Hyde-Smith, Espy go to runoff in dead heat

Published 12:23 am Wednesday, November 7, 2018

The experts were right.

Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith will campaign for another three weeks after Tuesday’s general election placed her in the Nov. 27 runoff against Democrat Mike Espy. The top two political players easily out-raised and outpaced Republican challenger Chris McDaniel and Democrat Tobey Bartee to end up in the second-round contest, right where all the political talkers — and the candidates themselves — expected them to be.

“We expected to be in a runoff. We’ve got a lot of work to do to make sure everybody comes out to the polls in three weeks,” Hyde-Smith said late Tuesday night. “We’re just going to get out and continue to work and, hopefully, in three weeks we’ll have another celebration.”

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Hyde-Smith and Espy fought to a close draw Tuesday, with Hyde-Smith slightly edging out the former Clinton administration cabinet member by a percentage point. Statewide, the former agriculture commissioner from Brookhaven pulled down 345,248 votes, good for 41.5 percent of the total, while Espy grabbed 337,045 votes, good for 40.5 percent.

Since the outcome became clear, McDaniel has thrown his support behind Hyde-Smith.

Hyde-Smith’s home crowd showed up in force in Lincoln County, with local voters giving her a two-to-one edge over Espy by casting 7,870 votes in her favor, good for 62.32 percent. Espy attracted the marks of 3,602 locals, good for 28.52 percent, while 1,068 Lincoln Countians stood by McDaniel and just 87 backed Bartee, who raised less than $5,000 in total campaign contributions.

“I’m so thankful to my hometown folks,” Hyde-Smith said. “They really stepped up and they stood tall. I could not be prouder to be from Lincoln County, first of all. I’m so glad my home folks really put their faith in me.”

The runoff between Hyde-Smith and Espy will draw the attention of Mississippi for the next three weeks, but the national eye probably won’t be as focused.

Pre-election scenarios predicted a possible 50-50 tie between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Senate, an outcome that would have made the runoff a national tiebreaker for political control of the government for the remainder of President Donald Trump’s term and caused out-of-state campaign cash to roll in to both candidates.

But Republicans appear to be safe in the upper chamber, with tallies late Tuesday night showing the Grand Ole Party maintaining its control of the body with 51 seats to Democrats’ 42 seats, with six races outstanding. Democrats did take over the U.S. House of Representatives, coming out with 204 seats to Republicans’ 187, with 44 races still out. Results were current as of press time.

Lincoln County’s other Capitol races weren’t so exciting.

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker won big and declared early, taking home 487,498 votes statewide, good for 58.9 percent. Democratic challenger David Baria managed 323,603 votes, for 39.1 percent, while Libertarian Danny Bedwell and every-election Reform candidate Shawn O’Hara flunked out with low single-digit percentages.

In Lincoln County, Wicker dominated with 8,576 votes, or 70.13 percent, while Baria claimed 3,451 votes, of 28.22 percent. Bedwell and O’Hara’s local vote totals mirrored their statewide performances.

Michael Guest also won handily in the race for the 3rd Congressional District, getting 144,328 votes from the district that stretches from Natchez to Starkville, good for 63 percent. Democrat Michael Ted Evans garnered 82,600 votes, good for 36 percent. Reform Party candidate Matthew Holland got one percent of the vote.

In Lincoln County, Guest cleaned up with 8,705 votes, of 69.73 percent, to Evans’ 3,662 votes, good for 29.34 percent.

Voter turnout was high statewide and in Lincoln County, where 12,728 votes were cast, good for 61.57 percent of the county’s 20,672 registered voters.