Senator Cochran will resign April 1st

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It's hardly a big surprise that the very senior US senator from Mississippi, Thad Cochran, has announced his resignation from the Upper Chamber, effective April 1, after 40 years in the Senate and 46 years in Congress.

"I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge", Cochran said in a prepared statement. In a statement, Cochran said he intends to complete the appropriations cycle before retiring.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) will be tasked with tapping an interim Senator to fill Cochran's seat.

Cochran, 80, chairs the Appropriations Committee and has been absent from the Senate for long stretches over the past year, and his resignation does not come as a surprise.

He served in the House for 5 years before winning his Senate seat in 1978.

Cochran's departure set off a scramble within a state Republican Party already struggling to manage a disaffected conservative faction.

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In 2014, Cochran struggled to win a Republican primary over McDaniel, who received financial support from libertarian-leaning groups that criticized Cochran as a big spender. Roger Wicker's reelection bid. State senator Chris McDaniel has announced he will be challenging Wicker in this race. Though Bryant has not yet named who will be his choice, several names are making the rounds which include Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Bradenton Herald reported. "It'll be exciting to see who is actually going to be appointed to that position".

"While it is certain that MS will have two U.S. Senate races this year, I am now focused on my campaign against Roger Wicker, but all options remain on the table as we determine the best way to ensure that MS elects conservatives to the United States Senate", McDaniel said.

Republicans are anxious that one or both of Mississippi's Senate seats could be in jeopardy unless a top replacement is named for Cochran.

Longtime Senate aides, who observed Cochran regularly, noted privately that the senator seemed to have slowed down mentally in recent years but they acknowledge it's hard to tell to what degree.

Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro contributed from Washington and photographer Rogelio V. Solis contributed from Pearl, Mississippi.

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