‘Public hanging’ comment creates a stir in Hyde-Smith’s hometown as race emerges as key issue in Senate runoff

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Adam Ganucheau | Mississippi TodayA cattle farmer bids on a cow at the Lincoln County sale barn, operated by Cindy Hyde-Smith’s family.
BROOKHAVEN — As Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith flew to Washington Tuesday morning for the first Senate votes in several weeks, her husband Michael Smith got to work.
A fourth generation cattle farmer, Smith, his wife and their family operate the Lincoln County sale barn. Tuesdays are auction days, and area farmers bring hundreds of cattle each week to be sold.
Inside the sale barn, three dozen or so farmers watched as cows were quickly ushered from the holding barn through the turnstiles to the small arena. An employee on the floor yelled out the type of cow that was next up and prodded them along with a long stick as they tried to adjust to their new surroundings. A couple of bulls charged at the employees on the floor, drawing jeers and whistles from the farmers in attendance. Outside, the loud moos from the holding barn drowned out the noise of traffic from the nearby highway.
As the auctioneer at the microphone rattled off bids, Michael Smith sat behind him on the platform and stamped receipts of the animals that sold. An employee of the sale barn and a relative of Hyde-Smith’s had to ask Michael Smith if this reporter could observe the auction. That same relative later went through the reporter’s phone to ensure no video of the auction was taken.
The Smith family has had better weeks. The talk of Brookhaven and Mississippi is a video of Sen. Hyde-Smith, who in April rose from relative political obscurity as Mississippi’s commissioner of agriculture to the U.S. Senate. The video shows Hyde-Smith at a campaign rally on Nov. 2 saying she would attend a “public hanging.”
Given Mississippi’s gruesome history of racial violence and that Hyde-Smith’s Senate