Wicker named to succeed former Sen. Trent Lott

Published 12:40 pm Monday, December 31, 2007

Barbour names Republican Wicker to Senate post

JACKSON (AP) — Roger Wicker, a conservative Mississippi Republican congressman, was named Monday to succeed former Sen. Trent Lott.

Gov. Haley Barbour announced Wicker’s selection at a Jackson news conference in Jackson attended by the congressman and his wife, Gayle, and other family members. Wicker was sworn as senator before the official announcement.

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Barbour said the selection process was a serious undertaking and that it had been important to select a person with Lott’s “conservative values” and who would be able to work with fellow Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

Wicker, 56, will serve until a special election is held Nov. 4. He said he will be a candidate in that race. The winner will serve out the remainder of Lott’s term, which runs through 2012.

“I am a mainstream conservative in the mold of Trent Lott, Thad Cochran, Haley Barbour and (U.S. Rep.) Chip Pickering and I believe the vast majority of Mississipians share this philosophy,” Wicker said at the news conference. “At the same time, I hope my constituents and colleagues view me as a pragmatic problem-solver.”

President Bush on Monday commended Barbour for his appointment, saying in a statement that Wicker’s leadership in the House had earned him the respect of his constituents and his colleagues.

“He is an advocate for our men and women in uniform and a champion of modernizing our health care system, and he shares Sen. Lott’s commitment to promote the interests of the people of Mississippi,” Bush said.

Wicker was elected to the U.S. House in 1994 to succeed the late Rep. Jamie Whitten. He has been re-elected six times from the 1st District in north Mississippi.

Lott served 16 years in the U.S. House before moving to the Senate in 1988. Lott announced in November that he would resign before the end of the year. He officially resigned Dec. 19 after Congress wrapped up its work for the year.

Lott, 66, said he wants to spend more time with his family and to pursue other job opportunities, possibly teaching. He ruled out any health concerns, but said it’s time for a younger voice to represent Mississippi in the Senate.

Wicker, a native of Pontotoc, graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1973 and got a law degree there in 1975. Wicker and his wife have three children.

Wicker served in the state Senate from 1987-94. He worked on welfare reform and helped push a bill through the 1994 session as chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee.

He opposes abortion and supports public education, having supported an increase in taxes to benefit the public schools while in the state Legislature. He supports tax cuts, however, as a means of stimulating economic growth. He also supports a balanced budget.

Wicker served on active duty in the Air Force and then served in the Air Force Reserve. He retired from the Air Force Reserve in 2004 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. At the conclusion of his active duty, he became counsel to then-U.S. Rep. Lott on the House Rules Committee in 1980.

In 2001, Wicker was elected to the Republican Policy Committee and was re-elected to that position in 2007. He continues to serve on the House Appropriations Committee, a seat he landed as a freshman in 1995.