McDaniel to run for open Senate seat in Miss. rather than challenge Wicker

McDaniel to run for open Senate seat in Miss. rather than challenge Wicker

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) will run to replace retiring Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTodd Young in talks about chairing Senate GOP campaign arm US farming cannot afford to continue to fall behind Mississippi Democrat drops Senate bid MORE (R-Miss.), he announced Wednesday, avoiding a potentially nasty primary fight with incumbent Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers eye ban on Chinese surveillance cameras | DOJ walks back link between fraud case, OPM breach | GOP senators question Google on Gmail data | FCC under pressure to delay Sinclair merger review Top Senate Republicans question Google over Gmail data practices MORE (R-Miss.), who is up for reelection in November.

McDaniel, who lost a contentious primary challenge to Cochran in 2014, announced last month that he would face Wicker in the primary this year. Shortly after, President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE said he would back Wicker in the race.

Cochran, who has been suffering from health issues, then announced he’d resign from the Senate on April 1, leaving the GOP with an open seat to fill.

Now, McDaniel says he’ll seek the GOP nomination for Cochran’s seat, rather than challenge Wicker in a primary.

"By announcing early, we are asking Mississippi Republicans to unite around my candidacy and avoid another contentious contest among GOP members that would only improve the Democrats' chances of winning the open seat," McDaniel said. "If we unite the party now and consolidate our resources, we can guarantee Donald Trump will have a fighter who will stand with him."

A special election will be held in November for the remainder of Cochran’s term, which runs through 2020. If no one receives 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates would then compete in a run off.

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to fill the seat with a temporary replacement until then.

McDaniel, a conservative firebrand, faced an uphill climb in challenging Wicker, who has the support of Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDoug Jones walks tightrope on Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh gets questionnaires for confirmation hearing Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (R-Ky.) and his well-funded outside groups.

In his statement, McDaniel urged conservatives to rally around him early to keep McConnell and his allies out of the race.

"Mitch McConnell wants to hand-pick our next Senator,” McDaniel said. “I understand why. It's because they know that I won't be answering to them, I'll be answering to the voters of Mississippi and putting Mississippi first."