On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) of Mississippi announced that he has named the state’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, Cindy Hyde-Smith, to serve in the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Thad Cochran (R). A former Democrat, Hyde-Smith joined the Republican Party in 2010. As Mississippi’s first female senator, she will serve until November, when a special election will determine who will serve the remainder of Cochran's term, which ends 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 press conference on Wednesday.
Cochran has served in the Senate since 1978. Announcing his retirement earlier this month, due to poor health, Cochran said in a statement, “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.” On Wednesday, she shared his approval of Hyde-Smith's appointment.
“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,” he said.
Having served on the Trump campaign’s Agriculture Advisory Committee, Hyde-Smith was reportedly considered for the role of Agriculture secretary. However, there are reports that Trump will not endorse Hyde-Smith if she chooses to run in the special election because of her previous status as a Democrat.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) has abandoned plans to challenge Sen. Roger Wicker (R) , and will seek Cochran's former seat instead. For the Democrats, former Rep. Mike Espy (D), who was an Agriculture secretary during the Clinton administration, is running. Hyde-Smith and McDaniel are both trailing a generic Democratic candidate, according to a poll from National Republican Senatorial Committee in the tight race, according to POLITICO.