In a historic contest, Democrat Mike Espy will face incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith in a runoff on Nov. 27 after the two candidates snagged the top two positions in Tuesday's election.
If she wins, Hyde-Smith, whom Gov. Phil Bryant appointed to the seat in April after former Sen. Thad Cochran stepped down, would be the first woman from Mississippi duly elected to the position. If he wins, Espy would be the first black U.S. senator from Mississippi since the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.
With 97 percent of the vote in, Espy and Hyde-Smith each had about 41 percent, with Hyde-Smith slightly ahead. As of Wednesday afternoon, Forrest and Stone counties had yet to report results.
"I want to see a red wave coming down there like no one has ever seen," Hyde-Smith, who served as agriculture commissioner prior to her appointment, told voters at her joint election-night watch party with fellow incumbent Republican Sen. Roger Wicker. "And we can make it happen. But we need you."
But as his opponents press on in hopes of setting new precedents, Mississippi Sen. Chris McDaniel faced another loss Tuesday night. In 2014, he lost a Republican primary challenge against Cochran and refused to concede, claiming there were voting irregularities. McDaniel then challenged the results in court, but failed to overturn the outcome. This time, though, he accepted defeat.
"They won this one fair and square—it's not like it was in '14," McDaniel told supporters Tuesday night in Laurel, Miss. "When President Trump endorsed Cindy Hyde-Smith, we knew we had a full plate."
Now, McDaniel will lick his wounds, as he put it, wishing he had been a better candidate. But he will get behind Hyde-Smith and, by extension, President Donald Trump.
"We now have to unite," McDaniel said. "Mr. Espy cannot be allowed to win this seat. President