By Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON – Former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, a Democrat, said Friday he’s considering running for the U.S. Senate in 2014 but won’t commit until he hears what Republican Sen. Thad Cochran will do.
Cochran has held the seat since 1978 and has said he’ll decide by the end of this month whether to seek another six-year term. However, a Cochran spokesman said the senator hasn’t specified when he’ll announce his plans.
Cochran turns 76 in December. If he seeks another term, he’d run with the advantages of incumbency, including name recognition and nearly $804,000 in campaign cash already on hand. If he doesn’t run, the race is expected to attract several candidates.
Childers, of Booneville, had been Prentiss County chancery clerk more than 26 years when was elected to north Mississippi’s 1st District congressional seat in mid-2008 as a fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat. In November 2010, he was unseated by Republican Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo a longtime state senator who said defeating Childers would help remove California Democrat Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. Republicans won control of the House in that election.
After the loss, Childers returned to selling real estate.
Childers, 55, said he and Cochran worked well together and he’d prefer not to challenge the senator — but Childers stopped short of ruling out that possibility.
“I’d be far more interested in looking at it if he is not a candidate,” Childers told The Associated Press in a phone interview Friday.
He said he wants to give Cochran time to make a decision. “There’s still such a thing as respect and friendship in the South,” Childers said.
Cochran is a former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and has brought billions of dollars to Mississippi for highways, agriculture, military installations, disaster recovery and other projects. He’s currently the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville announced in mid-October that he’s running for Senate, regardless of what Cochran does. McDaniel has in-state tea party support. The Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, which have been active in Republican primaries in other states, have bought TV ads supporting McDaniel.
Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann has said he’ll run if Cochran doesn’t. State Auditor Stacey Pickering, 3rd District U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves are frequently mentioned as other possible Republican contenders if Cochran opts out.
State party chairman Rickey Cole said in October that he would not expect a big-name Democratic candidate to emerge if Cochran seeks re-election. If Cochran doesn’t run again, possible candidates include former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran.