In an unexpected move today, Mississippi’s senior Senator Thad Cochran announced his retirement from the U.S. Senate effective April 1, 2018.
Upon hearing the news, former U.S. Representative and member of Bill Clinton’s cabinet Mike Espy announced his “strong intention to run” for Cochran’s newly vacated Senate seat.
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“I just learned of the pending resignation of Sen. Cochran — a person I admire and respect, and who has done so much for Mississippi over his tenure,” Espy, an attorney, said. “However, now that he has announced his pending resignation I would like to declare my strong intention to run for the United States Senate.”
“I have proven that I can work with everyone as long as the goal is a better Mississippi,” Espy added.
Espy was the first African American to serve as the Secretary of Agriculture, in Clinton’s administration, and the first African American to get elected to a Mississippi congressional seat since Reconstruction, where he represented the 2nd District from 1987 to 1993.
Retiring Senator Thad Cochran, for his part, was first elected to the Senate in 1978, marking the end of a 40-year tenure. He is the tenth-longest serving Senator in American history.
He cited health problems as the reason for his departure, but he joins a long – and growing – list of high-profile Republican departures ahead of what promises to be perhaps one of the most difficult midterm elections for the GOP in modern history.
So far, 39 Republicans have either retired, resigned, announced their resignation, or are leaving office to seek a different position. Democrats need 24 seats to retake the House of Representatives, and only two seats for control of the Senate.
Just as was the case in Alabama, where Doug Jones became the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in a quarter century, Mississippi – which skews less Republican than Alabama – could prove prime ground for another Democratic upset. Espy would be the perfect candidate to deliver on it.