According to the Washington Post, Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), the Senate minority whip, will resign his seat by the end of the year. Lott, No. 2 in the Republican Senate hierarchy behind Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), was not expected to resign, and had returned to power in 2006 after several years of exile after being forced to resign as Majority Leader following controversial remarks he made at the late Senator Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party in 2002. The reasons for Lott’s resignation are unclear.
Lott’s resignation would likely prompt Republican Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to appoint an interim replacement, with a 2008 special election to fill the remainder of Lott’s senate term. In that event, Lott’s seat would be the sixth open seat Republicans would have to defend in 2008, which, according the Washington Post’s political expert Chris Cillizza, is a daunting challenge. While Mississippi is a safely Republican state on a presidential level, Lott’s seat could be competitive if popular state Attorney General Mike Moore (D-MS) decides to run. On the Republican side, Representatives Chip Pickering and Roger Wicker are potential replacements.