Charles Willis Pickering, Jr., usually known as Chip Pickering (born August 10, 1963), is a politician in the U.S. state of Mississippi. He has represented as a Republican in the United States House of Representatives since first being elected in 1996. The district is based in Meridian and stretches from the Alabama border to the Louisiana border, including areas such as Starkville, Natchez and part of Jackson, the state capital.
In mid-August 2007, Pickering announced that he would not seek re-election in 2008 due to insufficient attention to his family. Pickering was considered a top Republican contender if U.S. Senator Trent Lott had retired in 2006, and was waiting a decision by Senator Thad Cochran to make his re-election plans clear in 2008; it is widely suspected that Pickering's decision to leave Congress reflected Cochran's decision to run for re-election.
When Trent Lott announced his resignation as Senator from Mississippi, Pickering was rumored to be the likely appointee of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour to replace him. However, in December, Pickering announced that he was not interested in the post, and fellow Republican Congressman Roger Wicker, of , was appointed to Lott's seat.
As a result of Mississippi's 1st congressional district special election, 2008, Pickering is currently the sole Republican Representative from Mississippi.
Pickering then very briefly served as a Southern Baptist missionary to Hungary, after the end of Hungarian government persecution of religious believers. In the same year, 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed Pickering as a Department of Agriculture liaison to the former European Communist countries. This appointment provided Pickering with official diplomatic immunity. After returning to the United States, Pickering served on the staff of Senator Trent Lott from 1992 to 1996.
During this and following elections, questions have been raised about whether Pickering was a legal resident of Mississippi and lawfully qualified to run for the office. He owns a farm in Madison County, but his permanent residence is in the Washington area. Nonetheless, Pickering was unopposed for reelection in 1998 and defeated token Democratic opposition in 2000. In response to criticism regarding place of residence, Pickering has stated that he was advised by Montgomery to keep his residence and family in the Washington area, in order to have more time to spend with his family.
In 2002, Pickering was pitted against fellow Congressman Ronnie Shows, a conservative Democrat from the neighboring , after Mississippi lost a seat in the 2000 Congressional re-districting. Pickering soundly defeated Shows with over 60% of the vote in the new 3rd District. In 2004 Pickering faced minor independent candidate Jim Giles and several other candidates.
Pickering is arguably one of the more conservative members of the House. He has risen rapidly through the chamber's ranks, and currently serves as vice-chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. He has sometimes been mentioned as a candidate for Lott's Senate seat; indeed, most pundits believed that had Lott opted not to run for reelection in 2006, Pickering would have been drafted to run in his place.
Pickering considered leaving Congress in 2003 to take a lobbying job.