“Hanging” Remark Leaves Mississippi Outcome … Hanging

The Story:

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R – MS) is defending her seat in a run-off election November 27 against former US Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy (D), after the vote on election day, November 6, proved indecisive. The Governor appointed Hyde-Smith just this spring, due to the retirement of former Senator Thad Cochran (R).


Cochran, who had held the office for 40 years at the time of his retirement, was a powerful figure in the Republican Party and the chair of the Appropriations Committee. He was two-thirds of the way through his regular term.

Since this is a special election (to fill Cochran’s seat) the November 6 voting was non-partisan — that is, neither Hyde-Smith nor Espy were listed as a party nominee.

Sen. Hyde-Smith made a reference, at a campaign event early this month, to a hypothetical “public hanging.” Given the history of racist lynchings in Mississippi, such allusions are not taken lightly, and the publicity accorded this remark has put Hyde-Smith on the defensive in these final days of campaigning.

The Thing to Know: 

Hyde-Smith is white. Espy is black. According to the NAACP, 581 white-on-black lynchings took place in Mississippi between 1882 and 1968.

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