- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 20, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Latest on a U.S. Senate special election runoff in Mississippi (all times local):

7:45 p.m.

A white Republican U.S. senator from Mississippi has apologized for complimenting a supporter by saying she would attend a “public hanging” if he invited her to one.


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In a debate Tuesday night, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith said she was apologizing to anyone offended by her comments. She says she meant no “ill will” and said critics have “twisted” her words to use as a “political weapon” against her.

Hyde-Smith’s Democratic challenger, Mike Espy, says the words came out of Hyde-Smith’s mouth and were not twisted. He says her statement gave Mississippi a “black eye” it doesn’t need.



Mississippi has a history of racially motivated lynchings.

Espy, a former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary, is seeking to become the state’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction.

The winner of a Nov. 27 runoff gets the final two years of a term.

____

3:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump is praising the embattled Republican candidate in Mississippi’s U.S. Senate runoff who thanked one of her own supporters by mentioning a “public hanging.” Trump calls Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith a “tremendous woman.”

Trump is set to campaign for Hyde-Smith at two places Monday in Mississippi, the night before the Nov. 27 runoff.

A video clip released Nov. 11 shows Hyde-Smith praising a supporter at a Nov. 2 campaign event by saying of the man: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Trump says Tuesday at the White House her comment was “said in jest.”

Hyde-Smith faces Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary who is seeking to become the state’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction.

___

11:15 a.m.

A Walmart spokeswoman confirms the corporation is asking U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith to return its $2,000 campaign contribution after a video showed the Mississippi Republican praising someone by saying she would attend a “public hanging” if he had one.

Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins says Tuesday that the company donated Nov. 8 - two days after Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy advanced from a field of four candidates to go to a Nov. 27 runoff, but three days before release of the video showing Hyde-Smith making the hanging comment.

Jenkins says Hyde-Smith’s “recent comments clearly do not reflect the values of our company and associates. As a result, we are withdrawing our support and requesting a refund of all campaign donations.”

A Hyde-Smith campaign spokeswoman did not immediately return a call Tuesday.

___

11:13 p.m.

Candidates in the last unresolved U.S. Senate election are set for their only debate in Mississippi.

It’s a contest has that gained national scrutiny amid a white Republican senator’s caught-on-video remarks that reflect lingering division over Mississippi’s history of racial violence.

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate in April to temporarily succeed longtime Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired amid health concerns. She is challenged by Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and former U.S. agriculture secretary who is seeking to become Mississippi’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction.

Hyde-Smith and Espy are set for a one-hour televised debate Tuesday night in Jackson.

Mississippi hasn’t elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1982, and Republicans hold all but one statewide office. Still, Espy is seeking a longshot victory.

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