Thad Cochran Resigning This Sunday as Longest-Serving Member of Congress, Shakes Up 2018 Senate Race

Jackson, MS

By:  Arthur Randallson, Editor

This is Thad Cochran’s final week as Senator.  At 80 years of age, he will officially resign this Sunday, on Easter, citing health reasons.

Beginning in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1973, and in the U.S. Senate since 1978, Cochran is the nation’s longest-serving member of Congress out of all 535 voting members of the combined House of Representatives and Senate.  He represented Mississippi in Congress continuously for 45 years and 3 months.

Excerpts from the Farewell Statement of Senator Thad Cochran:

“Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to express my deep gratitude for the honor given to me by the people of Mississippi to represent them in Washington.”

“While in Congress, I have served with nine presidents during times of conflict and peace.”

“No one remains in the House or Senate who was here when I first took office in January 1973.”

“I will now return to my beloved Mississippi and my family and friends there.  I will miss this stately Chamber and this city.  I won’t miss power or politics.  I will miss people — you, my colleagues.  I will treasure your courtesy and kindness.  And I trust if your travels bring you to Oxford, Mississippi, you will not hesitate to visit and join me for a refreshment on the porch.  We can listen to the mockingbirds together.  Thank you.”

Cochran’s supporters admire his decades of balanced leadership and for “bringing home the bacon” as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  But, Cochran joined Senator Roger Wicker in a controversial opposition to Mississippi’s popular state flag, which was confirmed by a 2-to-1 margin in the 2001 state flag referendum.  Their opposition to the state flag garnered praise by some of the national media outlets, but it did not resonate well with the majority of Mississippians.  On the other hand, both of Mississippi’s Senators, Cochran and Wicker, defended the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the Capitol building’s National Statuary Hall.  Cochran very much appreciated using the historical desk of Jefferson Davis, which is a traditional honor granted to the Mississippi Senator with the most seniority.

Meanwhile, Cochran’s detractors resent his narrow victory over Chris McDaniel in 2014, in which Cochran received crossover votes from thousands of Democrats in the Republican primary’s runoff election, following McDaniel previously winning more votes than Cochran in the first round of the Republican primary.  In the runoff, Cochran dominated the Delta and Jackson-area counties, while McDaniel dominated northwest and southern Mississippi counties.  Earlier this month, the 2014 election was again referred to, when the Tea Party of Mississippi argued that Chris McDaniel should rightfully be Governor Phil Bryant’s choice to fill the vacant seat caused by Cochran’s resignation.  Instead, Governor Bryant, who was elected as a “Tea Party Governor,” announced his decision to appoint Cindy Hyde-Smith to the Senate seat.

Senator Cochran issued a statement on the appointment of his successor, who will be Mississippi’s first female Senator:  “I congratulate Governor Bryant on his historic selection of Cindy Hyde-Smith to represent Mississippi in the United States Senate.  She is a very well-qualified person whose experiences and excellent character will benefit our state in Washington.”

Chris McDaniel issued a statement of his own:  “Before Commissioner Hyde-Smith was elected to lead the department of Agriculture, her only legislative experience was that of a Democrat.  She ran as a Democrat.  She served as a Democrat.  She voted like a Democrat.  Although her reputation in Jackson was that of a moderate Democrat, the last thing the state of Mississippi needs in Washington is another moderate Democrat.”

The Governor’s appointment of Cindy Hyde-Smith will allow her to serve as Senator beginning April 1st, however there will be a special election on November 6th, 2018, to fill the remainder of Cochran’s term that will continue until the next regular election for this Senate seat in November of 2020.

Chris McDaniel decided to withdraw from challenging Senator Roger Wicker.  Instead, McDaniel is switching races to go for the other Senate seat he nearly won in 2014.

List of candidates seeking Thad Cochran’s Senate seat

Running in the special election on November 6th:
1.  Chris McDaniel, Republican, State Senator
2.  Cindy Hyde-Smith, Republican, Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, and appointed interim Senator until this special election
3.  Mike Espy, Democrat, former Congressman, and former Secretary of Agriculture appointed by Bill Clinton

This special election to fill Cochran’s Senate seat is nonpartisan, and without a primary.  All three of these declared candidates will be on the same ballot, without a party listing, on November 6th.

List of candidates seeking Roger Wicker’s Senate seat

Running in the Republican primary:
1.  Roger Wicker, the incumbent, seeking re-election
2.  Richard Boyanton, businessman

Running in the Democratic primary:
1.  David Baria, State House of Representatives Minority Leader
2.  Jensen Bohren
3.  James “Jerone” Garland
4.  Victor Maurice, Jr.
5.  Omeria Scott, State Representative
6.  Howard Sherman

Running in the Libertarian primary:
Danny Bedwell, retired U.S. Navy diver

Running in the Reform primary:
Shawn O’Hara, business consultant

These primaries will be on June 5th.  Later, the winners of each party’s primary will face each other in the statewide general election on November 6th.