One day before Mississippi voters head to the polls again to cast a ballot in a special election for U.S. Senate, incumbent Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, the Republican candidate, has found herself in the middle of yet another scandal.
According to CNN, Hyde-Smith co-sponsored a resolution in Mississippi's state Senate in 2007 that praised a Confederate soldier for his efforts to "defend his homeland." She reportedly also pushed a "revisionist view of the Civil War." The measure, which can be found online, is the latest in a series of controversies that have embattled Hyde-Smith during her campaign, many of which have been interpreted by critics and political observers as having a link to Mississippi's long history of racism and slavery.
Hyde-Smith faces a runoff against Democrat Mike Espy, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture, in the race to fill longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's seat. Because neither Hyde-Smith or Espy garnered more than 50 percent of the vote on Election Day — both received slightly more than 40 percent — the race advanced to a runoff on Nov. 27, which polling had predicated. Tuesday's contest marks the last Senate race of the 2018 midterm election cycle.
News of the measure comes as Hyde-Smith faces mounting backlash for "joking" that she would sit "in the front row" at a "public hanging" in a state marred by its history of lynchings and after she said voting should be "a little more difficult" for "liberal folks" — remarks she maintains were made in jest. On Sunday, it was revealed that Hyde-Smith attended and graduated from a "segregation academy." Last week, photos surfaced of Hyde-Smith sporting Confederate soldier gear.
Hyde-Smith attempted to recover from a disastrous stretch of her Senate campaign, which seemed like a sure win for her until she imperiled her own prospects, by apologizing for her "public hanging" and voter suppression remarks last week during a Senate debate with Espy — the pair's only joint appearance before Tuesday's runoff election.
Although Hyde-Smith has attempted to push back against the political fallout from her comments, her polling advantage and financial prowess have dwindled while Espy's have caught steam. On Sunday, Major League Baseball asked Hyde-Smith to return its $5,000 campaign donation. Other major organizations, including Walmart and AT&T, have made similar requests in recent days after Hyde-Smith's "public hanging" comments went viral.
As Hyde-Smith faces mounting backlash ahead of the Nov. 27 runoff, Democrats hope to flip another red seat blue in Mississippi in the last Senate race of the 2018 midterm election cycle. While Espy was initially considered a long-shot candidate, the Democratic Party is attempting to duplicate the results of last year's special election race in Alabama, when Democrat Doug Jones pulled off a stunning upset over Roy Moore — a controversial Republican candidate who was toppled by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
While the results of Tuesday's runoff will not shift the balance of power in the Senate, as Republicans will maintain the majority even if Hyde-Smith loses, if Espy were to come out on top, it would limit the GOP's Senate advantage to four seats next year.
Strong Democratic turnout — especially among black voters — and an embattled Republican candidate lifted Jones to a surprise victory in Alabama. Espy could succeed in replicating Jones' efforts in Mississippi, where 35 percent of the electorate is African-American.
Still, the chances of a Democratic victory in Mississippi — a state that President Donald Trump won by nearly 18 percentage points in the 2016 election and whose senior senator, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, was reelected by nearly 20 points earlier this month — remain to be seen. Moreover, Mississippi has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1982, and Trump plans to swoop into the state on the eve of the runoff election to boost Hyde-Smith and Republican enthusiasm in Mississippi.