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Cindy Hyde-Smith has won the runoff in Mississippi's special Senate election.

That was until video surfaced of her saying at a campaign event that if a supporter "invited me to a public hanging, I would be on the front row".

Not only is Hyde-Smith the first female to be elected to the Senate from the state, she is also the only candidate in this hard-fought election to have not received funding from Ivory Coast warlords. "We are all proud of you". Politico unearthed a 2014 post on Hyde-Smith's Facebook page that included a photo of her wearing a Confederate soldier's hat and holding a rifle during a visit to Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library in Biloxi.

Mississippi-which still has the Confederate battle emblem on its state flag-has a history of racially motivated lynchings.

"She has my prayers as she goes to Washington to unite a very divided Mississippi", Espy said.

She was supposed to enjoy an easy path to election following a November 6 primary that included her, Espy and conservative Republican firebrand Chris McDaniel. Espy, who is black, called her comments "reprehensible". Neither candidate won 50 percent of the vote in the general election, forcing a runoff. The last Democrat Mississippians elected to the Senate from the state was John Stennis in 1982 for the final term of his four-decade career in the chamber. Ultimately, the lack of a more honest apology, and the questions surrounding why Hyde-Smith would make the comment in the first place - especially in light of Mississippi's bleak history of public hangings of black Americans - is deeply troubling.

Democrats had hoped a surge in turnout among black voters - who make up almost 40% of Mississippi's population, the largest share in the nation - could carry Espy to victory in a state that is highly polarized along racial lines, with most white voters backing GOP candidates and black voters supporting Democrats.

Her supporters said the furore over her comments was overblown. And it was revealed that she'd attended a private high school that was created to avoid desegregation - and sent her daughter to one as well.

A spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, Leah Rupp Smith, said observers from the office were seeing "steady but slow" turnout the first few hours, but the pace picked up late in the day, with estimates that 30 to 40 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

The runoff contest drew comparisons to the Alabama Senate special election previous year, when Democrat Doug Jones won a narrow victory against Roy Moore, after the Republican faced multiple accusations from women that he had molested them when they were teenagers.

Incumbent Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of MS has won the run-off vote to increase the GOP majority to 53 - 47. Thad Cochran's term, which expires in 2020. Unfortunately for him, the African-American vote did not come out in large enough numbers to give him an upset victory, and he did not score well enough among white voters. "That really offended me", said Charles Connley, 60, a black voter from Picayune. "Her words should not reflect Mississippi's values, either", a narrator said in one ad.