This story was updated at 9:00 a.m.
Mississippi’s Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who’s in a runoff election for U.S. Senate against a Black candidate, set off a furor earlier this month with a remark about public hangings in a state that has a long history of lynchings.
Political observers are waiting to see if Black folks will rally behind African-American candidate Mike Espy at the polls on Tuesday now that she has injected racism into the election. Blacks comprise about 38 percent of Mississippi’s population. Some analysts believe Espy has a path to victory if Black voters rise to 40 percent of the electorate.
Unfortunately for Espy, Black Republicans in Mississippi plan to stick with Hyde-Smith, despite her remark, according to McClatchy News.
Even Charles Evers, the 96-year-old brother of slain Civil Rights icon Medgar Evers, intended to vote for Hyde-Smith. A white supremacist assassinated Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963 outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi.
“I’m a Republican. I support Cindy Hyde-Smith. She didn’t say anything about Black folks, she didn’t say anything about white folks. She just said ‘If there’s a hanging I’ll be in the front row’ or something like that. She didn’t mean nothing like that. She was just saying something. I don’t give a damn what other people think,” Charles Evers said.
In an unguarded moment on her campaign trail, Hyde-Smith revealed her racist attitude toward African Americans. It is just one of several reasons why the state should elect Espy to the U.S. Senate.
Republicans scrambled on Monday to prevent Hyde-Smith from losing the Senate seat, Politico reported. President Donald Trump held rallies for Hyde-Smith on Monday in the hope of turning out his base to vote for her.
Espy is an underdog in the race to unseat Hyde-Smith, who was appointed by the governor to complete the term of retiring GOP Sen. Thad Cochran. He would become the state’s first Black senator since Reconstruction. A recent survey showed that Hyde-Smith has a 10-point lead despite revelations about her racist attitudes.
Hyde-Smith’s missteps may have opened the door for a possible win if Democrats—especially African-Americans—turn out in large numbers to support Espy, and if moderate Republicans crossover or stay home.
Hyde-Smith’s biggest misstep came from a Nov. 2 campaign stop when she praised a longtime supporter. “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” she was caught saying on a video posted to social media.
Just like Trump, Hyde-Smith has inspired racists. Two nooses and several hate signs were discovered Monday morning at the Mississippi State Capitol.
Supports voter suppression
Hyde-Smith was also caught on video telling a crowd that “they remind me that there’s a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don’t want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that’s a great idea.” Users on social media wondered if she was referring to the state’s historically Black colleges and universities.
It took a U.S. Supreme Court order — more than 15 years after Brown v. Board of Education — for many public schools in the South to racially integrate. Beginning in the 1960s, “segregationist” schools began to pop up in response. These private schools were all-white. Not only did Hyde-Smith attend a segregation high school in the 1970s, but she also chose to send her daughter to one.
Hyde-Smith supported a legislative measure to honor a Confederate soldier’s effort to “defend his homeland” while she also promoted revisionist views about the Civil War.
Accepted Former Klansman’s Donation
After Hyde-Smith’s public hanging comment, her campaign gladly accepted a $1,000 donation from former Ku Klux Klan member George Malvaney.
Viewed As White supremacist
Even a Rhodes Scholar from Mississippi called the senator a white supremacist.
She Supported Trump’s Migrant Family Separation Policy
“The Trump administration has made no secret of its intention to secure our borders, and I support that goal. The implementation of the zero-tolerance policy and the separation of children from their parents is distressing to me as a mother, but we cannot lose sight that U.S. immigration laws must be enforced,” she stated.
Supports Obamacare Repeal
Hyde-Smith has said she would support the repeal of Obamacare, raising fears about the safety of the law’s protections for pre-existing medical conditions.
Supported Judge Brett Kavanaugh
The senator went out of her way—breaking the tradition of newly appointed senators quietly observing debates—to support the controversial nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.