Josh Randle

Josh Randle, the former Miss America pageant leader who was considering a Republican primary challenge of Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith this year, announced on Wednesday he will not run for office.

Randle, a 31-year-old Oxford resident who previously served as president of the Miss America Organization, formed an exploratory committee in November and publicly announced his interest in the seat, criticizing Hyde-Smith’s reputation following a rocky 2018 campaign and saying “Mississippi deserves better.”

But on Wednesday, just two days before the deadline to qualify for the election, Randle announced he would not pursue the office citing President Donald Trump’s looming endorsement of Hyde-Smith and a quick turnaround before the March 10 primary.

“I concluded that the truncated primary election calendar and the divisive national political environment make this race uniquely difficult,” Randle said in a statement. “Cindy Hyde-Smith’s presidential endorsement and the primary election’s short time frame effectively block the path for any Republican challenger.”

With two days before the deadline to qualify for the seat, no candidate has announced a primary challenge of Hyde-Smith.

Hyde-Smith, who was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant in April 2018 to temporarily serve after Sen. Thad Cochran retired, was elected in a November 2018 special election to serve the remainder of Cochran’s six-year term. That term ends in 2020.

Hyde-Smith faced scrutiny from around the nation during her 2018 campaign after she said at a campaign rally that she would attend a “public hanging.” National reporters descended on Mississippi to cover the special election runoff with former Democratic Congressman Mike Espy, a black man who contextualized Hyde-Smith’s comments with the state’s bitter history of lynchings on the campaign trail.

She officially kicked off her 2020 campaign last week, giving a fiery speech to supporters and boosting her conservative bonafides.

“I think you can tell I am ready for this campaign,” she said.

Espy has announced he will run again for the seat and has been blasting supporters with fundraising emails and appearing at key political events around the state.

Candidates have until Jan. 10 to qualify to run for the Senate or for the state’s four congressional seats. The party primaries will be March 10 with the general election set for November.

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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, 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.