Chris McDaniel

State Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, an anti-establishment Republican, appears poised to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo in the Republican primary.

Various national publications have reported on McDaniel’s plan to challenge Wicker.

McDaniel, 46, a Jones County attorney, announced on Facebook Monday night his intention to make an announcement at noon Wednesday at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville. He presumably will officially announce his challenge of Wicker.

“I think you can read between the lines,” McDaniel said during the Facebook webcast, referring to the announcement.

He later said, “we are looking for a fight” and to restore conservative values to the Republican Party.

McDaniel led Mississippi’s senior U.S. senator, Thad Cochran, in the 2014 Republican primary but just missed garnering the majority vote needed to avoid a runoff. In the hotly contested runoff, Cochran defeated McDaniel.

Various reports have indicated that Cochran, age 80 and struggling with health issues in recent months, will resign from the Senate this year.

If that happens, Gov. Phil Bryant would name an interim replacement and set a special election to replace Cochran. The special election would be on Nov. 6, the same day as the regularly scheduled general election.

There had been speculation that McDaniel would opt to run in the special election instead of challenging the well-funded incumbent Wicker, who has more than $4 million in campaign cash on hand.

But theoretically, McDaniel could lose the June 5 Republican primary to Wicker and possibly still qualify to run in the November special election should the Cochran seat become vacant.

The possible scenarios for one or two Senate elections in Mississippi come against the backdrop of national Republicans and Democrats battling for control of the Senate in the November elections.

Mississippi is considered a safe Republican state, particularly in national elections. But the possibility of special elections and a McDaniel challenge of Wicker in the Republican primary could put the state in the national political spotlight.

— By Bobby Harrison / Daily Journal