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Wicker To Replace Lott

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour today announced he will officially name Rep. Roger Wicker to replace Senator Trent Lott, who resigned as the first session of the 110th Congress came to a close. Barbour made the announcement at an 11 a.m. news conference in Jackson, the Clarion Ledger reported, while another press conference will be held in the Southern part of the state, in Gulfport, later today.

After two terms in the Mississippi Senate, Wicker has served in the House since 1994, when he succeeded retiring Democratic Rep. Jamie Whitten. A former aide to Lott, Wicker has not faced a truly competitive race in any of his six re-election campaigns, meaning national Republicans have little to fear from the new vacancy. The district, which covers the north and northwest part of the state, gave President Bush about 60% of the vote both times he ran.

When the new senator has to run for retainment is unclear. Barbour says the election can be held in November, when the state's other Senate seat, held by Senator Thad Cochran, is also up. Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, thinks Mississippi law dictates an election be held within 90 days of the appointment. The matter looks headed for a courtroom.

No matter the date of the election, WIcker looks like a safe bet to keep the seat in Republican hands. A recent poll taken by Research 2000 shows Wicker leading former Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove, 47% to 39%. Former Attorney General Mike Moore, another Democrat the party hoped to lure into the race, has already said he will not compete for the seat.