Maryland Republicans are being urged to hop on the phone in the final hours of a hotly contested U.S. Senate runoff in Mississippi — prompting howls of protest from the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.
An email blast Monday afternoon from the Maryland GOP says, “Our friends in Mississippi have asked us to reach out to Republicans in Maryland to help make phone calls tonight to help their nominee Cindy Hyde-Smith in her U.S. Senate election. The election is TOMORROW.”
Interested volunteers are encouraged to click a Google form to sign up.
Hyde-Smith is running against former U.S. Agriculture Secretary and Congressman Mike Espy (D). The two were the top finishers on Nov. 6, but neither had the 50 percent needed to prevail, leading to Tuesday’s runoff.
What should be an easy hold for Republicans has been thrown into question by their candidate’s campaign.
Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to the seat by Gov. Phil Bryant (R) in April after longtime Sen. Thad Cochran (R) resigned, was caught on video talking to a supporter about attending a public hanging, saying “if he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be in the front row.”
Subsequent news accounts reported that Hyde-Smith and her daughter attended segregated schools — and that the lawmaker pushed for a revisionist history of the Civil War while serving in the Mississippi legislature a decade ago.
The Maryland Republican Party’s outreach to voters here prompted a sharp rebuke from Kathleen Matthews, head of the Democratic Party.
“Democrats won races up and down the ballot across Maryland because we stand up for Maryland values,” she said in a statement.
“The Maryland Republican Party’s endorsement of Cindy Hyde-Smith and her bigoted views is more proof that Democrats are leading Maryland into the future while Maryland Republicans remain stuck in the past.”
Despite the controversy surrounding Hyde-Smith, she is expected to win the runoff with Espy, though perhaps by a narrower-than-normal margin for a Republican in the deep South.
President Trump spoke at rallies for Hyde-Smith in Gulfport and Tupelo on Monday night, a move that strategists in both parties said would help the incumbent.
Hyde-Smith apologized for her comments about the “public hanging,” which she said were being twisted by her opponents. In a tweet, Trump said the comments were made “in jest.”
Espy was the first African-American to serve as secretary of Agriculture.
The Republican National Committee reportedly has 100 paid staffers on the ground in Mississippi, an unusually large presence for race in such a conservative state. But after Doug Jones’ surprise win in a 2017 special Senate election in bright red Alabama, the party is leaving nothing to chance.