Voters in Mississippi head to the polls Tuesday for a Senate runoff election between Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy. The final Senate seat up for grabs in this year’s midterm elections, the contest has drawn increased national attention due to a series of offensive comments from Hyde-Smith that hark back to the state’s racist history. If elected, Espy would become the state’s first black senator since Reconstruction.
The closer-than-expected race in a GOP stronghold has drawn comparisons to the Senate special election in Alabama last year, when Democrat Doug Jones pulled off a surprise victory against Republican Roy Moore, who had been accused of sexually assaulting or harassing nearly 10 girls and young women.
Here’s what else to know about Mississippi’s runoff election, whose winner will fill the seat vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Thad Cochran and held briefly through appointment by Hyde-Smith.
Hyde-Smith, appointed to Cochran’s seat when he retired earlier this year, and Espy, a former congressman and agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton, were the top two finishers in the Nov. 6 special election.
But neither got enough votes to achieve an outright victory, sending the race to a runoff. Hyde-Smith, who would become the state’s first elected female senator, got 41.5 percent of the vote, and Espy got 40.6 percent.