October 27, 2018 / 6:06 AM
(Reuters) – A crowded U.S. Senate race in Republican stronghold Mississippi could set the stage for weeks of uncertainty over which party ends up controlling the upper chamber of Congress after the Nov. 6 elections.
Two Republicans and two Democrats are contesting a special election to serve out the remainder of retired Republican Senator Thad Cochran’s term. Under state law, if no one gets 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates regardless of party affiliation will go to a Nov. 27 runoff.
It is a scenario that could focus international attention on the Southern state and bring in millions of dollars from outside political groups.
“Mississippi could be the deciding factor in who controls the Senate,” said Melissa Scallan, a spokeswoman for Republican U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was appointed by Mississippi’s Republican governor to temporarily replace Cochran after he retired on April 1.
Democrats, who currently control 49 of the 100 seats in the Senate, face a tough political map as they are defending Senate seats in 10 states that Republican President Donald Trump carried in the 2016 election.
Opinion polls show Hyde-Smith, a former Democrat who has been endorsed by Trump, as the front-runner in the race. Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman and agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration, is in second place and drawing enough support to possibly make it into a runoff.