “I want everybody to know, no matter whom 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.”

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith’s seat will be up for re-election in 2020 along with the presidency and other senatorial seats.