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 CochranGOP Senate candidate to African Americans: Stop begging for 'government scraps' Trump endorses Hyde-Smith in Mississippi Senate race GOP Senate candidate doubles down on Robert E. Lee despite Twitter poll MORE (R-Miss.), he announced Wednesday, avoiding a potentially nasty primary fight with incumbent Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGoogle says it continues to allow apps to access Gmail user data Trump cancels Mississippi rally due to hurricane Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke 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 TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate 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.

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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 McConnellGOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal GOP making counteroffer to Kavanaugh accuser The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins 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."