Remember the Chris McDaniel-Thad Cochran GOP primary Senate race in Mississippi last spring?
One of the accusations leveled at Cochran, which ultimately was used to paint McDaniel as a terrible person in an unusual turn of events, was that as his wife sat wasting away in a Mississippi nursing home Cochran was cavorting around DC and other garden spots with Kay Webber, a longtime aide and paramour whose house in Washington Cochran was officially renting a basement apartment in (as it happens Cochran was storing some of his stuff in the basement; he was in the master bedroom with Webber every night).
The subject of Cochran’s underground living arrangements and romantic ties was so juicy that some overzealous McDaniel’s supporters even made plans to infiltrate the nursing home to capture footage of the Senator’s wife, who ultimately died in December. They did so, were caught, and the crush of publicity ultimately led to the suicide of one of them while the others have faced a varying array of criminal charges.
Cochran ended up winning the primary by bringing in tens of thousands of black Democrats as ringers in the GOP contest, and he went on to an easy victory in the general election – leaving a lot of open wounds and bruised relationships among Mississippi Republicans, who felt that Cochran and the Haley Barbour machine for whom he fronts had stolen the seat from the rightful GOP nominee after his personal corruption was exposed.
Cochran’s defenders were little happier, dismissing stories of his affair as scurrilous and unfounded. Webber was a friend and employee, they said, and someone who offered friendship and a confidant to Cochran when his wife no longer could.
That defense took a bit of a hit over the weekend, when Cochran married Webber.
Cochran and Webber, his executive assistant who has worked for him since 1981, married during a private family ceremony in Gulfport, Miss. on Saturday, his office said in a one-line statement.
The relationship between Webber and Cochran, whose wife of 50 years died in December, faced scrutiny during last year’s Republican primary in the state.
Supporters of Chris McDaniel, Cochran’s challenger, pointed out that Webber accompanied the incumbent senator on more than two dozen trips to 45 countries, in addition to 39 trips to Mississippi over two years.
A Cochran spokesman defended those trips to The New York Times at the time, describing them as “strictly professional” and “perfectly appropriate” in her role as a senior staff member.
According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Cochran’s staff denied the nuptual plans right up until the end…
Rumors of a possible marriage between Cochran and Webber surfaced earlier in May; however, multiple Cochran staffers denied any knowledge of a possible wedding as recently as last week.
Senate and campaign staff defended the relationship between Cochran and Webber during last year’s campaign in light of news detailing travel overseas and back to the district that included Cochran and Webber. A campaign spokesperson at the time said Webber “is a member of the staff and a trusted aide, and any other suggestion is silly gossip.”
Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos said Monday that Webber would remain on the senator’s staff.
Congrats to the happy couple, but it does appear that at least most of what the McDaniel camp said about Cochran was spot on correct. And yet he’s still in the Senate for the next five years, or until he steps down so someone else from the Barbour machine can win a special election.