Republican have picked up another Senate seat after U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith won a divisive Mississippi runoff to remain in office.
The incumbent, 59-year-old Hyde-Smith, defeated Democrat Mike Espy, a former U.S. agriculture secretary who hoped to become Mississippi’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction when a black Republican was elected.
Hyde-Smith won with 54 to 46 percent of the vote.
The win allows Hyde-Smith to complete the final two years of Sen. Thad Cochran’s six-year term. Cochran retired in April. Hyde-Smith was appointed to temporarily succeed him.
The win makes her the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi.
The runoff was rocked by a video showing her praise a supporter by saying she’d attend a “public hanging” if he invited her. She called it an “exaggerated expression of regard.” The comment made Mississippi’s history of racist lynchings a runoff theme.
Espy came to the race with a troubled past. Espy’s resigned his position as Clinton-era Agriculture Secretary in 1994, in the midst of a federal investigation. That probe resulted Espy’s indictment for accepting gifts totaling $35,000 from businesses and lobbyists that his agency regulated.
President Donald Trump endorsed Hyde-Smith and rallied for her after the comments became public.
Republicans will now hold 53 of 100 Senate seats–two more than in the tight margin that saw Judge Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the Supreme Court in October.