Congress is about to get its first woman from Mississippi.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint state Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to the Senate on Wednesday, where she’ll fill the seat vacated by Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, Republican sources told multiple news outlets on Tuesday. Cochran, who is 80 years old, is resigning on April 1 due to health issues. Bryant’s office didn’t return VICE News’ request for comment.
Hyde-Smith, a former state senator and a Republican, would become Mississippi’s first female member of Congress. Mississippi is the only state other than Vermont to have never elected a woman to serve in the federal legislature; unlike Mississippi, however, Vermont has had a female governor. Mississippi Democrats and Republicans both failed to nominate even one woman for any Congressional race in 2014 and 2016, a report by the nonpartisan gender parity initiative Represent Women found.
Despite this milestone, Hyde-Smith may not be in office for long. Mississippi will hold a special election for her seat this November, where she’s expected to face stiff competition from state Sen. Chris McDaniel, according to Politico. Hyde-Smith is a former Democrat who switched party affiliations in 2010, while McDaniel’s views tilt much further to the right.
A potential McDaniel campaign has already worried state Republicans, who want to avoid becoming the next Alabama. Like Mississippi, Alabama was once considered a reliably red state — until far-right conservative Roy Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones in a November special election for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat. That victory made Jones the first Democrat elected to represent Alabama in the Senate since 1992.
Moore’s defeat, however, was likely aided by voters’ concerns over accusations that Moore had sexually molested a 14-year-old girl in the late 1970s. Several other woman also accused Moore of attempting to date them while they were in their teens and he was a 30-something assistant DA.
Bryant is expected to make Hyde-Smith’s appointment official Wednesday afternoon.
Cover image: Mississippi Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Cindy Hyde-Smith speaks at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi on July 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)