Politics

Here’s everything you need to know about the US Senate run-off in Mississippi

Democrat Mike Espy (left) and Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith are in a run-off for a US Senate seat in Mississippi.
Associated Press/File photos
Democrat Mike Espy (left) and Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith are in a run-off for a US Senate seat in Mississippi.

No, election season isn’t over.

There are still ballots to be counted in a handful of undecided races in California, and then there’s the run-off for the Senate in Mississippi that will come to a conclusion on Tuesday. That one’s a contest that is getting more interesting each day.

The candidates are Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to the seat in April, and Democrat Mike Espy, a former representative and Cabinet secretary in the Clinton administration.

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On Election Day, Hyde-Smith lead the field of three candidates but fell short of the necessary 50 percent threshold, forcing the contest into a run-off. The candidate who finished third and didn’t make the run-off was a conservative — making Hyde-Smith the favorite for a full term. Also, it’s Mississippi — a state that Donald Trump won with nearly 58 percent in 2016.

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But recent happenings in the race have led some Democrats to believe the contest may be competitive. Here is everything you need to know about the race.

The Republican casually referenced ‘public hangings.’ In Mississippi

The most prominent story in this race has been about a comment Hyde-Smith made during a campaign event in which she praised a supporter by telling the crowd if he invited her “to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

The video, posted by a liberal blogger, went viral.

For days Hyde-Smith refused to apologize, and Walmart, among others, began asking for its political donations back. Then, during a debate last week, she said she meant no “ill will” and apologized to anyone who was offended.

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By the way, when Hyde-Smith was a state senator (and a Democrat), she once sponsored a bill to re-name a highway after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy.

Oh, and Espy, the Democratic candidate, is African-American.

This could be the Alabama Doug Jones race all over again

In the Senate special election in Alabama last year, the race began with Republican Roy Moore boasting a strong lead over a moderate Democrat — and then it all came crashing down. In Moore’s case, it was reports that he repeatedly had inappropriate conduct with teenage women.

Eventually Jones pulled off an upset victory that left Democrats excited about their prospects in the midterm elections.

But the Democrat running isn’t the next Beto O’Rourke

Espy was last on the ballot in 1992, when he last ran for reelection to the House. President Bill Clinton named him to serve as the Secretary of Agriculture, but Espy resigned in scandal two years later. He was found not guilty at a corruption trial later about whether he took improper gifts.

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After that he became a lobbyist, where among other clients, he represented an Ivory Coast dictator, earning $750,000.

The outcome of the race matters

While Republicans grew their Senate majority in the 2018 elections, it is still a slim enough margin that even one seat could stop a more controversial pieces of legislation, particularly if some Republicans oppose a particular bill.

But the real impact of that one-seat pickup could be realized in 2020, when Democrats will try to regain the Senate majority.

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.