Divisive race ends with Republican Hyde-Smith victory

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks to her supporters as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, No

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks to her supporters as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, No

Democrat Mike Espy, right, who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., shakes hands with a supporter in a crowded auditorium a

Democrat Mike Espy, right, who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., shakes hands with a supporter in a crowded auditorium a

Democrat Mike Espy speaks with reporters after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss.  Mississippi voters are deciding

Democrat Mike Espy speaks with reporters after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding

Appointed Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, center, greets neighbors at her Brookhaven, Miss., precinct after voting Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, in h

Appointed Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, center, greets neighbors at her Brookhaven, Miss., precinct after voting Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018, in h

President Donald Trump encourages voters to support appointed Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in a runoff race Tuesday against Democrat Mike Esp

President Donald Trump encourages voters to support appointed Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in a runoff race Tuesday against Democrat Mike Esp

Poll manager Larry Greer hands holds a roll of "I Voted" stickers given each person after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgel

Poll manager Larry Greer hands holds a roll of "I Voted" stickers given each person after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgel

Democrat Mike Espy's campaign supporters stand around waiting for election results in the auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson

Democrat Mike Espy's campaign supporters stand around waiting for election results in the auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson

Susan Fino, left, holds a sign for U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy and Logan Liddy holds one for Susan Liddy, a candidate for judge in the Chancery Co

Susan Fino, left, holds a sign for U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy and Logan Liddy holds one for Susan Liddy, a candidate for judge in the Chancery Co

Democrat Mike Espy, left feeds his ballot into the submission machine, as directed by poll manager Larry Greer, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, M

Democrat Mike Espy, left feeds his ballot into the submission machine, as directed by poll manager Larry Greer, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, M

Kathleen McCann walks to cast her vote  in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Gulfport, Miss.  Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S.

Kathleen McCann walks to cast her vote in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Gulfport, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding the last U.S.

Democrat Mike Espy leaves his precinct after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss.  Mississippi voters are deciding t

Democrat Mike Espy leaves his precinct after voting in a runoff election Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018 in Ridgeland, Miss. Mississippi voters are deciding t

Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when

Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when

Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when

Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith calls on her family members to identify themselves as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in J

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith calls on her family members to identify themselves as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in J

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks to her supporters as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, No

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks to her supporters as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, No

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith calls on her family members to identify themselves as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in J

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith calls on her family members to identify themselves as she celebrates her runoff win over Democrat Mike Espy in J

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith returns to Washington as a solidly loyal Trump supporter after the president stumped for her in what was a divisive runoff marked by racial turmoil over a video-recorded remark Hyde-Smith made decried as racist.

Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy, who was vying to become the state's first African-American senator since Reconstruction, during Tuesday's runoff.

The race was rocked by the video, in which Hyde-Smith said of a supporter, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." A separate video showed her talking about "liberal folks" and making it "just a little more difficult" for them to vote.

The comments by Hyde-Smith, who is white, made Mississippi's history of racist lynchings a theme of the runoff and spurred many black voters to return to the polls Tuesday.

In the aftermath of the video, Republicans worried 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. The GOP pumped resources into Mississippi, and President Donald Trump made a strong effort on behalf of Hyde-Smith, holding last-minute rallies in Mississippi on Monday.

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 her comments was overblown. They also stuck by her as a photo was circulated of her wearing a replica Confederate military hat during a 2014 visit to Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

"So many things are taken out of context," said Elizabeth Gallinghouse, 84, from Diamondhead, Mississippi. "The fact that she toured Jefferson Davis's house. You or I could have done the same thing. They said, 'Put this cap on. Hold this gun.' It was a fun time. She wasn't trying to send any messages."

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 also said the remark was used as a "weapon" against her.

Democratic opponent Espy, 64, a former U.S. agriculture secretary, replied: "I don't know what's in your heart, but I know what came out of your mouth."

Addressing his supporters Tuesday night, 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."

The "public hanging" comment also resonated with his supporters. "That really offended me," said Charles Connley, 60, a black voter from Picayune.

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

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.

The win makes Hyde-Smith, 59, the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi.

Hyde-Smith and Espy emerged from a field of four candidates Nov. 6 to advance to Tuesday's runoff. Her win allows her to complete the final two years of Cochran's six-year term.

Shortly after the win Tuesday, Trump tweeted: "Congratulations to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith on your big WIN in the Great State of Mississippi. We are all very proud of you!"

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Associated Press writers Jeff Amy and Janet McConnaughey contributed to this report.

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For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics . Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .