Mississippi Senate race: Cindy Hyde-Smith defeats Mike Espy
Mississippi Senate race runoff live results:
✔ Cindy Hyde-Smith (R)53.9% Mike Espy (D) 46.1%
Districts reporting: 97%
Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated challenger Mike Espy, a Democrat, in the runoff election for the U.S. Senate in Mississippi, CBS News projects. Hyde-Smith was appointed earlier this year by GOP Gov. Phil Bryant after Sen. Thad Cochran, also a Republican, stepped down. Hyde-Smith is the first woman elected to the Senate from Mississippi, and the Republican majority in the Senate will grow to 53-47.
Espy, her opponent, is a former congressman and former agriculture secretary.
Hyde-Smith and Espy advanced to a run-off because neither won 50 percent of the vote in the general election on Nov. 6. Hyde-Smith won 41.2 percent, compared to Espy's 40.8 percent, and Republican Chris McDaniel picked up 16.5 percent.
President Trump endorsed Hyde-Smith, and visited Mississippi on Monday for two rallies supporting her campaign.
Nicole Sganga contributed to this report.
Follow Mississippi Senate special election live updates as they happened:
Hyde-Smith: "Mississippians know me"
Hyde-Smith thanked her supporters, and credited the state's conservative values for her victory.
"This win tonight, this victory, it's about our conservative values," she said at her election party in Jackson. "It's about the things that mean the most to all of us Mississippians: Our faith, our family. But it's those things that I will take to Washington, D.C., that I want to represent all of Mississippians with these values. And I will fight for it, I assure you, every single day. I am your warrior."
And she spoke with reporters briefly after she addressed supporters. She said that nothing in this race has discouraged her from running for office in the future, and she identified prison reform and the economy as issues she'll focus on in Washington.
Given the partisanship that infected the Senate campaign, Hyde-Smith was asked how she will represent all Mississippians.
"The reason I was elected tonight -- because the people in Mississippi, they know me, and they know that I'm going to represent everybody. I always have; that's always been the case."
She pointed out, "This is not my first race. This is the sixth race that I have won. I've been on the ballot five times before this. Mississippians know me. Other people try to turn it into something that it's not, and they don't believe them. They know who I am. I've been around awhile, and I have a long, very good history -- very good record of public service. They know who I am."
Espy concedes: "not the result we were hoping for"
Espy said in a statement, "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." He vowed that tonight's election "is the beginning, not the end" and promised that "we are not going to stop moving our state forward just because of one election. I look forward to finding new ways to do just that."
Trump tweets congratulations to Hyde-Smith
After defeating her Democratic challenger, President Trump tweeted his congratulations to Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. "We are all very proud of you," he wrote.
Polls are closed
Polls closed in Mississippi at 8 p.m. ET. Districts will report to the secretary of state as they tally the final results in their respective districts.
Trump says he thinks Hyde-Smith will do "very well"
President Trump told the Washington Post in an interview Tuesday that he was optimistic about Hyde-Smith's chances after holding two campaign rallies in Mississippi on Monday.
"Based on the enthusiasm we saw there I think we're going to do very well, but we'll see," he said.
However, Mr. Trump complained that regardless of the result, he would be treated unfairly.
"I know one thing: If she loses, I'll be blamed, and if she wins, I'll be given no credit. That's the only thing I know," he said.
Republican voters in Mississippi may not be thrilled with Hyde-Smith as a candidate, but they are coalescing behind her as the GOP candidate in the race.
"She's a Republican, I guess," said Jerry Smith, a grandfather and longtime Mississippi resident, about why he was voting for Hyde-Smith. He was not deterred by the backlash to her racially-tinged comments about being willing to attend a "public hanging."
"I think it's been overblown," Smith said over a simmering plate of Chinese food at the Edgewater Mall in Biloxi. "But I ask myself sometimes, which are the two of the least evil -- which of the two are the least evil. I'm voting for Smith. I just think she's the less of the two evils."
Betty Lechman, a Biloxi-area resident of five decades, told CBS News' Kathryn Watson that she would vote for Hyde-Smith because she was a Republican.
"But like I said, neither one of them, I wish I had somebody else to vote for. But it's not going to happen," Lechman added. "All the mud-slinging. I don't like mud-slinging and both of them are doing that."
Her friend, Marion Cranmer, also a retired longtime Mississippi resident, agreed.
"There's been too much mud-slinging," Cranmer said, frustrated. "You just wonder sometimes what you hear about her whether some of it's not true. But, it just kind of puts you on the fence. I don't like either one of them."
As of Monday, Cranmer wasn't sure if she'd be voting. But, "if you don't vote for her, it's a vote for him," she added.
Dianne Swennumson, an Espy supporter, said that she wasn't confident about the Democratic candidate's chances. She and her husband have supported Republicans in the past but say they're appalled by Mr. Trump's rhetoric and behavior. Swennumson was always planning to vote for Espy, but felt more certain about her decision after Hyde-Smith's "public hanging" comment.
"I think he has a chance but I think this is Mississippi," Swennumson said. "I wish we could be like Alabama who had enough with Roy Moore, you know. I really didn't think that was going to happen but it did, and it could be."
"I'll be totally shocked if Espy wins," Swennumson added.
Reporting by Kathryn Watson
Hyde-Smith and Espy head to the polls
Espy and Hyde-Smith spoke to reporters after voting on Tuesday. Espy said that while African Americans are nearly 40 percent of the population, he knew he would need the support of some white voters in order to win.
"If only African Americans come out to vote for m, even if they come out in record numbers, I won't win," he said. He said that he talked to white voters "as Mississippians."
Hyde-Smith told reporters after voting that President Trump's rallies in the state on Monday were "wonderful."
"We all worked real hard," she said about her campaign.
As agriculture secretary, Espy was forced to resign from the Clinton administration when questions were raised about whether he had received improper gifts. He was later indicted but ultimately acquitted on all charges.
Espy has also been criticized by Hyde-Smith's campaign for misstating the payment he collected from a lobbying contract with Ivory Coast ex-President Laurent Gbagbo.
Hyde-Smith has faced a backlash over comments she made earlier this month. She was captured on video praising a supporter by saying, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." Hyde-Smith and her campaign initially dismissed the comment as a bad joke. She later apologized "to anyone who was offended."
The reaction to Hyde-Smith's comments was especially strong because Mississippi has a history of racially motivated lynchings. According to the NAACP website, there were 4,743 lynchings in the U.S. between 1882 and 1968, and nearly 73 percent of the victims were black. Mississippi had 581 lynchings during that time, the highest number of any state.
On Nov. 15, another video surfaced online in which Hyde-Smith said making it more difficult for people to vote is a "great idea." Her campaign said the remark was a joke, but some accused her of supporting voter suppression efforts in the deep South.
President Trump threw his support behind Republican Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith ahead of the election holding two rallies for her Monday, one in Tupelo, Mississippi, and then one 300 miles to the south in Biloxi, Mississippi.
In Tupelo, Mr. Trump cast Espy as "far left."
"Cindy's far left opponent," he called Espy. "He's far left. Oh, he's out there. How does he fit in with Mississippi, I mean how does he fit in?"
Espy responded to Mr. Trump's questioning of how he fits into Mississippi politics after voting on Tuesday.
"I was the first black congressman [in Mississippi] since the Civil War," Espy said. "Mike Espy was the secretary of agriculture -- first Mississippian to ever hold that post, first black in the nation to ever hold that post." Espy also said that he inherited the legacy of his grandfather, who founded a hospital in the state.
Last week, Mr. Trump called Hyde-Smith "a spectacular woman" and a "great senator." He also defended her for the "public hanging" remark, saying, "She made a statement which I know that she feels very badly about it, and it was just sort of said in jest, as she said. And she's a tremendous woman. And it's a shame that she has to go through this."
About Cindy Hyde-Smith
Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate by Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant in April, after Sen. Thad Cochran stepped down due to health concerns. Before that, she was the state agricultural commissioner.
She was a member of the Mississippi state Senate between 2000 and 2012. Although initially elected to the state Senate as a Democrat, she switched parties to become a Republican in 2010.
As a child, Hyde-Smith attended a private school founded to prevent racial integration. She later enrolled her daughter in a similar segregation academy.
About Mike Espy
Mike Espy is a former congressman and secretary of agriculture during the Clinton administration. He was the first African-American congressman to represent Mississippi since Reconstruction, and the first African-American and Mississippian to serve as secretary of agriculture.
Espy has deep roots in the state. His great-grandparents were slaves, and his grandfather built a hospital which was a leading health care provider for African Americans in the state during the 20th century.
If Espy wins, he will be the first Democrat in Mississippi to be elected to the Senate since 1982.