From left, Lowndes County Supervisor Harry Sanders, Peggy Cantelou, Keith Heard and Columbus Mayor Robert Smith were among dozens in attendance when incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran made a campaign stop in Columbus Tuesday. The Senate primary will be held June 3. Photo by: Nathan Gregory/Dispatch Staff
May 28, 2014 9:54:11 AM
The race for a U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi has reached its last leg before the June 3 primary narrows down the field, and the two most publicized candidates for the Republican ticket have included Columbus in their campaign stops.
Six-term Senate veteran Thad Cochran made an appearance Tuesday at the Sprint Mart near the intersection of Bluecutt Road and Highway 45 North. Two-term state Senator McDaniel is scheduled to attend a private campaign event today in Columbus.
The contentious nature of that primary race has made national headlines. Four people face criminal charges in what law enforcement has described as a conspiracy to illegally photograph Cochran's ill wife, Rose, in a place where there's an expectation of privacy. McDaniel has denied that his campaign had any connection to or knowledge of the alleged incident.
Each opponent stuck to his platform Tuesday -- Cochran during his stop in Columbus, and McDaniel in a phone conversation with The Dispatch -- saying fundamental values are what voters should take stock in when they cast their ballots.
Cochran was chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations from 2005 to 2007, a post he hopes to reclaim if he is re-elected despite a change in the appointing process from seniority to a secret written ballot by committee members. The new wrinkle makes it imperative, Cochran said, that the committee leader understand issues that affect all parts of the country and not just those of the state he represents. Cochran said he would work to curb unnecessary government spending.
"The government has been spending too much operating not to just spend the money that's allocated but to have deficits that have built up national debt to a dangerous position," Cochran said. "We need people who are aware of that reality and who have the courage to take strong positions to preserve our economic vitality as a country. People who can make good decisions and understand what the challenges are -- both economically in terms of security and the regional interests that places like Columbus and our state have -- will be great assets that I hope I can bring my experience and know-how on all these issues and subjects to benefit our state."
McDaniel is also in favor of controlling federal spending but said new representation is needed to reverse the pattern. He said he'll work to implement term-limit legislation, repeal and replace Obamacare, push for tax reforms including a reduced corporate income tax rate and work to eliminate special interest in Washington.
"We have an opportunity crisis in this state, so we have to create the environment for upward mobility among the poor, for stability and opportunity in the middle class and we have to eliminate cronyist privilege where only the wealthy and well-connected succeed," McDaniel said. "This is the type of plan that is going to benefit our state in the long run. We've had 42 years of being dead last. It's time for a new direction."
Cochran acknowledged the heated nature of the campaign but said he's feeling confident less than a week removed from the primary and he's enjoyed the opportunity to speak with voters about their concerns. Along with economic health, national security will be at the top of his priority list should he be elected for a seventh term, he said.
"I think first of all, they would like to personally get acquainted with and know the people they're going to be asked to vote for on election day," Cochran said. "That's the importance of my getting around and letting people express to me their views on issues or whatever their thoughts are about what I can do as a U.S. Senator that will help our state, strengthen our country and generally serve the public interest. People give me advice all the time, and that's part of the process.
"People are thanking me for running again," Cochran added. "There had been some speculation that I might retire. I decided I'm healthy, I feel good and I work hard every day, so let's try it again, and people have really reacted very graciously."
McDaniel said the country's history in general is at a "very serious stage," and that vocal leadership is needed to make positive changes on Capitol Hill.
"I'm a Constitutional conservative and we can restore greatness to our constitution and to our country," McDaniel said. "The Constitution is a road map to prosperity. It should be defended and honored. Likewise, we need senators that are going to speak out against the liberal agenda. Senator Cochran has been silent far too long. It's time for a new era of bold and courageous leadership and that's what I'm offering the state and the nation."
Thomas Carey is also running on the Republican ticket for the U.S. Senate seat. Travis Childers, William Compton, Bill Marcy and Johnathan Rawl will be on the Democratic ticket next week. If needed, a run-off will be held June 24. The general election is Nov. 4.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.
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