By Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON – U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran says he’ll decide by the end of this month whether to seek another six-year term in 2014.
The Mississippi Republican has been in the Senate since 1978, after serving six years in the House. He turns 76 in December.
Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos told The Associated Press on Wednesday that while Cochran plans to make a decision in November, the senator hasn’t specified when he will announce his plans.
One tea party-backed candidate, Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, announced in mid-October that he will run in 2014, regardless of what Cochran does.
Another Republican, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, has told AP he’ll run if Cochran doesn’t.
With his election to the Senate in 1978, Cochran became the first Republican since Reconstruction to win a statewide office in Mississippi. He is a past chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, bringing billions of federal dollars to the state for Hurricane Katrina recovery and other projects. He’s currently the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Cochran was born in Pontotoc and grew up in Hinds County. He now has a home in Oxford.
If Cochran seeks re-election, many Republicans and Democrats say he would be difficult to defeat. If he decides not to run, the Senate race could attract several candidates who would see an open seat as a rare opportunity to run for an influential job.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering, 3rd District U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are frequently mentioned as other possible Republican contenders if Cochran doesn’t run.
State party chairman Rickey Cole told the AP in October that he would not expect a big-name Democratic candidate to emerge if Cochran seeks re-election. However, he said he’d expect Democrats to run if Cochran opts out.
Some Democrats mentioned as possible candidates are former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, former 1st District U.S. Rep. Travis Childers and Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran.