MS official to take US Senate seat of retiring 80-year-old

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Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to appoint state Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to succeed a longtime US senator who is resigning because of poor health. Thad Cochran, who is 80, is stepping down April 1.

Hyde-Smith, 58, would be the first woman to represent MS in Congress.

Chris McDaniel, a tea party-backed state senator who almost unseated Cochran in a bruising 2014 Republican primary, said last week that he is running in the special election. In 1986, Espy became the first African-American in modern times to win a congressional seat in Mississippi. The 80-year-old, first elected to the Senate in 1978 after serving six years in the House, was the first Republican elected to the Senate from MS since Reconstruction ended.

That's why Hyde-Smith's appointment, and presumed candidacy for the seat, is raising eyebrows among some Republicans nationally-namely because Hyde-Smith is a former Democrat. A special election is set for November.

Hyde-Smith also noted her involvement in what was also one of Cochran's many priorities: the establishment and maintenance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's catfish inspection office.

POLITICO reported White House aides told Bryant that President Donald Trump wouldn't campaign for her.

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On an unrelated note, Hyde-Smith will be the 23rd woman now serving in the U.S. Senate, and joins fellow Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia as the sixth Republican woman now serving in the Senate. She served admirably in the Mississippi Senate and as our Commissioner of Agriculture, and I know she will be an effective, conservative Senator from day one.

Hyde-Smith grew up in the small town of Monticello in southern MS, and farmer Barbara Lowe, who still lives there, has known her for decades. Phil Bryant, a Republican, will appoint his replacement. "The Republican party in the state of MS is sort of struggling right now".

One source said Gov. Phil Bryant was expected to announce his selection of Hyde-Smith as early as Wednesday.

Administration officials do not want Trump to embarrass himself by weighing in for a candidate who is seriously hobbled. He was elected to the Senate in 1978 after six years in the House. Luther Strange in a GOP runoff, only to see him fall short against former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore. Hyde-Smith is going to be in the "toughest race of her life", the operative added. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerMississippi gov to fill Cochran seat with agriculture commissioner: report Senate Commerce presses Facebook, Cambridge Analytica for answers on data McDaniel to run for open Senate seat in Miss. rather than challenge Wicker MORE (R) in favor of seeking Cochran's former seat.

The Republican governor of MS intends to appoint a former Democrat to fill the seat Senator Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is vacating next month.

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