Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) will run to replace retiring Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranOvernight Finance: Breaking down Trump’s budget | White House finally releases infrastructure plan | Why it faces a tough road ahead | GOP, Dems feud over tax-cut aftermath | Markets rebound McConnell tees up budget deal McConnell urging Mississippi gov to appoint himself if Cochran resigns: report MORE (R-Miss.), he announced Wednesday, avoiding a potentially nasty primary fight with incumbent Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerAt least Alzheimer’s research is bringing Washington together McConnell urging Mississippi gov to appoint himself if Cochran resigns: report Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA MORE (R-Miss.), who is up for reelection in November.
McDaniel, who lost an contentious primary challenge to Cochran in 2014, announced last month that he would primary Wicker this year. Shortly after, President TrumpDonald John TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out ‘subversion’ at VA 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 McConnellLawmakers feel pressure on guns Bipartisan group of House lawmakers urge action on Export-Import Bank nominees Curbelo Dem rival lashes out over immigration failure 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.”