U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith returns to Washington as a solidly loyal supporter of President Donald Trump after he stumped for her in a divisive Mississippi runoff 

Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary in a runoff election held last Tuesday.

Hyde-Smith, who carried Neshoba County, received about 54 percent of the vote to Espy’s 46 percent. 

Hyde-Smith and Espy emerged from a field of four candidates Nov. 6 to advance to Tuesday’s runoff. She will complete the final two years of the six-year term Cochran started.

Speaking to supporters after her win, Hyde-Smith vowed to fight for everyone in the state when she goes to Washington.

“I want everybody to know, no matter who 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,” she said. Speaking to reporters later, she said Trump had called to congratulate her and said she’d “been through a storm” and “survived it with grace.”



Her supporters said the furor over comments she made about a “public hanging” was overblown. 

“So many things are taken out of context,” said Elizabeth Gallinghouse, 84, from Diamondhead, Mississippi. 

Hyde-Smith was in her second term as Mississippi agriculture commissioner when Republican Gov. Phil Bryant appointed her to temporarily succeed GOP Sen. Thad Cochran. The longtime lawmaker retired in April amid health concerns. Her win Tuesday makes Hyde-Smith the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi.

The contest caps a campaign season that exposed persistent racial divisions in America — and the willingness of some political candidates to exploit them to win elections. With Hyde-Smith’s victory, Republicans control 53 of the Senate’s 100 seats. The GOP lost control of the House, where Democrats will assume the majority in January.

In the final weeks of the runoff, Hyde-Smith’s campaign said the remark about making voting difficult was a joke. She said the “public hanging” comment was “an exaggerated expression of regard” for a fellow cattle rancher. During a televised debate nine days after the video was publicized, she apologized to “anyone that was offended by my comments.” But Hyde-Smith, 59, said the remark was used as a “weapon” against her. 

Some corporate donors, including Walmart, requested refunds on their campaign contributions to Hyde-Smith after the videos surfaced.

Espy, 64, replied: “I don’t know what’s in your heart, but I know what came out of your mouth.”

Addressing his supporters last Tuesday night at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Espy said: “While this is not the result we were hoping for, I am proud of the historic campaign we ran and grateful for the support we received across Mississippi. We built the largest grassroots organization our state has seen in a generation.”

Espy has already filed paperwork to run in 2020.