Thad Cochran, who was first elected to the United States Senate in 1978, announced Monday he will step down on April 1.
In a statement, the 80-year-old Cochran said, “I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge. 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.
“It has been a great honor to serve the people of Mississippi and our country. I’ve done my best to make decisions in the best interests of our nation, and my beloved state. My top concern has always been my constituents in Mississippi. 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. My efforts, and those of my staff, to assist them will continue and transfer to my successor.”
Rumors have circulated for months that Cochran would be stepping down soon. He has served as Appropriations chair of the Senate since his re-election in 2014.
He is expected to return to his home in Oxford after the current appropriations cycle is complete.
Cochran was born in Pontotoc and lived in Tippah County, where his parents were teachers, before his family moved to central Mississippi.
Cochran, a Jackson attorney, ran for and was elected to the U.S. House in 1972. He served there before winning the Senate seat in 1978. He was the first Republican to win a statewide election in Mississippi in the modern era.
Cochran was re-elected to the Senate six times. He faced little opposition in most of his re-election efforts until 2014 where little known state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville led Cochran in the first Republican primary, but did not garner the majority vote needed to avoid a runoff. In the runoff, Cochran was able to prevail and then easily win the general election.
McDaniel announced last week he is challenging the state’s other U.S. senator, Republican Roger Wicker of Tupelo, who is up for re-election this year.
But some speculate that McDaniel will drop out of that race and run in the special election created by Cochran’s retirement. In the coming days, Gov. Phil Bryant is expected to name an interim replacement for Cochran and set a special election for Nov. 6 – the same day as other regularly scheduled elections, including the general election for the Wicker seat.
Soon after Cochran announced his retirement, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said, “Sen. Cochran’s service to our nation has made the lives of Mississippians better, and his support of our military has made America safer. He fought relentlessly for Mississippi from helping our farmers get their crops to market to fighting for our citizens after Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the state.
“He earned and maintained the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle even though he never shied away from a battle to protect his beloved state. Elee and I wish Sen. Cochran and his family well as they enter this new chapter.”
© 2018 the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.)
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