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Officials: Cindy Hyde-Smith to fill Senate vacancy in Mississippi

Cindy Hyde-Smith

The state's governor will appoint Mississippi's first female member of Congress to fill the Senate vacancy that will soon be created when veteran Sen. Thad Cochran retires, three state Republicans told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Posted: Mar 20, 2018 11:29 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The state's governor will appoint Mississippi's first female member of Congress to fill the Senate vacancy that will soon be created when veteran Sen. Thad Cochran retires, three state Republicans told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Cindy Hyde-Smith, a 58-year-old Republican, has served as the state's agriculture commissioner since 2011.

Once appointed, Hyde-Smith will immediately be running for re-election for the nearly three years remaining in Cochran's term. That special election will be Nov. 6. Two of the sources said Gov. Phil Bryant was expected to announce his selection of Hyde-Smith as early as Wednesday.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet official.

Hyde-Smith is expected to be backed by the national and Mississippi GOP establishment against challenges from insurgent Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel and Democrats who would like to nab a Mississippi senate seat as part of an effort to overturn a slim GOP majority.

The tea party-backed McDaniel, who narrowly missed knocking off Cochran in 2014, said last week that he would drop a primary challenge to Mississippi's other senator — Roger Wicker — to instead seek Cochran's seat. Mike Espy, a Democrat who served as President Bill Clinton's secretary of agriculture, said Monday he has a "strong intention" to run for Cochran's seat. In 1986, Espy became the first African-American in modern times to win a congressional seat in Mississippi. Other candidates could yet join the race. If no one earns a majority on Nov. 6, a runoff would follow on Nov. 27.

Bryant, who like McDaniel benefited from substantial tea party backing, declared open war on his onetime ally after he switched races. Bryant has said he was focused on naming someone who could hold the seat for years to come. By choosing Hyde-Smith and passing over the 70-year-old Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, Bryant follows a long Mississippi tradition of seeking to place federal lawmakers who can stay in Congress for decades and build seniority and influence. Hyde-Smith could be able to call on support from agricultural interests, which are strong in Mississippi, one of the nation's most rural states.

Cochran announced March 5 that he would retire on April 1, citing health problems. 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 Mississippi since Reconstruction ended. A mild-mannered Southerner, Cochran came to the Senate when it had a far clubbier atmosphere and he played an insider's game throughout his seven terms — particularly as a member of the powerful Appropriations panel, which had long been a bipartisan powerhouse and way to funnel taxpayer dollars back home.

Hyde-Smith is a former colleague of McDaniel, having been elected three times to the state Senate from a rural southwest Mississippi district that includes her hometown of Brookhaven. She switched parties to become a Republican in 2010, and won a three-way GOP primary for agriculture commissioner in 2011 without a runoff. She beat Democratic opponents even more easily in the 2011 and 2015 general elections.

Hyde-Smith is Mississippi's first female agriculture commissioner and one of only four women ever elected statewide. Mississippi and Vermont are the only two U.S. states never to have elected a woman to Congress.

McDaniel, seeking an anti-establishment message, has been accusing Bryant of letting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or other GOP leaders in Washington pick the state's next senator. Bryant has hotly denied any such influence, but has said he expected President Donald Trump and others to aid his choice.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33591

Reported Deaths: 1204
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds269748
DeSoto181818
Madison138236
Jones117349
Harrison104014
Rankin103515
Neshoba102274
Lauderdale94281
Forrest93943
Scott79215
Jackson72717
Washington64310
Copiah63115
Leake61320
Lee58621
Holmes57341
Oktibbeha56828
Wayne55416
Warren55320
Yazoo5436
Grenada5357
Lowndes52613
Leflore52256
Lincoln50935
Lamar5027
Pike47020
Sunflower4528
Lafayette4374
Monroe43635
Covington4195
Panola3996
Bolivar38018
Attala37524
Simpson3733
Newton35710
Adams34019
Pontotoc3266
Tate32313
Marion31312
Claiborne29310
Chickasaw29219
Winston28711
Pearl River27632
Noxubee2758
Marshall2693
Jasper2676
Clay25511
Union23811
Smith23412
Walthall2267
Coahoma2156
Clarke21425
Lawrence1992
Yalobusha1938
Kemper18014
Carroll17311
Tallahatchie1664
Humphreys15910
Montgomery1493
Calhoun1475
Tippah14411
Itawamba1418
Hancock13813
Webster12811
Tunica1193
Jefferson1173
Jefferson Davis1164
Prentiss1123
Greene10810
Amite1063
George1023
Wilkinson959
Tishomingo921
Quitman891
Alcorn852
Perry764
Choctaw754
Stone732
Franklin492
Benton420
Sharkey420
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 48588

Reported Deaths: 1042
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson6030162
Mobile4418137
Montgomery4339109
Tuscaloosa254448
Madison19078
Marshall186611
Shelby150924
Lee149437
Morgan12205
Baldwin111410
Walker105127
Elmore98919
Dallas9639
Franklin92216
Etowah88214
DeKalb8416
Chambers65727
Russell6570
Autauga65313
Butler64328
Tallapoosa61669
Unassigned58626
Limestone5741
Houston5526
Cullman5395
Lauderdale5376
Lowndes48022
St. Clair4692
Colbert4656
Pike4595
Escambia4528
Calhoun4365
Coffee4074
Covington39911
Jackson3742
Bullock37010
Barbour3672
Dale3621
Talladega3497
Hale33722
Marengo33011
Wilcox2968
Clarke2946
Winston2893
Chilton2872
Sumter28512
Blount2731
Pickens2556
Monroe2492
Marion24514
Randolph2449
Conecuh2277
Perry2091
Bibb2081
Macon2069
Choctaw20212
Greene1928
Henry1433
Crenshaw1273
Washington1277
Lawrence1170
Cherokee1127
Geneva920
Lamar811
Fayette781
Clay742
Coosa621
Cleburne411
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