Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran married his long-time aide, Kay Webber, over the weekend in a private ceremony in Gulfport.
The seven-term Republican lawmaker’s former wife of 50 years, Rose Cochran, died last year after suffering from dementia. She had lived in a nursing home for 13 years.
Webber, Cochran’s executive assistant, has worked for the senator since 1981. Cochran’s office confirmed his marriage in a one-sentence statement Monday.
His relationship with Webber was the subject of scrutiny during Cochran’s bruising 2014 primary battle with state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
On Capitol Hill, Cochran rents the basement of a rowhouse owned by Webber. The aide accompanied Cochran on 28 trips to 45 countries between 2011 and 2013, and made 39 visits to Mississippi with the senator, McDaniel supporters pointed out.
McDaniel’s supporters accused Cochran of an affair, which his backers denied. A blogger took photographs of Cochran’s bedridden wife and published them online — later facing criminal charges over those photographs.
The race between Cochran and McDaniel was so close that it went to a three-week runoff election, which Cochran ultimately won, in part due to support from African-American voters who rejected the tea party-aligned McDaniel, who was being backed by outside conservative groups.
During the race, several quotes from Cochran prompted speculation about his mental faculties. Once such event came after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, was ousted in a primary race by Dave Brat, potentially foreshadowing Cochran’s own fate. Asked about the much-publicized Virginia election, Cochran said the next day that he hadn’t even heard about the results.