Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has replaced retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R) with Cindy Hyde-Smith, the state’s commissioner of agriculture and commerce, making her the first female senator in the state’s history and the first woman to represent a Deep South state in the U.S. Senate.
Hyde-Smith will serve until November, when a special election will take place to determine who will serve the remainder of Cochran’s term, ending in 2020.
“I pledge to serve all of our citizens with honor and respect. I want to thank Senator Thad Cochran for his leadership, dedication and service to our state. I’m also looking forward to working with President Trump and everyone else who believes in the policies and principles that are making America great again,” Hyde-Smith said at a Wednesday press conference.
Cochran announced earlier this month that he would retire on April 1 due to health issues.
“I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of Mississippi and the Senate through the completion of the 2018 appropriations cycle, after which I will formally retire from the U.S. Senate,” he said in a statement.
Hyde-Smith was reportedly considered for the role of Agriculture secretary after serving as a co-chair on President Trump’s campaign’s Agriculture Advisory Committee.
The Hill added:
Despite these ties, White House officials have reportedly told Bryant that Trump will not endorse Hyde-Smith if she chooses to run in November’s special election, voicing concerns that her previous status as a Democrat could hinder her chances.
Two candidates have already launched campaigns, one Democrat and one Republican. Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), a fiery anti-establishment conservative, has abandoned plans to challenge Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) in favor of seeking Cochran’s former seat. Also running is former Rep. Mike Espy (D-Miss.), who was an Agriculture secretary during the Clinton administration.
Politico reported a new poll from the National Republican Senate Committee showing Hyde-Smith and McDaniel both trailing a generic Democratic candidate.