Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has appointed state Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to fill outgoing Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R) seat.
Cochran, 80, has been battling health problems and announced that he would be stepping down on April 1. While Hyde-Smith will only serve as Senator until a special election is held on Nov. 6 to determine who will serve out the remaining two years of Cochran’s term, the choice is not insignificant.
Hyde-Smith, who was a Democrat until 2010, has not received support from the Trump administration. According to The Washington Post, Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted Bryant to appoint himself to the position. Hyde-Smith plans to run for the seat in November, and Trump and McConnell are reportedly concerned that in the election she will struggle to defeat opponent Chris McDaniel, a hard-right state senator, who in turn could potentially lose in a runoff against a Democratic challenger.
Acknowledging these concerns, Hyde-Smith invoked Trump at a rally in Mississippi on Wednesday. She referenced his “Make America Great Again” slogan and said she looked forward to working with the president.
Republican concerns for the results of the November election aside, Hyde-Smith’s appointment in the short-term is historic. She will be the first female Senator in the history of Mississippi, a state that has never had a female governor or member of Congress. Vermont is the only other state to hold a similar distinction of never sending a female to Congress—but the state had a female governor from 1985 to 1991.
Hyde-Smith’s appointment will also bring another first to the entire upper chamber of Congress: there will be 23 women serving as senator, a new high.