After serving more than four decades in Congress, Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran announced Monday he will resign his seat April 1 due to health concerns.
Mr. Cochran’s resignation now means Mississippi voters will go to the polls to vote for two U.S. senators. Both seats are seen as safe GOP holds.
Cochran, 80, has served in the U.S. Senate from the Magnolia State since the late 1970s. Prior to his tenure in Congress’ upper chamber, Cochran represented Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District for three terms.
Without citing a specific health matter, Cochran, who had a non-melanoma lesion removed from his nose and struggled with a urinary tract infection late last year, released a statement which read:
“I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge. It has been a great honor to serve the people of Mississippi and our country. . . . My hope is by making this announcement now, a smooth transition can be ensured so their voice will continue to be heard in Washington, D.C.”
Cochran’s successor will be named by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, a fellow Republican.
Responding to Cochran’s sudden retirement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement:
“Thad’s well-earned reputation as a ‘quiet persuader’ has endeared him to all his colleagues. Whatever the issue at hand, his allies and adversaries have always admired his unfailingly even keel, sober expertise and respectful demeanor.”
First elected to the Senate in 1978, Cochran’s election witnessed him assume a seat held by James O. Eastland and overcome Charles Evers, the brother of slain civil rights leader, Medgar Evers.
Cochran’s victory made him the first statewide elected GOP official in over a century from Mississippi.
Cochran then went on to sit on Senate Ethics, Labor and Human Resources and Indian Affairs committees; he later chaired the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. He currently serves as the chair of the Appropriations Committee.
Rarely facing a serious challenge in successive reelection bids, Cochran found himself in a bitter primary against Tea Party candidate and state Senator Chris McDaniel in 2014. His Senate career threatened with derailment, Cochran lost the primary to McDaniel by less than one percentage point.
However, Cochran thwarted McDaniel in a special election runoff in which he extended his political career by earning a two percent margin and went on to defeat Democratic opponent Travis Childers by over 20 points.
Prior to serving in Congress, Cochran served in the U.S. Navy and practiced law in Mississippi. Cochran married the former Rose Clayton in 1964; she died in 2014 after a long illness. He remarried in 2015.
A special election will be held on Nov. 6 to elect a seat-holder that will serve the remainder of Cochran’s term, due to expire in 2020.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and McDaniel, all Republicans, are considered the favorites to replace Cochran. McDaniel has already announced his candidacy to challenge Mississippi junior Senator Roger Wicker in the GOP primary scheduled for June 5.
[AP] [Clarion Ledger] [Photo courtesy AP via CBS News]