Ailing Mississippi Sen. Cochran To Resign, Setting Up 2018 Special Election

Sen. Thad Cochran

Mike Espy, a Democrat who served as President Bill Clinton's secretary of agriculture, says he has a "strong intention" to run for an open U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi. Cochran - a person I admire and respect, and who has done so much for MS over his tenure.

Sen. Thad Cochran of MS announced Monday that he will resign effective April 1.

Cochran's departure means both Senate seats will be up for grabs this election cycle as the Republican Party struggles to manage a disaffected conservative faction within the state.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel, who narrowly lost a primary challenge to Cochran in 2014, announced last week he would run in the primary this year against Republican Sen.

Whatever his motives, Cochran has put his political ally Governor Phil Bryant firmly into the catbird seat with respect to his soon-to-be vacant Senate seat.

Cochran, a Republican who has appeared increasingly feeble in recent years, said in a statement released by his office that his health "has become an ongoing challenge".

Now, depending on who Republicans nominate, this shouldn't be a problem.

"While it is certain that MS will have two U.S. Senate races this year, I am now focused on my campaign against Roger Wicker, but all options remain on the table as we determine the best way to ensure that MS elects conservatives to the United States Senate", McDaniel said. The state senator nearly toppled Cochran in a tough 2014 primary. "I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of MS and the Senate through the completion of the 2019 appropriations cycle, after which I will formally retire from the Senate".

He jokes that he's received 85 phone calls since Cochran's announcement, but has "no idea" when he will decide, saying, "We'll just leave it to God's good plan". McDaniel actually topped Cochran in the first primary election, but failed to get a majority.

A special election would then be held on Election Day in November to fill the rest of Mr. Cochran's term, which expires in 2020.

Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves praised Cochran's ability to steer money to MS as Appropriations chairman. "My top concern has always been my constituents in Mississippi", Cochran said in the statement.

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