Chris McDaniel abandons Wicker challenge; will run for Cochran’s seat in special election

March 14, 2018 GMT

Chris McDaniel bailed Wednesday on his short-lived bid to unseat Sen. Roger Wicker in a Republican primary race in Mississippi and declared he is running for the seat being vacated by GOP Sen. Thad Cochran.

It was the latest wrinkle in Mr. McDaniel’s decision-making process.

The 45-year-old state senator seemed to have reached a final decision two weeks ago when he kicked off a primary challenge against Mr. Wicker, arguing the incumbent has not been conservative enough and disloyal to Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump, though, punched a hole in that message after he endorsed Mr. Wicker on the eve of Mr. McDaniel’s campaign launch.

Mr. McDaniel started rethinking things last week after Mr. Cochran, the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, announced he was resigning on April 1 because of health issues setting the stage for a special election to fill out the remainder of his term, which runs through 2020.

Mr. McDaniel said he hopes to unify the party “and avoid another contentious contest among GOP members that would only improve Democrats’ chances of winning the open seat.”

Mr. McDaniel’s supporters have argued that Gov. Phil Bryant should appoint him to the seat on an interim basis until a special election is held. Others have urged Mr. Bryant to appoint himself.

Political insiders say it is more likely that Mr. Bryant picks from a list that, among others, includes Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman.

Mr. McDaniel has been itching for the chance to run for the Senate since he lost a hardfought primary a race against Mr. Cochran in the 2014 primary race.

Mr. McDaniel and his supporters say the seat was “stolen” from them.

“If we united the party now and consolidate our resources, we can guarantee Donald Trump will have a fighter who will stand with him,” he said Wednesday.