Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton speaks to a crowd
Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton Credit: City of Tupelo

Jason Shelton, the mayor of Tupelo, announced Tuesday that he will join what is becoming a packed race for the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by retiring Sen. Thad Cochran.

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith has been appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant to hold the Cochran seat until a special election Nov. 6. She will be sworn in on Monday and is running to complete Cochran’s full term through 2020.

Shelton, a 42-year-old Democrat, said his record as mayor of the state’s seventh-largest city qualifies him for the race.

“As a leader with a proven record of hard work, fiscal responsibility, and economic growth without raising taxes, I offer myself as candidate for United States Senate,” Shelton said in a statement.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville Credit: R.L. Nave, Mississippi Today

Shelton is the second Democrat to announce for the seat. Former congressman and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy announced in March that he would run for the seat. Anti-establishment Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel is also running, after dropping out of a run against incumbent U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker.

The field of candidates will be finalized April 24, the filing deadline announced Tuesday on Twitter by Bryant.

The special election is open to candidates from any party and is non-partisan on paper. If no one earns a 50 percent majority on Nov. 6, the top two vote-getters will square off in a runoff on Nov. 27.

The race is expected to draw strong national interest as Senate Republicans in Washington work to maintain majority control from Democrats and fend off conservative challengers from the right.

The Wicker seat will follow the more conventional process of party primaries in June selecting candidates to run in the Nov. 6 general election.

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Adam Ganucheau, as Mississippi Today's editor-in-chief, oversees the newsroom and works with the editorial team to fulfill our mission of producing high-quality journalism in the public interest. Adam has covered politics and state government for Mississippi Today since February 2016. A native of Hazlehurst, Adam has worked as a staff reporter for AL.com, The Birmingham News and The Clarion-Ledger and his work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Adam earned his bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi.