(CN) – Longtime U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi said Monday he will resign on April 1 due to health issues, after serving four decades.
“I regret my health has become an ongoing challenge,” Cochran, 80, said in a statement. “I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of Mississippi and the Senate through the completion of the 2018 appropriations cycle, after which I will formally retire from the U.S. Senate.”
First elected to Congress in 1972, he won a seat in the U.S. Senate six years later and became the first Republican in more than 100 years to win a statewide election in Mississippi, according to his office. Now in his seventh term, Cochran serves as the Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, and is the tenth-longest serving senator in U.S. history.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, a Republican, has 10 days to appoint an interim senator to replace Cochran. Voters will then decide in a November special election who will fill the remainder of his term.
Cochran’s retirement triggers a second Senate race in the state. Republican Senator Roger Wicker is facing re-election in November, if he survives a primary challenge from state Senator Chris McDaniel.
Cochran said in his statement Monday afternoon that he is announcing his retirement now to help ensure a smooth transition.
“My top concern has always been my constituents in Mississippi. My hope is by making this announcement now, a smooth transition can be ensured so their voice will continue to be heard in Washington, D.C. My efforts, and those of my staff, to assist them will continue and transfer to my successor,” he said.