Fourth Hopeful Announces Bid to Replace Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran

Potentially heated open special election lies ahead

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s resignation has set off a potentially competitive special election contest to replace him. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A fourth candidate has declared his intention to run for former Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat in the November special election.

Jason Shelton, the Democratic mayor of Tupelo, announced his bid for Cochran’s seat Tuesday on WTVA 9 News. It’s his first run for statewide office.

“I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I could win,” Shelton said, branding himself a “fiscal conservative” who is “prudent with taxpayer dollars.”

“I think we have a proven record of success here in our city, a record to run on,” he said, adding that he plans on “taking that record all across the state of Mississippi.”

He will remain Tupelo’s mayor during the campaign.

Shelton faces an uphill battle as he joins a field of candidates with much greater name recognition. Candidates from all parties will run together on a single ballot in November, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a runoff if no one takes more than 50 percent of the vote. 

Cochran’s replacement, Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith, has said she will run in November. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant tapped the state agriculture and commerce commissioner for Cochran’s seat and she is expected to be sworn in later this month. 

Former Democratic Rep. Mike Espy, a onetime Agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration, has also tossed his hat into the contest. Anti-establishment GOP state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who came close to dislodging Cochran in the 2014 GOP primary, announced last month he would run in the special election and forgo a primary challenge to GOP Sen. Roger Wicker, who is also up for re-election this year. 

Watch: A Look Back at Sen. Thad Cochran’s Congressional Career

The White House reportedly opposed the decision to pick Hyde-Smith, a former Democrat, as Cochran’s replacement because it had serious concerns whether she could beat McDaniel. 

Shelton believes he can cut through the political noise and reach voters with a message of promising to roll up his sleeves and do the dirty work in Washington.

“We got so caught up in the rhetoric of campaigns, all the sound bites, all the different clips,” Shelton said. “But at the end of the day, there’s a real job to be done as a United States senator. And I think I’m the best person in this race to do that job.”

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race for Cochran’s seat Solid Republican.

Niels Lesniewski and Simone Pathé contributed to this report.

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