William Thad Cochran (born December 7, 1937) is an American Republican politician. He is the current senior United States Senator from Mississippi (the third most-senior Senator and the second most-senior Republican member), first elected to the Senate in 1978, and the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which he had also chaired from 2005 to 2007. He also chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee from 2003 to 2005. Cochran won reelection to a seventh term in 2014, after defeating Chris McDaniel in an intense primary run-off election. He is currently the dean of the Mississippi congressional delegation and the second-most senior Republican currently serving in Congress.
Thad Cochran was born on December 7, 1937, in Pontotoc, Mississippi, the son of Emma Grace (née Berry) and William Holmes Cochran, a teacher and school principal, respectively. His family settled in Hinds County, Mississippi, home of the state capital, Jackson, in 1946 after a few moves around the northern part of the state. He graduated valedictorian from Byram High School near Jackson.
He then received a B.A. degree from the University of Mississippi with a major in psychology and a minor in political science in 1959. There he joined the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity and was on the cheerleading squad (fellow senator Trent Lott was also an Ole Miss cheerleader). He was elected to the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. He worked as a lifeguard at Livingston Lake in Jackson during the summers.
After a time in the United States Navy (1959–1961), where he was commissioned an ensign aboard the USS Macon. He graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law, receiving a J.D. degree in 1965. While in law school, he won the Frederick Hamel Memorial Award for having the highest scholastic average in the first year class and served on the editorial board of the Mississippi Law Journal. He then practiced law for seven years sports water jug. In 1964 he married Rose Clayton, who died in 2014. The couple had two children. On May 23, 2015, Cochran married his longtime aide Kay Webber in a private ceremony in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Cochran grew up as a Democrat, but became a Republican sometime in the mid-to-late 1960s as the New Deal coalition collapsed.
He served as head of Richard Nixon’s Mississippi campaign in 1968.
In 1972 last season football shirts, Democratic Congressman Charles H. Griffin of Mississippi’s 3rd congressional district decided not to run for a third full term. Cochran won the Republican nomination for the Jackson-based district, which was renumbered as Mississippi’s 4th congressional district after redistricting. He defeated Democratic state senator Ellis B. Bodron by 47.9% to 44%. A factor in Cochran’s victory was the strong Republican showing in that year’s presidential election. Richard Nixon won most of the counties in the 4th district by over 70 percent of the vote. Hinds County, for instance, gave him 77 percent, en route to taking 78 percent of Mississippi’s popular vote. The Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate that year, Gil Carmichael, an automobile dealer from Meridian, finished with 38 percent of the vote against James Eastland but was shunned by the statewide Nixon campaign.
That year, Cochran and Trent Lott (who later served alongside him in the U.S. Senate) became the second and third Republicans to be elected to represent Mississippi in the House of Representatives since Reconstruction (Prentiss Walker was the first in 1964).
Cochran quickly became very popular in his district, even though almost none of its living residents had been represented by a Republican before. He was handily re-elected with 70.2% in 1974, a year in which anger over the Watergate scandal caused several Republicans to lose their seats. He was re-elected with an even larger 76% of the vote in 1976.
In 1978, six-term Democratic Senator James Eastland decided to retire. Cochran ran for the seat and won the Republican primary, defeating State Senator and former Jones County prosecutor Charles W. Pickering, 69-31 percent. In the general election, he faced Democrat Maurice Dantin, a former District Attorney who had triumphed in a four-way primary with the backing of Eastland, and Independent candidate Charles Evers, the Mayor of Fayette. Evers, the first African-American to be elected mayor of a Mississippi town since Reconstruction, split the Democratic vote and Cochran won with a plurality, taking 45.3% to Dantin’s 31.8% and Evers’ 22.6%. This made Cochran the first Republican to win a statewide election in Mississippi in a century. Eastland resigned on December 27 to give Cochran a seniority advantage over new incoming senators. Governor Cliff Finch appointed Cochran to serve the remaining week of Eastland’s term.
Cochran faced an expected strong challenge for re-election from incumbent Democratic Governor William Winter in 1984, but he was re-elected easily, 60.9 to 39. 1 percent. For decades, Cochran did not face a serious challenger. He was completely unopposed in 1990 and took 71 percent of the vote in 1996. The Democratic nominee, Bootie Hunt, a retired factory worker, received 27.4 percent. No Democrat ran against him in 2002 and he faced only Reform Party candidate Shawn O’Hara, beating him by 84.6 to 15.4 percent. He faced his first serious challenger in twenty-four years in 2008 when the Democrats nominated State Representative Erik R. Fleming. In a year that saw widespread Democratic gains, Cochran was still re-elected, 61.4-37.6 percent. In 2014, Cochran faced a primary challenge from Tea Party-supported candidate Chris McDaniel. Since neither candidate won 50% in the Republican primary, a run-off election was held; Cochran narrowly defeated McDaniel in the run-off to win the Republican nomination for a seventh term in the Senate.
If Cochran completes his seventh term, he will become the longest-serving senator in Mississippi’s history, passing John C. Stennis.
Generally, Cochran keeps a lower national profile than conventional wisdom would suggest for a six-term Senator. This stands in marked contrast to Eastland, Stennis and Lott. However, Cochran has considerable influence behind the scenes, especially in Mississippi. This is not surprising given his status as the “elder statesman” of the state Republican Party.
Cochran served as Vice Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference from 1985 to 1991 and as Chairman from 1991 to 1996. He is its only former Chairman currently in the Senate. He Chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee from 2003 to 2005. In 2005, he was appointed as Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, making him the first Republican from a former Confederate state to chair the committee. While Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Cochran worked to expedite the process of approving spending bills to minimize partisan skirmishing. He was the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee from 2007 to 2014.
In June 1996 Cochran ran for the post of Senate Majority Leader to succeed Republican Bob Dole, who had resigned from the Senate to concentrate on his presidential campaign. Cochran faced his Mississippi colleague Trent Lott, the then-Senate Majority Whip. Cochran cast himself as an “institutionalist” and who would held to rebuild public trust in Congress through compromise over conflict buy online water bottle. Lott promised a “more aggressive” style of leadership and courted the younger Senate conservatives. Cochran lost by 44 votes to 8.
His colleagues have honored him. In 2005, an agricultural appropriations bill proposed by the Committee Cochran chaired contained a provision (sec. 782) that said:
The Federal facility located at the South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station in Poplarville, Mississippi, and known as the “Southern Horticultural Laboratory”, shall be known and designated as the “Thad Cochran Southern Horticultural Laboratory”
On June 13, 2005, the U.S. Senate formally apologized for its failure to enact a federal anti-lynching law in the early 20th century, “when it was most needed”. The resolution was passed on a voice vote with 80 Senators cosponsoring. Cochran and fellow Mississippian Trent Lott were among the 20 Senators who did not join as cosponsors.
In April 2006 he was selected by Time as one of “America’s 10 Best Senators”. He was dubbed “The Quiet Persuader” for his role in winning money for the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He managed to win “$29 billion out of his colleagues, almost double the money [President George W.] Bush and congressional leaders had initially pledged”. Earlier, Cochran threatened to derail a defense appropriations bill unless it included funding for installations on the Gulf Coast.
The article also noted that Cochran has “gained the trust of the Administration and Capitol Hill for his quiet, courtly manner… using his experience and mastery of the issues to persuade his colleagues privately rather than making demands on them in public”. The magazine quoted an unnamed “senior GOP Senator” who said “He doesn’t get a whole lot of play in terms of coverage, but he is effectively stubborn doing what needs to be done.”
On July 18, 2006, Cochran voted, along with 19 Republican Senators, for the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act to lift restrictions on federal funding for the research.
In 2005, he was one of nine senators who voted against the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibited “inhumane treatment of prisoners, including prisoners at Guantanamo Bay”. The others, all Republicans, were Wayne Allard, Kit Bond, Tom Coburn, Jeff Sessions, Jim Inhofe, Pat Roberts, John Cornyn and Ted Stevens.
In March 2009, his former aide, Ann Copland, pleaded guilty to swapping legislative favors for event tickets and other gifts from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Copland worked for Cochran for 29 years. Cochran has not been indicted for any charges in connection to Jack Abramoff.
Cochran opposed President Barack Obama’s health reform legislation; he voted against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in December 2009, and he voted against the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
In April 2010, it was reported that Cochran finished at the top of the Citizens Against Government Waste’s list of congressional earmarks, having requested a total of $490 million in earmarks.
In 2012, Cochran encouraged Mississippians to prepare for the effects of Tropical Storm Isaac, saying “Taking steps now to protect people and property should help lessen the losses that might be associated with Isaac. It is important that everyone stay informed and follow emergency orders. I am confident that Mississippians have learned valuable lessons from previous storms and will work together to prepare for this newest threat, I believe Governor Bryant and others are handling emergency preparedness actions very well.”
In April 2013, Cochran was one of forty-six senators to vote against the passing of a bill which would have expanded background checks for gun buyers. Cochran voted with 40 Republicans and 5 Democrats to stop the passage of the bill.
In April 2015, a veteran staffer, personal assistant and office manager for the Senator named Fred Wesley Pagan was arrested and later indicted for possession with intent to distribute 181.5 grams of methamphetamine as well as importation of a kilo of another controlled drug called GBL. The accused staffer is the third highest paid employee of the Senator.
The Senator is currently the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee when the Republicans took back the Senate November 2014.
The Cochran campaign denied allegations of vote buying made by a blogger regarding his primary run-off victory in 2014.