Mississippi’s Black Republicans supported Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith on Tuesday in her runoff election for U.S. Senate against African-American opponent Mike Espy–dismissing clear warning signs that she’s a racist.
Some political analysts believed Espy had a slim chance of pulling off an upset victory in one of the nation’s deep red states. In one scenario, Black voter turnout had to reach at least 40 percent of the electorate, along with support from moderate Republicans. Unfortunately for Espy, it didn’t work out that way.
Hyde-Smith defeated Espy, a former congressman and U.S. secretary of agriculture, 53.9 percent to 46.1 percent on Tuesday. This gave Senate Republicans a 53 to 47 majority—a net pickup of two seats—for the 2019 legislative session.
Republicans feared losing the race, even though Hyde-Smith led by 10 points in a recent survey. That fear stemmed from a Nov. 2 remark she made at a stop on the campaign trail with 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.
More evidence of her undying love for the Confederacy surfaced shortly after that incident, including her support for a legislative measure to honor a Confederate soldier’s effort to “defend his homeland.”
It set off a panic among Republicans who thought those revelations would ignite Black voter turnout.
However, Mississippi’s Black Republicans remained loyal to Hyde-Smith, 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.
Indeed, nearly a dozen Black Republicans interviewed by McClatchy dismissed Hyde-Smith’s public hanging remark.
Hyde-Smith has a list of offenses that include singing the praises of the Confederacy, accepting a donation from a former active member of the Ku Klux Klan and talking to supporters about suppressing voter turnout as schools (possibly referring to the state’s historically Black colleges and universities).
“I just choose to look at it as a possible mistake and chalk it up to that. And I haven’t given it much thought afterward,” said John Mosley Jr., a Black Republican who ran in 2017 for mayor of Moss Point, Mississippi, in reference to Hyde-Smith’s public hanging remark.