Tea Party Candidate Challenges Thad Cochran

Cochran is considering retirement. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel announced Thursday afternoon that he will challenge six-term Sen. Thad Cochran, potentially setting up a dynamic and divisive GOP primary in the Magnolia State in 2014.

McDaniel kicks off his bid with support from several national conservative groups, including the Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund and the Madison Project.

The seat is safely in GOP hands, but Cochran is still mum on whether he will seek re-election. He's said he will make a decision by the end of the year. A longtime appropriator, Cochran has leveraged his seniority to bring home funds for decades.

Republicans noted last month

McDaniel has mulled a bid for Congress for a few months and confirmed his interest in a September interview with CQ Roll Call.

“I think he will get his head handed to him, and that will be what he deserves,” Republican lobbyist Henry Barbour said in September of a McDaniel run. “[But] it’s a free country.”

The primary will be on June 3. The race is rated Safe Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.