By JOE RUTHERFORD and BOBBY HARRISON
A rising cloud of potential candidates for U.S. Sen. Trent Lott’s seat formed quickly Monday after news broke that the 35-year Republican congressional leader would resign before year’s end.
Gov. Haley Barbour announced a special election for Nov. 4, 2008, to fill the seat and complete the term that began in January 2007.
Barbour said he would not be a candidate in the race and “obviously” would not appoint himself for an interim term.
The list of possibilities took shape within hours, in part because a successful statewide race will require a multimillion-dollar campaign treasury and time to raise it. And it included familiar names, such as Roger Wicker, Ronnie Musgrove, Mike Moore and Glenn McCullough Jr.
Possible NeMiss candidates
As potential candidates and their strategists huddled, the possibility of a candidate from Northeast Mississippi appeared to increase.
Wicker, a Tupelo Republican serving his seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives, wouldn’t rule himself in or out. “Clearly,” he said, “I am answering my telephone and listening to the people who call to give me their thoughts.
“I think it’s appropriate to reflect for a few days,” Wicker said Monday. “This news is less than 24 hours old. It has taken most by surprise, to say the least.”
While Wicker would not commit either way, a Daily Journal Washington political source said the Web address Wickerforsenate.com appears to have been registered mid-afternoon Monday by a group named Friends of Roger Wicker.
Wicker is a former Washington staffer for Lott, as is U.S. Rep. Charles “Chip” Pickering, Jr., the Republican who holds the 3rd District seat but has announced he will leave Congress at the end of the 2008 term to return home to his family.
Marty Wiseman, executive director of the Stennis Institute of Government at Mississippi State University, said Pickering, who lives in Madison County, may have “complicated” his possibilities with that announcement. Pickering issued a statement praising Lott but did not say whether he would seek the Senate seat.
McCullough, the former Tupelo mayor and ex-Tennessee Valley Authority chairman, said he “possibly” is interested in running for Lott’s seat in the special 2008 election.
A partner in a consulting firm, McCullough said he would go through a “methodical process” in considering a race, including discussions with his family. He had Lott’s support for appointment to the regional power authority’s board and for its chairmanship.
Dems on election watch
Musgrove, a Democrat who served as governor from 2000 to 2004, said, “I am seriously considering” running for the post.
Another Democrat, former state Attorney General Mike Moore has for some time been considered a likely candidate should the Senate seat become vacant. He said Monday that he has received calls from friends and supporters encouraging him to run. “I will make my decision soon,” he said.
Other Democrats mentioned as possible candidates include former Gov. Ray Mabus, who could not be reached for comment.
Outgoing Democratic Secretary of State Eric Clark said he was “absolutely not interested.”
Other possible Republican candidates include state Sen. Charlie Ross of Brandon, who was defeated in August by Auditor Phil Bryant for the vacant post of lieutenant governor and is considered a leading contender to replace Pickering in the House. Bryant on Monday ruled himself out as a Lott replacement.
There has been speculation about whether outgoing Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck would pursue another statewide post. She is slated to go to work for Mississippi State University after her term ends in January.
Wiseman added another name to the list of possible candidates: U.S. Under-Secretary of Agriculture Mark Keenum, a former Alcorn County resident. He is a former chief of staff to Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. Keenum was actively promoted for the MSU presidency in 2006 when Robert Foglesong was hired.
“He could have considerable support,” Wiseman said.
Neither Tuck nor Keenum could be reached for comment Monday.
Contact Daily Journal reporters Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and Joe Rutherford at (662) 678-1597 or email@example.com.