By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Rep. Roger Wicker, a 13-year veteran of the House and self-described "mainstream conservative," was appointed yesterday by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) to replace Republican Trent Lott in the Senate.
Lott, the minority whip, stunned Washington in November with his resignation announcement. He left the Senate in December to begin working as a lobbyist.
Not widely known outside his northern Mississippi district, Wicker will have to compete in a special election if he hopes to finish Lott's term. Several Democrats are considering the race, but Democratic leaders in Washington intend to rally around former governor Ronnie Musgrove (D), who was ousted by Barbour in 2003.
The victor in the special election will serve through 2012 because Lott retired from the Senate less than a year after beginning his fourth term, but when that election will be held is in dispute.
At a news conference in Jackson, Miss., Wicker called himself a "mainstream conservative" in the mold of Lott, Barbour and Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) but also sought to position himself as an accommodating bipartisan lawmaker interested in crafting deals -- an approach embraced by Lott and other Mississippi senators for the past several decades.
"I hope my constituents and colleagues view me as a pragmatic problem-solver. I am a proud Republican who believes in the spirit of bipartisanship," Wicker said.
Barbour has called for the special election to be held in November, but Democrats contend he is ignoring a state law that requires an election for a vacated Senate seat to be held within 100 days of the opening if it occurs in an odd-numbered year.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) has urged Barbour to set a special election for March 11, when the presidential primary is scheduled. Hood is expected to file suit in the state courts later this week and ask for expedited review.
Mississippi has become solidly Republican in federal races, with GOP presidential candidates winning there in the last seven campaigns. Republicans have held both Senate seats since Lott's initial election in 1988. But Democrats believe that in a race lasting barely two months Musgrove would begin with stronger name recognition and a huge financial edge.