Roger Wicker

Last updated

Roger Wicker
U.S. Senator Roger F. Wicker Official Portrait, 2018.jpg
United States Senator
from Mississippi
Assumed office
December 31, 2007
Servingwith Cindy Hyde-Smith
Preceded by Trent Lott
Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded by John Thune
Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
In office
January 3, 2015 January 3, 2017
Leader Mitch McConnell
Preceded by Jerry Moran
Succeeded by Cory Gardner
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from Mississippi's 1st district
In office
January 3, 1995 December 31, 2007
Preceded by Jamie Whitten
Succeeded by Travis Childers
Member of the Mississippi Senate
from the 6th district
In office
January 5, 1988 January 3, 1995
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded by Alan Nunnelee
Personal details
Born
Roger Frederick Wicker

(1951-07-05) July 5, 1951 (age 69)
Pontotoc, Mississippi, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s)
Gayle Long
(m. 1975)
Children3
Education University of Mississippi (BA, JD)
Website Senate website
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United States (Pantone).svg United States
Branch/serviceFlag of the United States Air Force.svg  United States Air Force
Years of service1976–2004
Rank US Air Force O5 shoulderboard rotated.svg Lieutenant colonel
Unit Air Force Judge Advocate General's Corps

Roger Frederick Wicker (born July 5, 1951) is an American attorney and politician who is the senior United States Senator from Mississippi, in office since 2007. A member of the Republican Party, Wicker previously served as a member of the United States House of Representatives and the Mississippi State Senate.

Contents

Born in Pontotoc, Mississippi, Wicker is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi School of Law. Wicker was an officer in the United States Air Force from 1976 to 1980 and later served as a member of the United States Air Force Reserves from 1980 to 2003. During the 1980s, he worked as a political counselor to then-Congressman Trent Lott on the House Rules Committee. In 1987, Wicker was elected a member of the Mississippi State Senate representing the 6th district, which included Tupelo.

Wicker was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994, succeeding long-time Democrat Jamie Whitten. Wicker served in the House from 1995 to 2007, when he was appointed to the Senate by Governor Haley Barbour to fill the seat vacated by Trent Lott. Wicker subsequently won a special election for the remainder of the term in 2008 and was reelected to a full term in 2012. Wicker served as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee from 2015 to 2017 and is a deputy Republican whip. Wicker won reelection in 2018, defeating Democratic nominee David Baria.

Early life

Wicker was born on July 5, 1951, in Pontotoc, Mississippi, the son of Wordna Glen (née Threadgill) and Thomas Frederick Wicker. In 1967, the 16-year-old Wicker worked as a United States House of Representatives Page for Democratic Congressman Jamie L. Whitten of Mississippi's 1st congressional district . [1] He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science and a J.D. degree from the University of Mississippi where he was a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. [2] Wicker was the student body president at Ole Miss. [3] He was inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa for his student leadership and academic merit while at the University of Mississippi.

After graduation, Wicker served as an officer in the United States Air Force from 1976 to 1980. [4] [5] Starting in 1980, he was a member of the Air Force Reserve; he retired from the reserve in 2003 as a lieutenant colonel. [4] Wicker served as a judge advocate. [6]

Early political career

Representative Roger Wicker, 1995 Roger Wicker, official 104th Congress photo.png
Representative Roger Wicker, 1995

Wicker began his political career in 1980 as House Rules Committee counsel to Republican Congressman Trent Lott. [1] He was then elected to the Mississippi State Senate in 1987, spending $25,000 to win the race. [1] He represented the 6th district from 1988 to 1994, which included Tupelo.

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

In 1994, Democratic U.S. Representative Jamie L. Whitten declined to seek re-election; he had represented the 1st District for 54 years, longer than any other congressman at the time. Wicker ran to succeed him, spending $750,000 over the course of the election. [1] He finished first in a crowded six-way Republican primary with 7,156 votes (26.62%) and proceeded to a runoff with attorney Grant Fox, who received 5,208 votes (19.37%). Former U.S. Attorney Bob Whitwell finished 600 votes short of the runoff with 4,606 votes (17.14%), 1992 nominee Clyde E. Whitaker came fourth with 4,602 votes (17.12%), 1986 nominee Larry Cobb came fifth with 4,162 votes (15.48%) and 1990 nominee Bill Bowlin took the remaining 1,147 votes (4.27%). [7] In the runoff, Wicker defeated Fox by 11,905 votes (53.07%) to 10,527 (46.93%). [8]

In the general election, Wicker defeated Fulton attorney Bill Wheeler by 80,553 votes (63.06%) to 47,192 (36.94%), [9] making him the first Republican to represent the 1st district in over a century. However, this was not considered an upset, as the 1st has always been a rather conservative district (especially in the Memphis suburbs). The district had only supported the official Democratic candidate for president once since 1956, when Jimmy Carter carried the district in 1976. Although Whitten had a nearly unbreakable hold on the district, it had been considered very likely that he would be succeeded by a Republican once he retired.

Wicker was re-elected six times without serious difficulty, never dropping below 65 percent of the vote. In 2004, he was unopposed by a Democratic candidate, facing only Reform Party nominee Barbara Dale Washer, whom he defeated by 219,328 votes (79.01%) to 58,256 (20.99%). [10]

Tenure

Assuming office in 1995, he was President of the freshman class, which included 53 other new Republican Congressmen, elected as part of the 1994 "Republican Revolution". [1]

He was a member of the House Appropriations Committee. He was also deputy Republican whip.

In Congress, Wicker worked on issues related to medical research and on economic development for his home state. He advocated private-public partnerships to bring investment to rural areas. Wicker also worked for veterans' issues while serving as a member of the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee. [11] In his final year as representative, Wicker topped the list in earmarks. [12]

In 2007, Wicker was criticized after securing a $6 million earmark for a defense company whose executives had made significant contributions to his campaign. [13]

U.S. Senate

Committee assignments, 117th Congress

Caucus memberships

Appointment

On November 26, 2007, U.S. Senator Trent Lott announced that he would resign before the end of the year to become a lobbyist. At a press conference on December 31, 2007, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour appointed Wicker to fill the Senate seat vacated by Trent Lott on December 18, 2007. [14] He was sworn in by the clerk of the U.S. Senate just prior to that news conference. [15]

Elections

Wicker ran for the remainder of Lott's term in the November 2008 special election against Democrat Ronnie Musgrove, Barbour's predecessor as governor. Wicker defeated Musgrove by 683,409 votes (54.96%) to 560,064 (45.04%). Wicker's resignation from the House also triggered a May 13, 2008, special election to fill the vacancy in the House, which was won by Democratic nominee Travis Childers.

Wicker ran for re-election to a full term in 2012. He was opposed by Robert Maloney and Tea Party activist E. Allen Hathcock in the Republican primary, defeating them by 254,936 votes (89.17%) to 18,857 (6.60%) and 12,106 (4.23%), respectively. [16] In the general election, he defeated Albert Gore, the Chairman of the Oktibbeha County Democratic Party and a distant relative of former Vice President Al Gore, by 709,626 votes (57.16%) to 503,467 (40.55%). [17]

Tenure

U.S. Senator Roger F. Wicker meets with U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi in the Dirksen Senate Office building. U.S. Senator Roger F. Wicker with U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi.jpg
U.S. Senator Roger F. Wicker meets with U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi in the Dirksen Senate Office building.
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker Speaks at Meridian International Center Summit 2018 U.S. Senator Roger Wicker Speaks at Meridian International Center Summit 2018.jpg
U.S. Senator Roger Wicker Speaks at Meridian International Center Summit 2018

On September 16, 2010, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Wicker as representative of the United States to the Sixty-fifth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. [18]

Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker Brett Kavanaugh and Roger Wicker.jpg
Supreme Court Nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker

In the Senate, Wicker is a member of the Senate Republicans' whip team and 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. [19]

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. As a member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) monitoring human rights and other issues, Wicker worked with Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin to push into law in late 2012 a bill imposing 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. [19]

Wicker was one of three politicians targeted during the April 2013 ricin letters bioterrorism attack. On April 16, 2013, a letter addressed to Wicker tested positive for the poison ricin as part of a series of lette [20] The letter was detected by postal officials and law enforcement and was prevented from reaching the Capitol. [21] The letter was tested three times, with each test confirming the presence of ricin. [21]

In July 2013, Wicker proposed that the Senate meet to discuss a controversial change to filibuster rules. The Senate held the private meeting in the Old Senate chamber to discuss Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's threat of the so-called "nuclear option", which would change the rules for Senate votes on President Obama's executive branch nominees. Wicker said he hoped the chamber's bipartisan past could serve as an inspiration for the debate about the nuclear option: "I think there are concessions that can be made on both sides. And then I would just hope that, institutionally, we can get away from this mindset." [22]

Wicker supported the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2014 (S. 2363; 113th Congress), a bill related to hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation in the United States, aimed at improving "the public's ability to enjoy the outdoors." [23] He said that "Mississippians know the importance of efforts to preserve our natural resources for future generations." [23]

He was elected to serve as Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 114th U.S. Congress on November 13, 2014. [24]

Weeks after the 2014 Hong Kong class boycott campaign and Umbrella Movement broke out which demands genuine universal suffrage among other goals, Wicker among bipartisan colleagues joined U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and Rep. Chris Smith's effort to introduce the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act which would update the United States–Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and U.S. commitment to Hong Kong's freedom and democracy. "U.S. should stand steadfast with the people of Hong Kong in their fight to exercise self-determination," Wicker, vice-chairman of the Helsinki Commission said. "... speak with a unified American voice in support of universal freedom and democratic values. The Congress and the Obama Administration should act to ensure China honors its longstanding obligation under international law to maintain Hong Kong's autonomy." [25] [26] [27] [28]

In March 2017, Wicker co-sponsored the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (s. 720), which made it a federal crime for Americans to encourage or participate in boycotts against Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank if protesting actions by the Israeli government. [29] [30]

In May 2020, group of Senate Republicans is planning to introduce a privacy bill that would regulate the data collected by coronavirus contact tracing apps. The COVID-19 Consumer Data Protection Act would“ provide all Americans with more transparency, choice, and control over the collection and use of their personal health, geolocation, and proximity data,” according to a joint statement. Roger Wicker said the legislation also would “hold businesses accountable to consumers if they use personal data to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.” The act would permit the creation of “platforms that could trace the virus and help flatten the curve and stop the spread – and maintaining privacy protections for U.S. citizens,” Wicker said. [31]

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker. Amy Coney Barrett Meets with U.S. Senator Roger Wicker.jpg
Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett and U.S. Senator Roger Wicker.

In September 2020, with less than two months to the next presidential election, Wicker supported an immediate Senate vote on President Trump's nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy caused by the death of justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, stating that Senate Republicans had "promised to confirm well qualified, conservative judges", and that there was a "constitutional duty" to fill vacancies. Previously in March 2016, Wicker had taken the opposite position by declining to consider President Obama's Supreme Court nominee during a presidential election year, instead saying that the "American people should have the opportunity to make their voices heard before filling a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court." [32]

Wicker announced prior to the 2021 United States Electoral College count that he would vote to certify the election on January 6, 2021. [33] He was participating in the certification when the 2021 storming of the United States Capitol happened. When the Capitol was secure and Congress returned to complete the certification, Wicker voted to certify the count, with his senate counterpart, Cindy Hyde-Smith objecting to the count. [34] In the wake of the insurrection and certification, Wicker called for perpetrators to be prosecuted "to the fullest extent of the law" and that "we must work together to rebuild confidence in our institutions." [35] Wicker opposes removal of the president, encouraging a peaceful transfer of power on Inauguration Day. [36]

Political positions

As of December 2017, Wicker ranks 14th of 98 in the Bipartisan Index compiled by the Lugar Center, which reflects a low level of partisanship. [37]

Climate change

In 2015, Wicker was the only U.S. Senator to vote against an amendment declaring that climate change is real. Wicker, the incoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was the only no vote. The final vote was 98 to 1, with Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader from Nevada, not voting. [38] The amendment affirmed that "climate change is real and not a hoax." [39]

In 2017, he was one of 22 senators to sign a letter [40] to President Donald Trump urging the President to have the United States withdraw from the Paris Agreement. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wicker has received over $200,000 from the oil and gas industry since 2012. [41]

Gun law

Wicker's support for pro-gun legislation and gun rights has earned him an "A+" rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA endorsed Wicker during the 2012 election. [42] Wicker has stated that he will filibuster any bill that he feels "infringes" on the Second Amendment, including weapon bans. [43] He has received $21,350 in funding from gun lobbyists for his political activities. [44]

In 2009, Wicker introduced a bill allowing Amtrak passengers to check unloaded and locked handguns in their luggage. The law passed 68–30. Wicker's rationale for the bill was that individuals were having their Second Amendment rights violated on a federally subsidized train system by not being allowed to bring their guns. [45]

One day after the 2015 San Bernardino attack, Wicker voted against a bill, co-sponsored by a Democrat and a Republican, that would make background checks mandatory when an individual bought a gun. He voted against it because he feared it would have "opened the door to a national gun registry." [46]

In 2017, Wicker voted in favor of "a joint resolution of disapproval aimed at former President Obama’s executive action requiring the Social Security Administration (SSA) place beneficiaries on the National Instant Criminal Background Check System “mental defective” list." [47]

Secularism

Wicker asked the United States Navy to deny the admission of a secular humanist to the Chaplain Corps, stating that: "It is troubling that the Navy could allow a self-avowed atheist to serve in the Chaplain Corps." [48]

ACU Rating

In the 2018 Congressional term, Senator Wicker received a score of 86 from the American Conservative Union. Overall, Senator Wicker has earned a lifetime rating of 84. [49] Compared to the Americans for Democratic Action which gave Senator Wicker a score of 0 for the term.

Electoral history

Official photo as U.S. Representative Roger Wicker, official Congressional photo portrait.jpg
Official photo as U.S. Representative

The following is a partial summary of Wicker's election results.[ citation needed ]

2018 United States Senate election in Mississippi
PartyCandidateVotes%
Republican Roger Wicker (inc.) 547,619 58.49
Democratic David Baria 369,56739.47
Libertarian Danny Bedwell12,9811.39
Reform Shawn O'Hara 6,0480.65
Total votes936,215 100.0
Republican hold
United States Senate election in Mississippi, 2018, Republican primary
PartyCandidateVotes%
Republican Roger Wicker (inc.) 130,118 82.79
Republican Richard Boyanton27,05217.21
Total votes157,170 100.0
2012 United States Senate election in Mississippi
PartyCandidateVotes%
Republican Roger Wicker (inc.) 709,626 57.16
Democratic Albert Gore503,46740.55
Constitution Thomas Cramer15,2811.23
Reform Shawn O'Hara 13,1941.06
Total votes1,241,568 100.0
Republican hold
United States Senate election in Mississippi, 2012, Republican primary
PartyCandidateVotes%
Republican Roger Wicker (inc.) 254,936 89.17
Republican Robert Maloney18,8576.6
Republican Allen Hathcock12,1064.23
Total votes1,241,568 100.0
2008 United States Senate special election in Mississippi
PartyCandidateVotes%
Nonpartisan Roger Wicker (inc.) 683,409 54.96
Nonpartisan Ronnie Musgrove 560,06445.04
Total votes1,243,473 100.0
Republican hold
2006 Mississippi 1st District United States Congressional election
Roger Wicker (R) (inc.) 66%
Ken Hurt (D) 34%
2004 Mississippi 1st District United States Congressional election
Roger Wicker (R) (inc.) 79%
Barbara Dale Washer (Reform) 21%
1994 Mississippi 1st District United States Congressional election
Roger Wicker (R) 63%
Bill Wheeler (D) 37%

Personal life

Wicker is married to the Gayle Long of Tupelo. They have three children, Margaret and son-in-law Manning McPhillips, Caroline and son-in-law Kirk Sims, and McDaniel and daughter-in-law Kellee, and six grandchildren, Caroline, Henry, Maury and Virginia McPhillips, and Evelyn and Joseph Sims. The Wickers reside in Tupelo, where Wicker is a deacon and a member of the church choir at First Baptist Church Tupelo. [50] He previously served on the Board of Advisors for the Global Panel Foundation  [ de ], an NGO that works behind the scenes in crisis areas around the world. [51]

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U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jamie Whitten
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Mississippi's 1st congressional district

1995–2007
Succeeded by
Travis Childers
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Trent Lott
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Mississippi
2007–present
Served alongside: Thad Cochran, Cindy Hyde-Smith
Incumbent
Preceded by
Chris Smith
Chair of the Joint Helsinki Commission
2017–2019
Succeeded by
Alcee Hastings
Preceded by
John Thune
Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee
2019–2021
Succeeded by
Maria Cantwell
Preceded by
Maria Cantwell
Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee
2021–present
Incumbent
Party political offices
Preceded by
Trent Lott
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Mississippi
(Class 1)

2012, 2018
Most recent
Preceded by
Jerry Moran
Chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
2015–2017
Succeeded by
Cory Gardner
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
John Barrasso
United States Senators by seniority
31st
Succeeded by
Jeanne Shaheen