Cochran says he’ll run for re-election

Published 4:20 pm Thursday, November 15, 2007

Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi will seek re-election in 2008, ending any speculation he might retire because the GOP no longer has the majority on Capitol Hill.

“While I delayed making this decision until after our state and local government elections were over, there is no reason to delay any longer,” Cochran said in a statement released Wednesday.

Cochran, 69, has been in the Senate since 1979. He’s been on Capitol Hill since winning election to the U.S. House in 1972.

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Cochran is the ranking Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the homeland security Appropriations subcommittee. He was the Appropriations Committee chairman before Democrats won the majority in the 2006 elections.

Cochran could serve four more years after this current term as ranking minority member should he win re-election.

Also Wednesday, Republican John Rounsaville of Madison announced he is running for the 3rd District seat that U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., is giving up at the end of this term.

Rounsaville, a former top aide to Pickering and Gov. Haley Barbour, recently resigned as state director of the USDA Office of Rural Development.

Gregg Harper, also a Republican, announced his campaign for the 3rd District seat on Tuesday. Harper, an attorney who practices in Pearl, serves as the city prosecutor for Richland and Brandon.

No one has announced a challenge to Cochran. The qualifying deadline for congressional races is Jan. 11. The party primaries are March 11.

“If somebody’s got a lot of extra time on his hands and a lot of extra money to spend they can get out and have a good time, but the campaign for that seat was over when Cochran announced he was running again,” said Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University.

Wiseman said Cochran’s role is critical even though Republicans are no longer in the majority. He said Cochran has worked well with Democrats and could continue to do so as he looks out for Mississippi’s interests.

Wiseman also said the Republican Party wants to hold on to as many members as possible. So far, five Senate Republicans have announced they are retiring.

“In a situation where the Republicans are in the minority party, I can’t think of anyone who would have built up more good will toward the Democrats,” Wiseman said.

Mississippi Democratic Party spokesman Terry Cassreino said no Democrat has qualified to challenge Cochran at this point, “but the qualification deadline is at least a couple of months away and the party is certain we will have a competitive” candidate.

Mississippi’s other U.S. senator, Republican Trent Lott, is not up for re-election next year.

Barbour said Cochran’s announcement was good news.

“His stature and prestige in the Senate have helped our state time and time again, and never as much as after Hurricane Katrina,” Barbour said in a statement.

When Mississippi was hit by Hurricane Katrina, Cochran, then chairman of the Appropriations Committee, presided over proceedings on legislation that provided $87 billion in supplemental federal assistance to the states affected by the storm.

He’s been credited with steering federal funding to numerous Mississippi economic development projects over the years, as well as fighting for programs that benefit residents in the state, including Head Start, a nutritional and literacy program for needy children.

“I have enjoyed serving in the Senate and I am highly honored to have had the support and encouragement to continue this service from friends throughout the state.

“I look forward to working with the other members of our delegation in Washington to keep our country strong and safe and economically sound, and to ensure that our state’s interests are well served by the federal government,” Cochran said.

A full sixth term would give Cochran 36 years in the Senate, matching the record of his predecessor, the late U.S. Sen. James O. Eastland.

The late U.S. Sen. John C. Stennis served more than 41 years.