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

9:15 p.m.

Christmas has come to Biloxi, Mississippi, as President Donald Trump holds his second rally of the day in the state.

The Mississippi Coast Coliseum has been decked out in an elaborate display that includes dozens of evergreens, a gigantic fake chimney, complete with stockings and a wreath, and Santa's present-filled sleigh. There are also large nutcrackers and even a blow-up helicopter with moving rotor and penguins inside.

Fake snow started falling when Trump entered to huge applause Monday.

During his campaign, Trump railed against what he described as a war against Christmas and promised that, if elected, "people would be saying Merry Christmas again."

Trump is campaigning for Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is facing a tough runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy on Tuesday as she seeks to keep her seat.

__

8:35 p.m.

Democrat Mike Espy is telling supporters that his campaign has "reached across the color line, across the chasm of racial division, across the chasm of racial acrimony." The former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture says blacks and whites have common concerns he wants to help solve.

In a 30-minute speech at a predominantly African-American church, he urged his supporters to draw on their religious faith, saying he'd "rather be at this kind of rally" than at President Trump's events supporting Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith.

He urged supporters on Tuesday to vote "marching to the polls like it's a holiday."

Espy is facing Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith in the Tuesday election.

__

Supporters and opponents of President Donald Trump and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith are out in force in Biloxi.

Thousands of Trump supporters filed through metal detectors to enter the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum in Biloxi, Mississippi. for a Trump-headlined rally supporting Hyde-Smith's senate race.

She faces Democrat Mike Espy in Tuesday's runoff election.

About 100 anti-Trump protesters were also there, chanting "Impeach 45" as they held signs with red strikes through Hyde-Smith's name.

Mark Isaacs, a resident of Bay St. Louis, was holding a sign saying "You're Fired" as cars passed by and honked.

He says: "We have to send a very clear message that there's no place for hate in our state."

__

8:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump is defending Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith against criticism for what were seen as racially-charged remarks.

Trump said Hyde-Smith had apologized for her comments saying she'd be "on the front row" if invited to a public hanging and that he'd "heard that loud and clear."

Trump says the comment was "a little flip, but says: "I heard an apology loud and clear."

He adds that he knows "where her heart is and her heart is good."

Hyde-Smith is facing a close runoff election Tuesday in Mississippi. Trump is in Mississippi holding two rallies for Hyde-Smith ahead of the election.

__

8 p.m.

More than 200 people rallied for Democrat Mike Espy in a God-and-gospel tinged meeting at a predominantly African-American church in Jackson.

Espy is facing Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith in a runoff for Senate on Tuesday.

Drawing on the black church traditions that are a cornerstone of African-American politics in the South, Jackson's mayor, ministers and others urged attendees to "vote your hope."

One minister likened Espy to the David who would slay the Goliath of Hyde-Smith.

Gospel singer Benjamin Cone III, between songs, talked about getting a mailer from the Espy campaign citing the late Mississippi civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer.

__

5:50 p.m.

President Donald Trump is urging Mississippi voters to bolster the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.

He came to the state Monday to help Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith finish the final two years of the term started by Republican Thad Cochran.

In Tuesday's election she faces Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and U.S. agriculture secretary who would become Mississippi's first black senator since Reconstruction.

At an event in Tupelo, Trump said, "I think it's going to be a very big day for Cindy and for the Republican Party and the country." He told people "don't take any chances" by not voting.

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."

___

5:15 p.m.

Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith is telling voters in Mississippi that if they back her in Tuesday's election, she'll continue to stand up for the conservative values of the state.

Mississippi is preparing for a U.S. Senate runoff between Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy.

She says a vote for her is a vote for less government and less regulation. She says she'll back law enforcement and the military and defend the Second Amendment right to bear arms "every single day."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham who also attended the rally told voters that if they want more Supreme Court justices like Brett Kavanaugh, then they should cast ballots for Hyde-Smith.

Graham says: "If you like Kavanaugh, there's more coming."

___

4:40 p.m.

The midterms are over, but President Donald Trump is back campaigning in Mississippi to help GOP Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith keep her seat in Republican hands.

Trump is holding two rallies Monday to help Hyde-Smith finish the final two years of the term started by Republican Thad Cochran.

Hyde-Smith is in a tight runoff Tuesday against Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and agriculture secretary under President Bill Clinton. Espy would be the first African-American to represent the state in the Senate since Reconstruction.

The election has been dominated by racial issues, after a photo emerged of Hyde-Smith wearing a replica hat of a Confederate soldier and a video emerged of her saying she'd be "on the front row" of a public hanging if invited.

___

4:30 p.m.

Mississippi's secretary of state says computer records show that officials responded promptly to absentee ballot requests from two of three people suing over absentee voting procedures.

Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann says Mississippi's election management computer reflects that ballots were downloaded for plaintiffs William Sewell and Julianne Huber on Nov. 17, the first day county officials could have mailed a ballot.

Sewell, Huber, a third voter and the Mississippi NAACP sued Wednesday asking a federal court to make Mississippi extend its deadline for absentee ballots to be returned. They're represented by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The complaint says some voters had insufficient time to fill out and mail absentee runoff ballots over the Thanksgiving holiday unless they paid for costly overnight shipping.

___

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.

__

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.

___

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.

___

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."

 

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.