Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, 59, a Mississippi Republican, was sworn in on April 9 to replace Sen. Thad Cochran, who resigned for health reasons. The new senator talks about why her dog is named Pence, where she was when she heard she was going to be appointed senator and a hobby that might surprise her colleagues.
Q: What is different about Congress that you didn’t expect?
A: It is so busy, for one thing. I mean, we’re talking five-minute increments, so drinking from the fire hydrant is really the case here. I knew it would be busy. The people have been so receptive, been so kind and welcoming. But it is fast.
Q: Tell me about your dog, Pence.
A: I have a mixed-breed rescue that’s kind of a cattle dog named Pence. My daughter was telling Vice President [Mike] Pence about our dog [at my swearing-in]. Right after he was named as the running mate, my husband and daughter were on dirt bikes and found this dog somebody had put out. Anna-Michael, my daughter, stayed with it — it tried to bite her at first —while my husband went home and got in a truck and came back and got this puppy.
The morning after the election, my daughter came out, she was still in high school, she said, “Get up, dog — you’re the vice president of the United States.” It’s a neat little cow dog but truly a rescue. It’s an Australian shepherd mix. Pence is just precious. Pence is always happy.
Q: How does it feel to be the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress?
A: Oh, it’s such an honor. It really is. It’s pretty historical in my life and in Mississippi, obviously. I’m just glad the governor chose me. I feel very honored about that and hope that I can be an example to other folks.
Q: What was your feeling when the governor told you you would be a senator? Did former Sen. Thad Cochran offer you advice?
A: Well, [Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and I] were sitting together, and after much prayer, we had arrived at that answer, which was obviously “yes.” He and I were sitting in a room together at the governor’s mansion, and he looked across the table, and he said, “I will officially ask” after we had a long conversation. He said, “Would you accept the appointment?” And I said, “I’d do so with honor, governor.”
[Cochran’s] entire life has been such an example for so many people. His demeanor, his temperament. We have not spoken since the appointment. They’re definitely big shoes to fill, and I just have the utmost respect for Sen. Cochran.
Q: What is something about you that your colleagues may not know?
A: I ride a dirt bike a lot. That may be something they don’t know. Yes, [I have one at home]. That’s a hobby that I absolutely love — my dirt bike.
Last book read: I reread “Mississippi Mud.”
Pet peeve: People that get in the left lane on the interstate and drive very slowly.
Cats or dogs: I have both. Probably dogs.
If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead: Lou Holtz.
Closest friend across the aisle: I haven’t been here long enough really to meet a lot of folks.
ICYMI: Cochran Bids Goodbye to Senate After Nearly 40 Years Representing Mississippi