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MS-Sen: Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeats Democratic challenger Mike Espy in runoff

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Mike Espy in the Mississippi Senate special election runoff Tuesday night. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith defeated Democratic challenger Mike Espy to retain the Mississippi Senate seat she was appointed to earlier this year, according to The Associated Press.

At the time The Associated Press called the election, Hyde-Smith was leading 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent with 78 percent of precincts reporting.

Hyde-Smith and Espy faced off in the runoff after earning the most votes in the special election nonpartisan "jungle primary," which goes to a runoff when no candidate earns a majority of the votes.

With the victory, Hyde-Smith became the first woman from Mississippi to be elected to Congress, and joins the record 23 other women who will serve in Congress beginning in January.

The weeks between Election Day and the runoff election were fraught with controversy for Hyde-Smith, as she was forced to answer questions about a controversial "public hanging" comment and a joke about making it more difficult for liberal college students to vote.

Numerous companies reacted to those incidents by demanding refunds of campaign donations made to Hyde-Smith. Still, bolstered by unwavering support from President Donald Trump in historically conservative Mississippi, Hyde-Smith cruised to a relatively easy victory.

Hyde-Smith's win gives Republicans a total of 53 Senate seats, slightly strengthening the party's majority.

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