March 21 (UPI) — Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday appointed Cindy Hyde-Smith to fill the Senate seat left vacant by Thad Cochran.
Hyde-Smith, a Republican, served as Mississippi’s commissioner of agriculture and commerce until her appointment. With her new post, that leaves Vermont as the only U.S. state never to have had a female member of Congress.
“We made history today. Our new United States Senator will be sworn in by [Vice President Mike Pence] in April. So proud to be with my friend Cindy Hyde-Smith in Brookhaven,” Bryant said during the announcement.
Hyde-Smith thanked Bryant for the appointment.
“I am humbled by your trust and confidence in me and equally appreciative of the responsibility I have to the people of” Mississippi,” she said.
Hyde-Smith faces a Nov. 6 special election to permanently fill the Senate post. Her Republican challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, sent an open letter to President Donald Trump “not to lend your name to a candidate that is likely to lose.” More than 100 Republican supporters signed McDaniel’s letter.
At issue is Hyde-Smith’s past as a Democrat, though she describes herself as a “lifelong conservative.”
Sen. Cochran announced March 5 he would be resigning his position nearly two years early citing his deteriorating health. The 80-year-old said he would leave April 1.
Cochran served three terms in the House of Representatives before being elected to the Senate for the first time in 1978, becoming the first Republican to win a statewide election in Mississippi in more than 100 years.
He was most recently re-elected in 2014 and is the 10th-longest serving senator in U.S. history.