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Senate speeches headline Neshoba Fair


Paul Hampton/The Sun Herald



PHILADELPHIA -- There was no Tea Party uprising and scant new ground broken as the political speeches at the Neshoba County Fair came to an end Thursday with calls for equality from the Democrats and unity from the Republicans. 


But clearly the crowd came to see Sen. Thad Cochran and Democratic challenger Travis Childers who face off after Cochran won a contentious GOP runoff June 24. Even some of Cochran's supporters wondered how the 76-year-old would do, especially if an army of McDaniel supporters showed up to heckle. It was a needless worry. Only about a half-dozen people brandished signs that read "Betrayed" or "184,000 voters alienated." One man had tape on his mouth. 


The majority of the overflow crowd in Founders Square backed Cochran and dozens waved "Thad" signs and gave him a standing ovation. 


Childers delivered a fiery speech, hitting on minimum wage, equality for women and public education, and, of course, the contentious Republican primary. 


Cochran was more subdued and didn't dwell on the brutal campaign he won over Chris McDaniel. McDaniel refuses to concede, though, and he says he'll challenge the results. 


In fact, his campaign said in a release Thursday that Republicans were barred by their own rules from recognizing Cochran as the candidate. 


Cochran obviously didn't get that email. 


"I accept your nomination," Cochran began. Then he promised to work for all Mississippians regardless of skin color or economic status. McDaniel had criticized him for appeals to black Democrats. Cochran said he was asking for everyone's vote, even the vote of those who didn't vote for him in the primary. 




Age is just a number 


Then the senator tried to put the age issue to rest. 


"Some of the pictures I saw made me look a little older than even I thought I was," he said. 


"But I'm not bothered by that. Not too much. 


"I remember another Republican who spoke at the fair a few years ago and some people criticized his age. I don't know about you, but I think Ronald Reagan turned out to be a great president." 


Cochran stuck to a familiar script: Get rid of Obamacare, keep the military strong, curb government regulation and cut spending. 


"I served on active duty in the United States Navy, and I fully appreciate how our men and women in uniform -- and our veterans -- deserve our support," he said. "I will also work to make sure the military bases across our state are up to date and strong." 


He said support for military includes supporting the defense industry and Coast employers such as Ingalls Shipbuilding. 




Positive campaign promised 


Childers promised a more positive campaign but he did say he'd accepted an invitation to debate and hoped Cochran would accept it also. 


"It's never acceptable to hurt innocent people," he said of the GOP campaign that dug into Cochran's private life and his ailing wife. "We have to end hateful campaigns, the personal attacks on family and friends." 


He wasn't so kind to bankers who were bailed out after their risky investments went bust. 


"They claim they're too big to fail," he said. "That implies we're too small to matter." 


He called an increase in the minimum wage a raise for America and said it was time to close the gap in pay between men and women. 


He also favored expand Medicaid and a balanced budget amendment. He even found something to like about the Tea Party, which backed McDaniel. 


"When the Tea Party says $17 trillion debt is not sustainable, they're right," he said. 




A spot of tea 


He picked up on another Tea Party theme. 


"This seat belongs to you, the people of Mississippi," Childers said. "It doesn't belong to one person, to one party or a political machine or any other special interest group." 


"Mississippi's Senate seat is not for sale." 


And he likened the member of the dysfunctional Congress to children, children who, he said, should be put in time out. 


Cochran said he had a solution to Congress' problems. 


"We need to elect a Republican majority in the Senate," he said. 


Earlier, House Speaker Phil Gunn urged Republicans to put the brutal primary -- the 800-pound gorilla, he called it -- behind them. 


"This divide must be healed," he said. "for the health of the party ... for the health of our state. We have to bring unity back to our party." 


Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann and Gov. Phil Bryant used their 10 minutes to talk about positive developments in the state. 


For Hosemann, the most positive was the Voter ID law that he said worked for 99.9 percent of the voters in the recent primaries. And, he said he was glad the Supreme Court found that the Voter Rights Act, which required Mississippi to get federal approval for most election matters, was obsolete. 


"Mississippi has earned the right to be treated like every other state in the country," he said. "Mississippi has earned the right to run our own elections." 


As for the future, Hosemann said the state has to trim its bloated government. 




Governor is positive 


Bryant also mentioned Voter ID and threw in the charter school law, the protection of gun and religious rights and a reduction in teen pregnancy for good measure. 


He said the state program has reduced teen pregnancy by 10.3 percent and the Health Department says early indications are it has dropped further, perhaps by as much as 15 percent. 


And he dropped a hint about the upcoming legislative session: Common Core. 


"Next year, you bet we'll be talking about it," he said. "I bet Mississippians can do it better than the Obama Administration." 


He also questioned whether the state's worst in the nation employment figures were accurate. 


Perhaps, he posited, the recent spate of economic activity had brought people "off the sidelines" who had given up on looking for a job. 


Treasurer Lynn Fitch asked all Mississippians to help with her initiative to improve the state's financial culture, which she says had too many people too far in debt. 


Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Cindy Hyde-Smith talked about renovations to the Coliseum in Jackson and invited everyone to the fair in August.




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