U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran — the Mississippi Republican whose 2014 primary campaign drew national attention over an aspiring blogger’s photos of his bedridden wife — has married his longtime aide, his office said Monday.
The wedding to Kay Webber took place privately Saturday in Gulfport.
The senator’s former wife, Rose Cochran, died in December at age 73 from dementia after living in a nursing home for 13 years.
Political blogger Clayton Kelly took pictures of a bedridden Rose Cochran in April 2014, and officials say he intended to use the images to advance allegations that the senator was having an inappropriate relationship with Webber. Cochran’s aides said then that there was nothing improper about the senator’s relationship with Webber.
Webber has worked for Cochran since 1981, and both are 77, spokesman Chris Gallegos said. Webber makes $165,000 a year working for the senator.
Kelly, of Pearl, faces charges of conspiracy, burglary and attempted burglary over the photograph. Kelly’s lawyer questions whether any laws were broken.
Charges against three other men have been resolved.
Richard Sager, a Laurel teacher and coach who had been charged with conspiracy and tampering with evidence, entered a pretrial diversion program. His case won’t be prosecuted if he successfully completes the program.
John Mary of Hattiesburg pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy and agreed to cooperate with investigators. Mary received no jail time and could have the conviction wiped from his record if he completes probation.
Ridgeland Attorney Mark Mayfield, who was charged with conspiracy, died by suicide in June, according to police.
The photograph controversy was only one part of a chaotic 2014 Republican primary in which Cochran was challenged by state Sen. Chris McDaniel, an Ellisville Republican. McDaniel led Cochran and one other Republican candidate in the June 3 primary. But Cochran rallied and defeated McDaniel by 7,667 votes in a runoff three weeks later, in part by making appeals to typically Democratic African-American voters.
McDaniel filed a lawsuit claiming the runoff results were tainted by voting irregularities. A circuit judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying it was filed too late. The state Supreme Court upheld the dismissal Oct. 24.
Cochran was first elected to the U.S. House in 1972 and won his first six-year term in the Senate in 1978. He waited until late last year to announce he was seeking re-election, weeks after McDaniel had entered the race and lined up financial support from groups that sought to unseat longtime Republicans.
Cochran cruised to victory in the general election with 60 percent of the vote.
As Cochran’s aide, Webber makes $165,000 a year, Gallegos said.
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