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Miss. Senate candidates focus on debt, farmers


The Associated Press



GAUTIER -- Republican U.S. Senate challenger Chris McDaniel promised Monday to protect naval shipbuilding despite a national debt he views as the greatest threat to American security, while incumbent Thad Cochran focused on his record of helping Mississippi farmers. 


McDaniel, a state senator from Ellisville, campaigned Monday along the Gulf Coast, seeking to mobilize voters for the June 24 runoff. Cochran visited farm-related businesses in the Mississippi Delta. 


The candidates pushed on as former presidential candidate Ron Paul added his name Monday to tea party supporters of McDaniel's effort to deny Cochran a seventh term. 


In Jackson, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said his inquiry continues into three McDaniel supporters who got locked into the Hinds County Courthouse in the early hours Wednesday after the June 3 primary. 


McDaniel, speaking at Gautier City Hall, said Cochran is just as much to blame as many others in Washington for the nation's debt. Just as enthusiastically, the challenger promised to fight for the shipbuilding industry that has for generations been an economic driver on the Mississippi coast -- in no small part due to considerable influence of long-serving congressmen and senators, including Cochran. 


"You don't balance the budget on the backs of the military," McDaniel said, pledging to fight for the money that fuels Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, which has about 11,000 employees. 


He said there's no conflict between that message and his call for a balanced budget and debt reduction. Defense spending, he said, is a specific constitutional duty of Congress. McDaniel said the debt was accumulated through spending on other programs not spelled out in the Constitution. 


Cochran met with employees at Indianola's Delta Western Feed Mill, which makes catfish feed, and Greenville's Farmers Grain Terminal. Cochran, the ranking Republican member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, was heavily involved in recent negotiations over a new farm bill. 


Smith said that at the behest of Democratic Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham, he renewed his investigation into how Janis Lane, Scott Brewster and Rob Chambers ended up in the locked courthouse. 


"This is not going to go away," Graham said Monday. 


Graham said a Hinds County sheriff's investigation, which ended with a determination that no criminal charges would be filed, was not thorough enough. 


"Nobody checked their cellphones. Nobody knows if they put any listening devices in the courthouse," Graham said. 


The sheriff's report said the three had access only to common areas, such as hallways. 


"That's absolutely not true," Graham said. "We don't know which offices were locked or unlocked." 


Smith said his investigation "should not take very long." He said he was interviewing people, but said surveillance cameras don't appear to have been operating. Smith said he's not aiming to bring criminal charges, but wants to examine the safety of the courthouse in downtown Jackson.




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