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Sen. Roger Wicker (R)

Mississippi

Leadership: National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman

N/A

wicker.senate.gov

Biography

Elected: Appointed Dec. 2007, term expires 2018, 1st full term.

Born: July 5, 1951, Pontotoc, MS

Home: Tupelo, MS

Education: U. of MS, B.A. 1973, J.D. 1975

Professional Career: Staff, U.S. House Rules Cmte., 1980–82; Practicing atty., 1982–94; Lee Cnty. public defender, 1984–87; Bd. of Visitors, U.S. Naval Academy, 2005.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Baptist

Family: Married (Gayle Long) , 3 children ; 4 grandchildren

Roger Wicker was appointed in late 2007 as Mississippi’s junior senator to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Trent Lott, a powerful Mississippian who served as both majority and minority leader. Wicker went on to win a special election to the seat in 2008 and was reelected four years later. He has been part of the core of Senate Republicans implacably opposed to most of President Barack Obama’s initiatives, and in 2015 entered the GOP leadership ranks as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Wicker grew up in Pontotoc, the same north Mississippi town where his senior colleague in the Senate, Republican Thad Cochran, spent part of his childhood. Wicker’s father was a conservative Democrat, a state senator, and a circuit judge. He attended public schools and as a teenager became interested in Republican politics. From then on, his career was intertwined with the two more senior and well-established Mississippians, Lott and Cochran. He was a page in the U.S. House and campaigned door-to-door for Cochran in his first race for Congress, in 1972. At Ole Miss, where both Lott and Cochran went to school, Wicker was associated student body president and went on to get his law degree there. He then served for four years in the Air Force and remained in the Reserve until 2004.

In 1980, he went to work for Lott on the House Rules Committee when Lott was still in the House. Wicker returned to Mississippi in 1982, set up a law practice, and was the county public defender in his wife’s hometown of Tupelo. In 1987, at age 36, he was elected to the state Senate, the first Republican elected in north Mississippi since Reconstruction. In the legislature, Wicker helped draft the state’s strict abortion law and was also a leading advocate of government-sponsored vouchers for private school tuition.

In 1994, longtime U.S. Rep. Jamie Whitten, a Democrat, momentously retired after becoming the longest-serving member of the House in history. His record of 53 years and 62 days was broken by Michigan Democrat John Dingell in February 2009. The retirement of the powerful Whitten, the chairman of the Appropriations Committee, left large shoes to fill in Mississippi’s 1st District. Pent-up demand produced a crowded primary field in both major parties. Six Republicans, including Wicker, and three Democrats lined up to run.

Carrying his home base around Tupelo, Wicker led the GOP primary 27%-19% over Grant Fox, a young former aide to Cochran. In the runoff, Wicker campaigned as a conservative, but Fox hammered him for voting to override Republican Gov. Kirk Fordice’s veto of a sales tax increase. Wicker won, 53%-47%. Meanwhile, state Rep. Bill Wheeler, the Democratic nominee, had racked up support from African-Americans, labor unions, and teachers—an advantage in his party’s primary but not necessarily in the general election in the conservative 1st District. The result wasn’t even close. A district that had been held for five decades by a leading Democrat voted 63%-37% for the Republican.

Wicker compiled a solidly conservative voting record in the House. He got a seat on Appropriations, an unusual prize for a freshman. Appropriators tend to operate in an atmosphere of bipartisan cooperation, and Wicker worked quietly in subcommittees to get funding for Yalobusha River flood control and an interstate highway through DeSoto County. He delivered research dollars to Mississippi universities, and he worked with Lott, by then a senator, to attract defense technology firms to the state. He earned the dubious distinction of No. 1 earmarker in the House by the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. His achievement was securing $176 million in projects, most of it for his district. “I am a fiscal conservative, and I believe in keeping spending low,” Wicker said in 2008. “But once the national budget is set, I think it is only fair to fight for our fair share for Mississippi.” He did, however, reluctantly support the GOP’s earmark ban in the 112th Congress (2011-12).

In November 2007, Lott announced that he would retire from the Senate before the end of the year, after serving 19 years there and 16 in the House. Wicker wanted the seat, but so did 3rd District GOP Rep. Chip Pickering and Netscape founder and Mississippi native James Barksdale. On December 31, 2007, Gov. Haley Barbour appointed Wicker and set the election for the remaining years of Lott’s term on November 4, 2008. Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, argued that state law required a special election within 100 days of Lott’s resignation and filed a lawsuit against Barbour. Democrats assumed they would fare better in a special election than with the wider electorate in November. And in fact, Democrat Travis Childers won Wicker’s House seat—a district that had voted 62% for President George W. Bush in 2004—in the special election in May. On Feb. 6, 2008, the state Supreme Court upheld Barbour 7-2.

Wicker spent his first year in the Senate facing a serious challenge in the upcoming November 2008 election. Mississippi Democrats had not seriously contested a Senate race in 20 years, but President Bush’s low poll ratings, enthusiasm among African-American voters for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, and Childers’ victory in Wicker’s old district gave them reason to believe they might beat Wicker. He started the year little known outside his congressional district. The Democratic nominee was widely known: former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who was defeated for reelection by Barbour in 2003 and had good poll ratings. It was a battle between old friends: Wicker and Musgrove had both been elected to the state Senate for the first time in 1987 and roomed together in an apartment in Jackson.

But Musgrove started out on the attack. He criticized Wicker for his support of earmarks and called him a “poster child” for a moratorium on pork-barrel spending. Musgrove also criticized him for opposing increases in the minimum wage. Musgrove even hinted at ethical misconduct, criticizing Wicker for securing a $6 million earmark, not sought by the Pentagon, for Aurora Flight Sciences to build unmanned aerial vehicles in north Mississippi, while company executives contributed $17,000 to his campaign and hired Wicker’s former chief of staff to lobby for the project. Wicker said the effort was all about bringing high-paying jobs to Mississippi.

The tables turned on Musgrove after the indictment of three executives of a Georgia company that defaulted on a state government guaranteed loan of $54 million. They had contributed $59,000 to Musgrove’s 2003 campaign. Wicker outspent Musgrove, $6.2 million to $5.3 million. But the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pumped in more than enough money to compensate for Wicker’s advantage. Wicker won 55%-45%. Eighty-two percent of whites backed Wicker, while 92% of blacks backed Musgrove.

In the Senate, Wicker has voted slightly to the right of Cochran, especially on social issues. He drew widespread attention in January 2015 when he cast the lone "no" vote against Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse's amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill attempting to get Republicans to acknowledge on record that climate-change is actually occurring. Because the amendment didn't specify whether humans were responsible, even ardent conservatives backed it. But not Wicker. "My record is very clear on this issue, and I will not change my position based on a political show vote," he said in a statement. "I agree with the more than 31,000 American scientists who do not believe the science on this matter is settled."

Wicker has repeatedly introduced a bill to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Wicker called the health care overhaul the “great fight for the rest of this term, maybe our lifetimes” and later introduced a bill to enable state officials to challenge the law. In the interest of protecting gun owners, he amended a fiscal 2010 transportation spending bill to allow Amtrak passengers to carry firearms and ammunition in checked baggage. After Congress voted in late 2010 to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay service members, Wicker and Republican James Inhofe of Oklahoma introduced a bill forbidding same-sex marriages on military bases.

Wicker has worked closely with Cochran, who had often been at odds with Lott, in backing local projects and cosponsoring bills. Citizens Against Government Waste labeled Cochran and Wicker the No. 1 and No. 3 Senate earmarkers, respectively, for 2008 and 2010 in combined solo and joint efforts. They were also first and second in 2009. Wicker has also worked with Democrats to protect Mississippi’s interests. With Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor, he pushed amendments allowing purchasers of federal flood insurance to add wind coverage to their policies, helpful to a hurricane-prone state. And as a member of the so-called Helsinki Commission monitoring human rights and other issues, Wicker worked closely with Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin to push into law in late 2012 a bill imposing tough penalties on Russians accused of violating human rights. The measure led Russian President Vladimir Putin to announce a subsequent ban on U.S. adoptions of Russian-born children.

Wicker is serious-minded and not one to indulge in senatorial speech-making solely for the sake of delivering one, but he has shown an ability to poke fun at himself. At a May 2012 fundraiser for the Shakespeare Theater Company, he played “Super PAC Man,” using his checkbook to taunt others.

Wicker faced less trouble in winning a full six-year term in 2012, even with a Democratic opponent named Albert Gore. The Mississippi Gore was a retired United Methodist minister and distant relative of the former vice president who ran a bare-bones campaign. Wicker raised more than $10 million and won with 57% of the vote.

In the 113th Congress (2013-14), most of Wicker's work was behind the scenes. He did draw attention in April 2013, when an envelope sent to his Washington office tested positive for ricin. A Misssissippi man pleaded guilty in 2014 to sending letters with the toxic substance to Wicker, Obama and other officials and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Much of his legislative work dealt with Mississippi-specific matters. The Environment and Public Works Committee in April 2014 approved his bill re-authorize a Safe Drinking Water Act program to provide help  to rural communities.

Wicker also devoted considerable effort to helping Cochran survive a 2014 tea-party primary challenge, developing a reputation as someone who could work the phones to bring in campaign cash. His campaign committee and Responsibility & Freedom Work PAC together took in more than $5.4 million between 2009 and 2014, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Wicker made his ability to raise money a central argument in his bid for the NRSC chairmanship. His opponent was Nevada GOP Sen. Dean Heller, who argued that he was well-positioned to help take down his party's chief 2016 election target -- Democratic leader Harry Reid. But Wicker prevailed in a secret ballot. He faces a formidable task: His party has 24 seats to defend, compared to 10 for the Democrats. Several of the Republicans running are in blue and purple states, and the presidential race could divert money and attention from their quest to retain the majority. But at least outwardly, he remained confident. "I think we can do this, but it's going to take resources. It's going to involve everybody helping," he said.

In addition to the NRSC post, Wicker took over the Armed Services Committee's seapower subcommittee, an important panel for his state. He also became chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's panel on technology and the Internet. He said his chief focus would be on getting more broadband access in rural areas to bolster growth. "We also need to find ways to make more spectrum available for wireless, which can help spur innovation and economic growth in the mobile broadband space,” he said.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6253

(202) 228-0378

DSOB- Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 555
Washington, DC 20510-2404

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-6253

(202) 228-0378

DSOB- Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 555
Washington, DC 20510-2404

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6253

(202) 228-0378

United States Federal Courthouse Suite 3-500
Jackson, MS 39201

DISTRICT OFFICE

(601) 965-4644

(601) 965-4007

United States Federal Building Suite 3-500
Jackson, MS 39201

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6253

(202) 228-0378

2909 13th Street Third Floor Suite 303
Gulfport, MS 39501

DISTRICT OFFICE

(228) 871-7017

(228) 871-7196

2909 13th Street Third Floor Suite 303
Gulfport, MS 39501

DISTRICT OFFICE

(662) 844-5010

(662) 844-5030

330 West Jefferson Street P.O. Box 3777 Suite B
Tupelo, MS 38803

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6253

(202) 228-0378

330 West Jefferson Street Suite B
Tupelo, MS 38803

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-6253

(202) 228-0378

321 Losher Street
Hernando, MS 38632

DISTRICT OFFICE

(662) 429-1002

(662) 429-6002

321 Losher Street
Hernando, MS 38632

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Sarah Stevenson
Legislative Assistant

Robert Murray
Legislative Assistant; Correspondence Manager

Aerospace

Jane Sarnecky
Coast Guard Fellow

Agriculture

Caroline Castigliola
Legislative Assistant; Counsel

Robert Murray
Legislative Assistant; Correspondence Manager

Will Kline
Legislative Correspondent

Animal Rights

Samantha Helton
Legislative Correspondent

Brandon Elsner
Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Bob Foster
Legislative Director

Mary Margaret Johnson
Legislative Correspondent

Arts

Sarah Stevenson
Legislative Assistant

Robert Murray
Legislative Assistant; Correspondence Manager

Banking

Bob Foster
Legislative Director

Mary Margaret Johnson
Legislative Correspondent

Budget

Brandon Elsner
Legislative Assistant

Communication

Andrew Cook
Navy Fellow

Consumers

Andrew Cook
Navy Fellow

Jane Sarnecky
Coast Guard Fellow

Disaster

Joseph Lai
Senior Legislative Assistant

Economics

Samantha Helton
Legislative Correspondent

Brandon Elsner
Legislative Assistant

Education

Robert Murray
Legislative Assistant; Correspondence Manager

Energy

Ellen Beares
Legislative Assistant

Environment

Samantha Helton
Legislative Correspondent

Brandon Elsner
Legislative Assistant

Family

Caroline Castigliola
Legislative Assistant; Counsel

Will Kline
Legislative Correspondent

Foreign

Joseph Lai
Senior Legislative Assistant

Govt Ops

Caroline Castigliola
Legislative Assistant; Counsel

Will Kline
Legislative Correspondent

Gun Issues

Caroline Castigliola
Legislative Assistant; Counsel

Will Kline
Legislative Correspondent

Health

Sarah Stevenson
Legislative Assistant

Robert Murray
Legislative Assistant; Correspondence Manager

Homeland Security

Joseph Lai
Senior Legislative Assistant

Housing

Bob Foster
Legislative Director

Mary Margaret Johnson
Legislative Correspondent

Immigration

Caroline Castigliola
Legislative Assistant; Counsel

Will Kline
Legislative Correspondent

Insurance

Bob Foster
Legislative Director

Mary Margaret Johnson
Legislative Correspondent

Intelligence

Joseph Lai
Senior Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Caroline Castigliola
Legislative Assistant; Counsel

Will Kline
Legislative Correspondent

Labor

Sarah Stevenson
Legislative Assistant

Robert Murray
Legislative Assistant; Correspondence Manager

Samantha Helton
Legislative Correspondent

Brandon Elsner
Legislative Assistant

Jane Sarnecky
Coast Guard Fellow

Land Use

Brandon Elsner
Legislative Assistant

Medicare

Sarah Stevenson
Legislative Assistant

Robert Murray
Legislative Assistant; Correspondence Manager

Military

Joseph Lai
Senior Legislative Assistant

Native Americans

Sarah Stevenson
Legislative Assistant

Robert Murray
Legislative Assistant; Correspondence Manager

Public Works

Ellen Beares
Legislative Assistant

Jane Sarnecky
Coast Guard Fellow

Rules

Caroline Castigliola
Legislative Assistant; Counsel

Will Kline
Legislative Correspondent

Small Business

Bob Foster
Legislative Director

Mary Margaret Johnson
Legislative Correspondent

Social Security

Samantha Helton
Legislative Correspondent

Brandon Elsner
Legislative Assistant

Tax

Samantha Helton
Legislative Correspondent

Brandon Elsner
Legislative Assistant

Technology

Andrew Cook
Navy Fellow

Telecommunications

Jane Sarnecky
Coast Guard Fellow

Trade

Joseph Lai
Senior Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Ellen Beares
Legislative Assistant

Jane Sarnecky
Coast Guard Fellow

Veterans

Joseph Lai
Senior Legislative Assistant

Welfare

Sarah Stevenson
Legislative Assistant

Robert Murray
Legislative Assistant; Correspondence Manager

** denotes a leadership staffer

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Roger Wicker
Votes: 709,626
Percent: 57.16%
Albert Gore
Votes: 503,467
Percent: 40.55%
2012 PRIMARY
Roger Wicker
Votes: 254,669
Percent: 89.17%
Robert Maloney
Votes: 18,822
Percent: 6.59%
2008 GENERAL
Roger Wicker
Votes: 683,409
Percent: 54.96%
Ronnie Musgrove
Votes: 560,064
Percent: 45.04%
2008 PRIMARY
Roger Wicker
Unopposed
Prior Winning Percentages
2008 special (55%); House: 2006 (66%), 2004 (79%), 2002 (71%), 2000 (70%), 1998 (67%), 1996 (68%), 1994 (63%)

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