JACKSON, Miss. — President Donald Trump tweeted his "complete and total endorsement" Thursday for a Republican who was appointed to the U.S. Senate in Mississippi and is running in a November special election.
Trump tweeted that Cindy Hyde-Smith supports a border wall, "is helping me create Jobs, loves our Vets and fights for our conservative judges."
In a second tweet, Trump said: "Cindy has voted for our Agenda in the Senate 100% of the time and has my complete and total Endorsement. We need Cindy to win in Mississippi!"
The endorsement is important in a race where Hyde-Smith faces three challengers, including a tea party-backed Republican state senator, Chris McDaniel. Both Hyde-Smith and McDaniel are campaigning as Trump allies.
The election winner serves the final two years of a six-year term started by longtime Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who was Appropriations Committee chairman and resigned from the Senate in April amid health concerns. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who's an enthusiastic Trump supporter, appointed Hyde-Smith to temporarily succeed Cochran. She was in her second term as state agriculture commissioner.
McDaniel narrowly lost a bitter Republican primary to Cochran in 2014 and is campaigning against "establishment" Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Hyde-Smith said in a news release that she is honored to have the support of Trump, who won Mississippi with 58 percent of the vote in 2016.
"I have voted consistently for his agenda because I believe he is taking the right steps to make this country great again — lowering taxes, securing the border and nominating true conservatives to the Supreme Court," Hyde-Smith said. "I thank him for his support, and I look forward to continuing to work with him on these and other issues."
In response to Trump's endorsement of Hyde-Smith, McDaniel said in a text message to The Associated Press: "The people of Mississippi know I'm the only conservative in this race. They know I'll be the toughest fighter for President Trump's America First agenda and I look forward to working together with him very soon to continue making America great."
Hyde-Smith served 11 years in the state Senate as a Democrat before switching to the GOP in late 2010. She won statewide races for agriculture commissioner as a Republican in 2011 and 2015. She was the first woman to hold that job, just as she is the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress.
Candidates run without party labels in Mississippi special election, though they tell voters their political affiliation. The two other candidates in the race are Democrats — Mike Espy, who was President Bill Clinton's first agriculture secretary, and Tobey Bartee, a former military intelligence officer who's making his first run for public office. There are no party primaries in the special Senate election. If none of the four candidates receives a majority Nov. 6, the top two will advance to a Nov. 27 runoff. The race could be crucial as Republicans seek to maintain their slim majority in the Senate.
Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .