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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.

Cases: 245847

Reported Deaths: 5356
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto16717168
Hinds15748310
Harrison12806188
Rankin10334204
Jackson9996172
Lee8666135
Madison7994158
Jones6112108
Forrest5826117
Lauderdale5672174
Lowndes5186106
Lafayette482792
Lamar471162
Washington4700122
Bolivar3915105
Oktibbeha384279
Panola357274
Pontotoc356552
Monroe3463101
Union334755
Warren334692
Marshall333264
Neshoba3310149
Pearl River313891
Leflore2969104
Lincoln290185
Sunflower275868
Tate264759
Alcorn257850
Itawamba257058
Pike254876
Hancock246957
Prentiss240047
Scott238743
Copiah235649
Yazoo235054
Tippah233845
Simpson230166
Leake226764
Coahoma219054
Grenada213970
Covington207171
Marion203371
Adams200065
Winston196260
George195937
Wayne193029
Attala190958
Newton185142
Chickasaw179943
Tishomingo179059
Holmes167467
Jasper163533
Clay155632
Stone138818
Tallahatchie137033
Clarke135160
Calhoun132021
Smith117322
Yalobusha112534
Walthall110536
Noxubee108922
Greene108229
Montgomery107134
Carroll102320
Lawrence99817
Perry98631
Amite95725
Webster90024
Claiborne84125
Tunica84021
Jefferson Davis82925
Humphreys80324
Benton79722
Kemper75620
Quitman6678
Franklin64613
Choctaw59412
Wilkinson57424
Jefferson52019
Sharkey42317
Issaquena1576
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 414583

Reported Deaths: 5945
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson60842887
Mobile29590538
Madison26466183
Tuscaloosa20537267
Montgomery18562304
Shelby18181112
Baldwin15841177
Lee1212097
Morgan12002112
Etowah11488142
Calhoun10863197
Marshall10048106
Houston8405123
Cullman792294
Limestone785073
Elmore7670101
DeKalb757282
St. Clair7417120
Lauderdale740282
Talladega6036108
Walker5834176
Jackson571937
Colbert522270
Blount521980
Autauga507555
Coffee431456
Dale388278
Franklin362145
Chilton332965
Covington325567
Russell318910
Escambia309842
Dallas297988
Chambers275769
Clarke272933
Tallapoosa2591107
Pike245829
Lawrence239345
Marion238649
Winston222535
Bibb211347
Geneva196331
Marengo196329
Pickens195331
Hale172542
Barbour169636
Butler166958
Fayette164026
Cherokee158330
Henry149219
Monroe143617
Randolph137635
Washington135426
Clay124446
Crenshaw117444
Lamar116819
Cleburne115123
Macon111935
Lowndes107935
Wilcox99921
Bullock97128
Perry95019
Conecuh92820
Sumter89126
Greene75123
Coosa59814
Choctaw50824
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