Midterm elections are coming up in early November, and the drama has long since started. Mississippi has both its Senators up for re-election this year with an intense game of musical chairs going down.
Senator Roger Wicker, a republican, is met with no inner-party competition for his seat after State Senator Chris McDaniel pulled out of the race. Wicker has been Mississippi’s junior senator since 2007 and will now sit in Senator Thad Cochran’s senior chair. Whoever has served the longest of the two senators is considered the senior senator and the newer one is the junior.
McDaniel has decided to run for the seat recently vacated by Cochran. Senator Cochran retired due to health concerns April 1 after the 2018 appropriations cycle, leaving a second senate seat up for grabs this year.
Then Governor Phil Bryant started the drama. Governor Bryant appointed the Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, Cindy Hyde-Smith, to serve the remainder of Cochran’s term. She will now run to keep her seat in a special election that the governor scheduled for the same date as the regular midterm elections, November 6. Hyde-Smith was first elected to the state house as a democrat in 2000 but changed her party affiliation to republican in 2010. This has been a point the McDaniel campaign has chosen to exploit, effectively stirring the pot by claiming she’s not a true conservative and using her refusal to debate McDaniel against her.
Senator McDaniel is a staunch advocate for conservative principles and large supporter of the late Tea Party movement. He has represented the 42nd Mississippi Senate district since 2008 and is a former federal law clerk, attorney, and lead counsel for Mississippi’s Obamacare lawsuit.
Senator McDaniel’s running in 2018 is no surprise to those who follow Mississippi politics after a narrow defeat from Senator Thad Cochran in the 2014 primary left Mississippi grassroots conservatives thoroughly energized. McDaniel won 49.5% of the votes in the Republican primary in 2014 with Cochran only receiving 49%. With no candidate receiving the majority of the votes, a runoff was triggered, and Cochran defeated McDaniel with just 51% of the vote. The race was highly controversial with both sides accusing the other of wrongdoing.
The President has recently shown support of Wicker and Hyde-Smith. For Wicker this is really a no-brainer, but many are confused as to why The White House is not behind McDaniel. McDaniel is no doubt strongly in favor of President Trump. He supported him throughout the hectic 2016 election in which Trump ran his campaign largely on “draining the swamp,” something McDaniel is in favor of as a proponent of congressional term limits and a very outspoken critic of the “D.C. establishment.”
Congressman Trent Kelly, representative of Mississippi’s 1st district, which includes Lafayette County, is also up for re-election. Kelly continues to serve in the U.S. Army and was promoted to Brigadier General in January 2018. He has represented the 1st district since 2015 after winning a special election to succeed Rep. Alan Nunnelee after his death from a brain tumor.
There are democratic challengers for each seat this November. State House Minority Leader, David Baria, is set to challenge Senator Wicker and Ole Miss Chemistry Professor Randy Wadkins is to challenge Congressman Kelly. Former Secretary of Agriculture under the Clinton Administration, Mike Espy, has the best chance of the three considering he is running against Hyde-Smith and McDaniel, both of which have not been elected to the seat previously.
While the midterms this year are looking very interesting, Mississippi is made of mostly conservatives, so these matchups are expected to favor republicans as they have since the 1980s.