(AP)— Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has won a divisive Mississippi runoff to remain in office.
In Tuesday’s race, 59-year-old Hyde-Smith defeated Democrat Mike Espy, a former U.S. agriculture secretary who hoped to become Mississippi’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction.
The win allows Hyde-Smith to complete the final two years of Sen. Thad Cochran’s six-year term. Cochran retired in April. Hyde-Smith was appointed to temporarily succeed him.
The win makes her the first woman elected to Congress from Mississippi.
The runoff was rocked by a video showing her praise a supporter by saying she’d attend a “public hanging” if he invited her. She called it an “exaggerated expression of regard.” The comment made Mississippi’s history of racist lynchings a runoff theme.
President Donald Trump endorsed Hyde-Smith and rallied for her after the comments became public.
Republicans will now hold 53 of 100 Senate seats.