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Pickering Removes Himself From Senate Consideration

In a surprise move, Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) on Friday removed himself from consideration for the U.S. Senate seat vacated last week by fellow Republican Trent Lott.

Pickering had been considered a leading candidate to succeed Lott, who stepped down after nearly 19 years in the Senate and 35 years in Congress. Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, will appoint a successor to serve through November 2008, when a special election will be held to complete the final four years of Lott’s Senate term. Whoever is appointed would be considered an odds-on favorite to hold the seat in solidly Republican Mississippi.

Pickering, 44, had long been considered a rising star in Republican politics. The former Lott aide first won election to the House in 1996 but announced earlier this year that he would retire from Congress at the end of his current term to spend more time with his family, which includes five sons, and presumably make more money in the private sector.

“In August, after much prayer, thought and consideration for what I believe is best for my family, I made a very difficult decision not to seek reelection to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008. I continue to stand by that decision in relation to this Senate vacancy. I believe public service is an honorable calling. But now is not my time.”

With Pickering out of consideration, political buzz now centers around fellow GOP Rep. Roger Wicker. The seven-term lawmaker met with Barbour in recent days to discuss a possible appointment, as did an unidentified third potential candidate, according to sources.

— David Mark

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