So who might run for a vacant Senate seat?
The names of nearly every notable Mississippi politician are circulating. It would be easier to name those who aren’t.
Gov. Phil Bryant and former Gov. Haley Barbour are not likely candidates.
Barbour, 64, has opined he’s too old and he likes being in charge too much to become a freshman among 99 other senators.
Bryant, in his first year as governor, said during his campaign he wasn’t seeking that office as a stepping stone. Other than the outside chance Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves challenges him, Bryant appears to have a clear horizon to a second term as governor at this point.
Reeves, 38, is the powerhouse politician in Mississippi at this point, and an obvious heir apparent to Cochran, or Bryant as governor. In his first year as lieutenant governor, Reeves restored power to the office that had been tamped down while Barbour was governor. Reeves put his stamp on most major state legislation passed this year. He overrode the House and Bryant to block several measures and thwarted the longtime practice of borrowing money for capital projects.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, 65, is another potential Republican contender for the post, also with statewide name recognition and fundraising capabilities. Some political observers wonder if his age would be a factor.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering, 43, a former state senator and rising star in the state GOP, is another likely candidate. His name has stayed before voters as his office has uncovered some high-profile political corruption cases and the auditor’s spot has long been a springboard to higher office in Mississippi.
Any U.S. representatives would also be potential Senate candidates, with Rep. Gregg Harper, 56, the most frequently mentioned. But such a run would be more of a gut check for a sitting congressman, who would have to resign his seat to run for the Senate. A state officeholder could keep his or her position and run for the post.
Many wonder if an open Senate seat would draw out some dormant politicians, such as former Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, a Republican, or former Democratic Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who unsuccessfully ran against Sen. Roger Wicker for a Senate seat in 2008. Former Democratic Gov. Ray Mabus, now secretary of the Navy, has also been mentioned, along with former U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor. But most observers, given Mississippi’s recent statewide voting trends, believe the Senate seat would stay in Republican hands.
Any top contender would, of course, try to ward off other challengers and the state Republican Party wouldn’t relish a GOP brawl. But if the field were crowded, it might encourage some lesser known up and comers to join in, such as state Sens. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, or Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula. Both are considered likely for higher office someday. In a free-for-all GOP primary, the race might come down to who could slice off the biggest chunk of the state.
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