Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel announced Wednesday he will switch from challenging GOP Sen. Roger Wicker in a primary to running in the November special election for resigning Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat.
“By announcing early, we are asking Mississippi Republicans to unite around my candidacy and avoid another contentious contest among GOP members that would only improve the Democrats’ chances of winning the open seat,” McDaniel said in a statement, alluding to Republicans’ loss in an Alabama special election late last year.
Cochran announced his resignation from the Senate earlier this month, which will take effect April 1. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a placeholder to fill the seat until the November special election when candidates from all parties will run together. The top two candidates will then advance to a runoff if no one clears 50 percent of the vote.
McDaniel came close to ousting Cochran in the June 2014 primary, but Cochran ultimately prevailed in the runoff.
Watch: As Cochran Moves On, His Famous Senate Desk Will Stay With Mississippi
McDaniel’s campaign said donors had been encouraging him to run in the open seat to prevent a divisive GOP primary that could result in a Democratic victory in November. His campaign pointed to the money Senate Leadership Fund spent attacking Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks’ during the primary for the special election in Alabama.
“When you look at how the establishment works to keep conservatives like Mo Brooks from winning a U.S. Senate seat only to lose the seat entirely, you have to conclude that Mitch McConnell and his lieutenants would rather lose a seat to a Democrat than elect a conservative,” McDaniel said.
Remember Mississippi, a super PAC supporting McDaniel, welcomed the move. “This is a once in a generation opportunity for the people to have their say rather than accept the choice of the powers that be,” treasurer Tommy Barnett said in a statement.
Wicker said Wednesday that his campaign, which has already released several ads, isn't easing up.
“Until Senator McDaniel removes his name from the ballot for this race, we have no choice but to continue our campaign as planned," Wicker said in a statement.