Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Chances Of A Democrat Replacing Thad Cochran As A Mississippi Senator? Slim, But...

Late Monday Thad Cochran's office announced that the 80 year old Mississippi Republican will resign on April Fools Day, due to rapidly deteriorating health. When Cochran first won his Senate seat in 1978 he was the first Republican to win any statewide seat in the state since Reconstruction. Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint an interim senator and then both seats will be voted on in November. (The winner of the special election to replace Cochran will have to run again in 2020.) Three other factors:
Bryant is term-limited out of the governor's job
The other Republican senator, Roger Wicker, is already up for reelection in November.
The special election is non-partisan (no party affiliations on the ballot-- so a jungle primary like in California.
That last factor means that if a lot of Republicans run but just one Democrat, it is likely a Democrat will be in the runoff. There is already talk about Bryant appointing himself senator. (There are reports that he's already turned down entreaties from McConnell and Trump to do just that.)
Democrats are running for the Wicker seat, and the open seat is expected to attract several candidates from both parties. Democrat Mike Espy, President Bill Clinton’s first agriculture secretary, says he has a “strong intention” to run. [He's running.] In 1986 he became the first African-American in modern times to win a congressional seat in Mississippi.

Cochran’s departure set off a scramble within a state Republican Party already struggling to manage a disaffected conservative faction. Chris McDaniel, the outspoken, tea party-backed state senator who came close to defeating Cochran in a bitter 2014 Republican primary, qualified last week to challenge Wicker but said he might jump to the special election if the Cochran seat is open. McDaniel said Monday it is “premature” to say what he will do.

Republicans in Washington are hoping to prevent a rough and costly primary season as they struggle to defend their 51-49 hold on the Senate. Some Republicans have doubts about McDaniel’s ability to win a general election. And after Republicans’ bruising loss in Alabama last year, party leaders are eager to block any risky candidates.

Cochran has been a sporadic presence on Capitol Hill in recent months. He stayed home for a month last fall, returning to Washington in October to give Republicans the majority they needed to pass a budget plan. He has since kept a low profile and an aide ever present at his side.

...Wicker said Monday he and his campaign haven’t communicated with McDaniel about which seat he’ll seek. Asked if he’s relieved because McDaniel might seek the open seat instead of challenging him, Wicker said, “I don’t know that.” He smiled as he answered the question and told reporters, “I’m smiling because of your persistence.”

The Mississippi race was also being eyed by former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who at one point warned of the challenges to GOP incumbents he felt were insufficiently supportive of President Donald Trump.

That effort may have waned, however. Senate Republicans suffered a stunning setback in December when neighboring Alabama elected a Democratic senator, in a special election, for the first time in a generation. Bannon backed Republican Roy Moore, who was accused of sexual impropriety against young women.

Mississippi’s governor has not released names of people he will consider appointing to temporarily fill Cochran’s seat, though there has been widespread speculation that he might appoint Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves or Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, both Republicans.

Bryant has not said whether he would consider appointing himself to the Senate. He has told some in the GOP that Trump and McConnell have urged to appoint himself, according to one Republican who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations.

Bryant is limited to two terms as governor, and his time in that job ends in January 2020. Bryant campaigned for Trump in 2016, and has been to Washington many times in the past year to meet with the president.
Other Democrats that may consider running besides Espy include former Attorney General Jim Hood and Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley-- yes, a second cousin. If McDaniel-- a lunatic extremist-- switches from the Cochran race, which is likely, someone like Hood or Presley could give him a run for his money-- especially if the wave is bigger than anyone expects.

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