WASHINGTON — Citing ill health, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced Monday that he will resign his Senate seat, effective April 1.

“I intend to fulfill my responsibilities and commitments to the people of Mississippi and the Senate through the completion of the 2018 appropriations cycle, after which I will formally retire from the U.S. Senate,” Cochran said in a statement released by his office.

The early departure clears the way for Gov. Phil Bryant, a fellow Republican, to appoint an interim successor — perhaps Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves — and sets up a special election on Nov. 6. It also raises the possibility that State Sen. Chris McDaniel, who announced a primary challenge to Republican Sen. Roger Wicker last week, will switch races to take on Bryant’s pick.

“It’s a bit premature,” McDaniel told NBC News Monday when asked whether he might change targets. “In politics you keep all your options on the table … never foreclose possibilities.”




Image: McDaniel delivers a concession speech in Hattiesburg

With Cochran’s retirement, McDaniel is weighing whether to switch Senate races.