The Latest: Trump praises Hyde-Smith ahead of rallies

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Latest on the U.S. Senate race in Mississippi (all times local):

2:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump is praising a Republican senator from Mississippi who’s been criticized over racially charged comments she made ahead of a runoff election.

Trump spoke Monday as he was on his way down to the state to stump for Cindy Hyde-Smith. He’s headlining two rallies for the senator, who faces Democrat Mike Espy in Tuesday’s runoff.

Hyde-Smith has drawn fire for a video showing her praising a supporter by saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Mississippi has a history of racially motivated lynchings.

Trump says Hyde-Smith has apologized and misspoke. He says her comments were “taken a certain way but she certainly didn’t mean it.”

He also says she’s done a great job and is respected in the senate.

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2:40 p.m.

Democrat Mike Espy says he’s running his own race and won’t be thrown off by President Donald Trump’s appearance in Mississippi to campaign for U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith on the eve of Tuesday’s special election.

Espy told reporters Monday in suburban Ridgeland that Trump is “going to say whatever he has to say.”

The former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture continues to emphasize that he’s a moderate seeking the votes of everyone and willing to work across party lines. He notes that he crossed the “party chasm” to endorse the re-election of Republican Gov. Haley Barbour in Mississippi in 2007.

Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Phil Bryant when Thad Cochran retired earlier this year. The winner of Tuesday’s vote gets the final two years of the term.

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2:05 p.m.

A civil rights group is challenging Mississippi’s absentee voting procedures in a lawsuit filed on the eve of the U.S. Senate runoff election.

The Washington-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is asking a federal court to make Mississippi extend its deadline for voters to return absentee ballots.

The complaint says some voters didn’t have enough time to fill out and mail absentee ballots for the runoff over the Thanksgiving holiday unless they paid for costly overnight shipping.

The group sued on behalf of the Mississippi NAACP and three voters.

The secretary of state’s office didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is facing Democrat Mike Espy in Tuesday’s runoff.

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8:17 a.m.

President Donald Trump is stumping in Mississippi on Monday for a Republican Senate appointee who wants voters to focus on her unwavering support for him, and not the racial questions that have made Tuesday’s runoff election a much closer contest than anyone expected.

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith has made Monday’s rallies a highlight of her runoff campaign against Democrat Mike Espy, and Trump thanked her right back on Twitter for voting for “our Agenda in the Senate 100% of the time.”

But race has become a dominant issue as Hyde-Smith faces Espy, a former congressman and U.S. agriculture secretary who would become Mississippi’s first black senator since Reconstruction.

Hyde-Smith has drawn fire for a photo showing her wearing a replica hat of a Confederate soldier, and a video showing her praising a supporter by saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Categories: National News