Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of the Gulf Coast region is factoring into Sen. Trent Lott’s (R-Miss.) decision about whether to seek a fourth term, as he weighs his own family’s financial situation with the dire needs of many of his constituents and neighbors.
Lott, whose Pascagoula home was destroyed in the hurricane, said in an interview Wednesday that this disaster is “going to make the whole thing difficult because I want to help, but I have got to go through the whole family situation.”
“On a personal basis, it is probably time for me to go,” Lott said. “On a constituent and professional basis, maybe I shouldn’t. I don’t know.”
Unlike many of his colleagues, Lott is not independently wealthy, having spent almost his entire working career in public service. He described his Pascagoula home as “my little nest egg,” which is now “gone.”
“I am going to wind up taking a pretty good financial hit from this, anyway you cut it,” Lott said. “That was frankly, most of my life savings. It was the first thing I ever had in my life that was paid off.”
The Mississippi Republican’s most recent financial disclosure revealed he had modest investments and savings.
Ever since Lott was forced to step down from his post as Republican Leader in December 2002, there has been widespread speculation he would retire at the end of 2006 to cash in on his 30-plus years of Congressional experience and contacts. Lott has done little to suppress this rumor by refusing to directly state he will seek re-election.
Now, Lott said it will be at least three months before he makes a decision on his political future, a time frame the Mississippi Republican said is needed to analyze the rebuilding effort in his and neighboring states that were hit by Katrina. He won re-election with 66 percent of the vote in 2000 and is heavily favored to win another term, should he run next year.
While Lott acknowledged there is a temptation to leave for the private sector, the Senator added, “I have never made a decision on my life based on personal finances.”
“The one thing is I want to help those people any way I can,” Lott said. “I hope I can be effective in helping in a lot of different ways. That is the difficult part. Can somebody come in, a new guy, pick up the mantle and do that much?”
It appears the chance to take a leading role in helping rebuild the Gulf States ravaged by the hurricane is very appealing to Lott, who has spent the past two-and-half years trying to repair his public image. And there is talk that Lott might make a bid for a Republican leadership position in the 110th Congress, an idea he will not dismiss outright.
The Mississippian was pressured to step down as Republican leader after he told attendees at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party the country would have been better off if voters had chosen the South Carolinian when he ran for president in 1948. Thurmond’s Dixiecrat campaign was based on segregation and states rights.