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Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith will win Mississippi's US Senate runoff election, CNN projects, in a contest that centered on her actions and comments evoking the state's dark history of racism and slavery.

Thad Cochran who retired earlier this year.

Hyde-Smith, 59, a former Democrat and former state agriculture commissioner, becomes the first woman from MS to be elected to Congress.

U.S. media projected that Hyde-Smith would defeat her black challenger in a campaign that recalled the state's history of racist violence.

She sparked further controversy when she was shown on another video joking about suppressing liberal student votes, and photographs surfaced of her posing with Confederate artefacts in 2014.

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 Democrats a reliable GOP Senate seat in the Deep South.

Hyde-Smith was the favorite in the solidly red state, and the final Senate election of 2018 was long seen as an afterthought.

During the fallout from her "public hanging" comment, Hyde-Smith agreed to debate Espy in a private room devoid of reporters. She said she was sorry to anyone who was offended by her remarks, but then blamed Espy for twisting her words for political gain.

Speaking to supporters after her win, Hyde-Smith vowed to fight for everyone in the state when she goes to Washington. With Hyde-Smith's victory, Republicans control 53 of the Senate's 100 seats.

Trump congratulated Hyde-Smith on Twitter late Tuesday night.

Hyde-Smith was also helped by an election eve visit by President Trump, who held two rallies with her on Monday. But she also struck a unifying note saying, "I want everybody to know, no matter who you voted for today, I'm going to always represent every Mississippian".

Joe Trippi, a strategist for the Espy and Jones campaigns, said before Election Day that MS would be tougher than Alabama because it's "rural and it's less urban, less suburban, and more conservative" as well as more polarized. She later sent her daughter to a similar school.

A week later, she apologized for the public hanging comment but added that it was being "twisted" and "turned into a political weapon to be used against me" by Espy.

Several companies that had donated to Hyde-Smith's campaign, including Walmart, publicly withdrew their support for the senator over the "public hanging" comment. A two-term state agriculture commissioner, the Republican was viewed as the best bet to head off a primary challenger from conservative firebrand Chris McDaniel, a state senator who had nearly knocked off Cochran in 2014.

Hyde-Smith and Espy emerged from a field of four candidates November 6 to advance to Tuesday's runoff.

"To the lawless caravans and illegal trespassers marching toward our border, it is very simple: Turn back now, go back home, we will not let you in", Trump said.


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