(CN) – Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant on Wednesday appointed state agriculture commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to fill outgoing U.S. Senator Thad Cochran’s seat, who is retiring due to health issues.
A Republican, Hyde-Smith, 58, will be the first woman member of Congress from Mississippi, until a special election Nov. 6 decides who will serve out the remainder of Cochran’s term through 2021.
“Commissioner Hyde-Smith has worked tirelessly on behalf of the men and women in agriculture, Mississippi’s largest industry and a treasured way of life in our state,” Bryant said in a statement. “Her intellect, compassion, toughness and determination to get this done exemplify everything Mississippi needs in the United States Senate.”
A one-time Democrat until switching parties in 2010, Hyde-Smith was elected commissioner of agriculture and commerce by Mississippi voters in November 2011, becoming the state’s first woman to ever be elected to a statewide position.
She spent 12 years as a state senator representing District 39, where she served eight years as chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. A supporter of President Donald Trump, Hyde-Smith held the position of co-chair of the 2016 campaign’s agriculture advisory committee.
“I am truly humbled and honored that Governor Phil Bryant has asked me to serve as your next U.S. Senator,” Hyde-Smith said. “I am eager and exited to get to Washington to begin work on issues that are important to every Mississippian.”
Hyde-Smith is expected to run in the November special election. She will face at least two challengers in Republican state Senator Chris McDaniel, who challenged Cochran in 2014, and Democrat Mike Espy, a former congressman who served as agriculture secretary in the Clinton administration.