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Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeats Democrat Mike Espy in special election; Peter Doocy reports from Jackson, Miss.

MS voters went back to the polls today for an unusual special U.S. Senate election runoff, with incumbent Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith (who was appointed to the position earlier this year) heavily favored over former congressman and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy.

He told the crowd that he had called Hyde-Smith to congratulate her after a grueling campaign that drew national attention in large part because of Hyde-Smith's comments about attending a public hanging and supporting voter suppression.

President Donald Trump, seemingly anxious to cap off the 2018 midterm election season with a Republican upset, urged voters on Tuesday to turn out for Hyde-Smith, the embattled Republican who has faced mounting backlash over racially divisive incidents that surfaced in the weeks following the general election. 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.

Several businesses, including giant retailer Walmart, had demanded Hyde-Smith return their donations after her public hanging comment.

But Hyde-Smith's win proved how solidly conservative the state is, and how big the challenges still are for Democrats. Mississippi's dark history of lynching is still a contentious issue and one that all decent folks would be wise to avoid making gags about.

The runoff to serve the last two years of former Republican Senator Thad Cochran's term was triggered after neither Espy nor Hyde-Smith secured more than half of the vote needed to settle the November 6 special election. She said she was joking in each instance.

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"He said, 'Who is Mike Espy?' " Espy said.

In the aftermath of the video, Republicans anxious they could face a repeat of last year's special election in Alabama, in which a flawed Republican candidate handed the Democrats a reliable Republican Senate seat in the Deep South.

Still, Espy often struggled to address accusations of ethical lapses. They said, 'Put this cap on. Hyde-Smith now leads 56 percent to 44 percent, although the remaining uncounted vote figures to be Democratic-leaning.

"They used to hang horse thieves back in the day", said Ben Schuler, who said he reliably votes for Republicans. "I don't give a damn what other people think", Charles Evers said.

The win makes her the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi.

"We are so locked into the concept of tradition as in heritage; I'm sure I had relatives who fought in the Civil War".

"While not the results we were hoping for, I am still so proud of this very historic campaign", said Espy.