Trent Lott said he felt no anger and no malice. But after a 35 year political career filled with tremendous highs and some unfortunate lows, he realized it was time to call it quits. So Monday, the Mississippi senator came home to Pascagoula and told his friends he was retiring.
Senator Lott's retirement becomes official once the Senate's winter break begins. That will be sometime after December 13th.
In a news conference, Lott emphasized he was leaving the public spotlight to spend more time with family, and pursue a new career path. "There's no malice, no anger. There's nothing but happiness and pride," he explained. But Lott was very vague when asked where that career path could take him. "We've had this great experience for these 35 years. But we do think that there's maybe time left for us to do something else," Sen. Lott said.
Almost every important political announcement Lott made over a 35 year career was at the LaFont Inn. So he came home to that Pascagoula hotel and announced his retirement. "It's been really a great honor and a privilege to represent the people of Mississippi," the GOP senator said. "But Tricia and I have decided it's time for us to do something else."
Sen. Lott said he came to that realization during a church sermon. And then, over Thanksgiving, he shared his retirement plans with dozens of family members who gathered in Jackson. "I just realized once again I've missed a lot of those opportunities to spend extra time with family. We'd like to have a little more time to do that," he said.
Trent Lott first became a U.S. Congressman in 1972. By 1989, he was in the U.S. Senate. His political clout eventually earned him the Senate Majority Leader position. But, public backlash over comments pertaining to Strom Thurmond forced him to step down from that post. Yet, instead of throwing in the towel, Lott rebuilt his career. "Let me make it clear, there are no problems. I feel fine," the senator told a crowd of supporters. "I may look my 66 years, but I honestly feel good. And I get up everyday believing I can maybe have a positive effect on what we do in the senate."
When describing his role as a leader in Mississippi, Lott said, "I've loved it. And I hope I've helped make a positive difference. That's all I really want to be remembered for, giving it my best, and I did that for a long time."
Lott actually served on Capitol Hill a year longer than he originally intended. The family's initial plan was to have Lott retire before the 2006 election. But he ran that year to help Mississippi fight for the Katrina recovery money it desperately needed.
Governor Barbour will appoint somebody to temporarily fill Sen. Lott's seat. An election will be held November 4, 2008 to choose Lott's permanent successor.
Lott closed his prepared remarks at his news conference by saying, "I just want to say in conclusion thank you to the people of Mississippi, all of you in this room and people all over this state for the great honor and opportunity of serving this state. I've loved it. And I hope I've helped make a positive difference."