Miss. governor names state's first female senator to replace retiring Cochran

Miss. governor names state's first female senator to replace retiring Cochran

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) has named Cindy Hyde-Smith, the state's commissioner of agriculture and commerce, to the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranBiden has a lot at stake in first debate The Hill's Morning Report — Trump turns the page back to Mueller probe Trump praises Thad Cochran: 'A real senator with incredible values' MORE (R).

Hyde-Smith, a former Democrat who joined the GOP in 2010, becomes the first female senator in the state's history. She will serve until November, when a special election will determine who will serve the remainder of Cochran's term, ending in 2020.

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"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 TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE and everyone else who believes in the policies and principles that are making America great again,” Hyde-Smith said at a Wednesday press conference.

Cochran, a senator since 1978, announced earlier this month that he would vacate his seat on April 1 due to health issues.

“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,” he said in a statement at the time.

On Wednesday, he applauded 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.

Hyde-Smith has close ties to the Trump administration and was reportedly considered for the role of Agriculture secretary after serving as a co-chair on President Trump's Agriculture Advisory Committee during his presidential campaign.

Despite these ties, White House officials have reportedly told Bryant that Trump will not endorse Hyde-Smith if she chooses to run in November's special election, voicing concerns that her previous status as a Democrat could hinder her chances.

Two candidates have already launched campaigns, one Democrat and one Republican. State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), a fiery anti-establishment conservative, has abandoned plans to challenge Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerHillicon Valley: Zuckerberg defends handling of misinformation in political ads | Biden camp hits Zuckerberg over remarks | Dem bill would jail tech execs for lying about privacy | Consumer safety agency accidentally disclosed personal data Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Pence says Turkey agrees to ceasefire | Senators vow to move forward with Turkey sanctions | Mulvaney walks back comments tying Ukraine aid to 2016 probe On The Money: Senate fails to override Trump veto over border emergency | Trump resort to host G-7 next year | Senators to push Turkey sanctions despite ceasefire | McConnell tees up funding votes MORE (R) in favor of seeking Cochran's former seat. Also running is former Rep. Mike Espy (D), who was an Agriculture secretary during the Clinton administration.

A poll from the National Republican Senatorial Committee showed the race for the seat in November as tight, with Hyde-Smith and McDaniel both trailing a generic Democratic candidate, Politico reported

Updated at 3:04 p.m.