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Conservative Review

Mississippi governor intends to appoint former Democrat to Cochran's Senate seat

The Republican governor of Mississippi intends to appoint a former Democrat to fill the seat Senator Thad Cochran, R-Miss., is vacating next month.

The New York Times reports that Gov. Phil Bryant, R-Miss., is expected to name state agriculture commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, a former Democratic state senator who became a Republican during the Tea Party wave in 2010, to serve as the interim U.S. senator from Mississippi until a special election is held in November, following Cochran's retirement on April 1. If appointed, Hyde-Smith might then run against state senator Chris McDaniel, who nearly defeated Thad Cochran in the 2014 Republican primary and has declared his candidacy for Cochran's seat in 2018. There is no primary in the special election, and if no candidate earns an outright majority, the top two vote-getters will have a head-to-head rematch in a runoff election.

McDaniel supporters rallied at the Mississippi state capitol last week to urge Gov. Bryant to appoint him to serve as the interim U.S. senator. But the governor has criticized McDaniel for switching races after he initially declared his candidacy against Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

“This opportunistic behavior is a sad commentary for a young man who once had great potential,” Bryant said of McDaniel.

According to the Times, Bryant favors Hyde-Smith because of her "deep connections in the farming communities." Hyde-Smith was first elected to the state senate in 2000, rising to become chair of the Agriculture Committee. A Democrat, she voted in the 2008 Democratic primary. In 2011, she won office statewide as a Republican, switching parties after the Democratic majority in the state senate was wiped out in the 2010 Tea Party wave.

Republican strategist Andy Taggart and former Rep. Mike Espy, D-Miss., are also considering a run for Senate.

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