Barbour to name Republican Wicker to Senate post

Published 9:26 pm Monday, December 31, 2007

Republican Haley Barbour’s choice to succeed Sen. Trent Lott is Rep. Roger Wicker, a conservative congressman, congressional officials with knowledge of the selection process said Monday.

Wicker, 56, will serve until a special election is held, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made. Wicker is expected to be a candidate in the special election, which Barbour has scheduled for Nov. 4.

Wicker had been mentioned as a possible successor since Lott’s resignation this month after serving one year of a six-year term. Lott’s term runs through 2012.

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Barbour was to announce Wicker’s appointment later Monday at news conferences in Jackson and Gulfport.

Wicker also was resigning from the U.S. House.

Wicker was elected to the U.S. House in 1994 to succeed the late Rep. Jamie Whitten. He has been re-elected six times from the 1st District in north Mississippi.

Lott served 16 years in the U.S. House before moving to the Senate in 1988. Lott announced in November that he would resign before the end of the year. He officially resigned Dec. 19 after Congress wrapped up its work for the year.

Lott, 66, said he wants to spend more time with his family and to pursue other job opportunities, possibly teaching. He ruled out any health concerns, but said it’s time for a younger voice to represent Mississippi in the Senate.

Wicker had been mentioned as a possible successor since Lott’s resignation. His appointment became more likely after retiring Republican Rep. Chip Pickering and Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr removed their names from consideration.

Wicker, a native of Pontotoc, graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1973 and got a law degree there in 1975. Wicker and his wife, Gayle, have three children.

Wicker served in the state Senate from 1987-94. He worked on welfare reform and helped push a bill through the 1994 session as chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee.

He opposes abortion and supports public education, having supported an increase in taxes to benefit the public schools while in the state Legislature. He supports tax cuts, however, as a means of stimulating economic growth. He also supports a balanced budget.

Wicker served on active duty in the Air Force and then served in the Air Force Reserve. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 2004 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. At the conclusion of his active duty, he became counsel to then-U.S. Rep. Lott on the House Rules Committee in 1980.

In 2001, Wicker was elected to the Republican Policy Committee and was re-elected to that position in 2007. He continues to serve on the House Appropriations Committee, a seat he landed as a freshman in 1995.