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Dem defeated in Mississippi US Senate race could run in 2020

Democrat Mike Espy who sought to unseat appointed U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., and serve the last two years of the six-year term vacated when Republican Thad Cochran retired stands with family members and talks to supporters in a crowded auditorium at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, Miss., after losing the runoff election, Tuesday night, Nov. 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Charles A. Smith)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Democrat who lost a contentious U.S. Senate runoff in Mississippi this week is preparing to run again in two years.

A document filed with the Federal Election Commission on Friday creates a “Mike Espy for Senate Campaign Committee” for 2020. The form was electronically signed by Espy, and an official in his 2018 campaign confirmed to The Associated Press that the document is real.

Espy, who is black, lost Tuesday to white Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. Mississippi’s history of racist lynchings became a focal point after a video showed Hyde-Smith praising a supporter by saying: “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Hyde-Smith said the phrase was “an exaggerated expression of regard,” and more than a week after the video was published, she apologized to “anyone that was offended.”

Hyde-Smith, 59, campaigned as an unshakable ally of Republican President Donald Trump, and he held two campaign rallies for her on opposite ends of Mississippi the day before the election.

Hyde-Smith won with 54 percent of the vote to Espy’s 46 percent. She will finish the final two years of a term started by longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who retired amid health concerns in April.

She was in her second term as Mississippi’s elected agriculture commissioner when Republican Gov. Phil Bryant chose her to succeed Cochran until the special election was resolved. She is the first woman elected to either chamber of Congress in Mississippi, and she is expected to run for a full six-year Senate term in 2020.

Espy, who turned 65 Friday, is a former congressman and was U.S. agriculture secretary in 1993 and 1994 under Democratic President Bill Clinton. He was seeking to become Mississippi’s first African-American U.S. senator since Reconstruction and campaigned as a moderate Democrat who said he wanted to represent all people, regardless of race or party affiliation.

During his concession speech Tuesday night at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in downtown Jackson, Espy told supporters that his campaign had created “the largest grassroots movement” that Mississippi has seen in a generation.

“When this many people show up, when this many people stand up, when this many people speak up, it is not a loss. It’s a movement,” Espy said then. “So, we are not going to stop moving our state forward.”

Hyde-Smith said at her own election night party that she would work to represent the whole state.

“The reason we won is because Mississippians know me and they know my heart, and thank God for stepping up, Mississippians,” she said.

Mississippi has a 38 percent black population, and Espy’s strategy was to get a large turnout of black voters combined with a share of progressive white voters and even conservative whites who were embarrassed by Hyde-Smith’s “public hanging” remark.

Republicans control most statewide offices in Mississippi, and the state last elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in 1982.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

Copyright © 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.



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