Following the special election earlier this month, it looked like Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith — appointed in March to fill Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seat vacated by Thad Cochran — would have an easy runoff victory.
But a series of controversies has created a tight race with Democrat Mike Espy in the deeply conservative state, which voted for President Donald Trump by nearly 20 points in 2016.
To run against his Trump-endorsed opponent, Espy has appealed to moderate voters as a candidate focused on the issues and alluding that he would work with the Trump administration if it’s “good for Mississippi.”
“Whatever comes down the pike, regardless of where it emanates, if it comes from the White House, President Trump, fine,” he said. “If it’s good for Mississippi, I’ll vote for it. If it comes from the Democratic side, fine. If it’s good for us, I’ll vote for it. But the converse is also true.”
Earlier this month, Espy benefited from the “jungle primary” format in the special election, which allowed for multiple contenders from both parties to compete for the open seat for the remaining two years of Cochran’s term. In a field with two Republican candidates, Espy collected 40.6 percent of the vote, only 0.8 percent behind incumbent Hyde-Smith. State Sen. Chris McDaniel netted about 16 percent. One candidate needed 50 percent of the vote to avoid Tuesday’s runoff, but in a race with only a Democratic challenger, Hyde-Smith was in position to win.
Then, days after the midterms, Hyde-Smith’s campaign stumbled after a series of public statements were caught on video and a collection of photos from 2014 were shared, calling into question her views on race and voting rights.
Initially Hyde-Smith did not apologize for her comments, instead choosing to defend herself. Espy condemned her for evoking language reminiscent of lynchings that scar Mississippi’s history.
“Cindy Hyde-Smith’s comments are reprehensible,” Espy said in a statement. “They have no place in our political discourse, in Mississippi, or our country. We need leaders, not dividers, and her words show that she lacks the understanding and judgment to represent the people of our state.”
SOURCE: NATALY PAK