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Days before deadline, McDaniel unsure about Senate race


Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press



JACKSON -- A Mississippi state lawmaker who lost a bitter U.S. Senate race in 2014 says he will "get into a dark place and pray" about whether to run this year. 


Republican Chris McDaniel has only a few days to decide: candidates' filing deadline in Mississippi is March 1. 


McDaniel never conceded his 2014 Republican primary loss to longtime Sen. Thad Cochran, who is chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. The race grabbed national attention after a McDaniel supporter entered a nursing home without permission and photographed Cochran's wife, who was bedridden with dementia. Images of her appeared briefly online. McDaniel said he had no connection to the incident. 


Mississippi's other Republican U.S. senator, Roger Wicker, is seeking re-election now. 


McDaniel, a third-term state senator from Ellisville, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he's considering three races: U.S. Senate this year, lieutenant governor in 2019 or U.S. Senate in 2020. 


McDaniel began his effort to unseat Cochran during the autumn of 2013, about eight months before the 2014 primary. He acknowledged that he would be getting a much later start if he enters this year's Senate race against Wicker. But McDaniel also said he has about 6,000 volunteers ready to start working statewide, no matter which race he enters -- a network he lacked at the start of the last race. 


"I'm looking for clarity," McDaniel said of his process of introspection. "I just get into a dark place and I pray a lot." 


Wicker had more than $4.1 million in his campaign account at the end of 2017, according to the Federal Election Commission. 


Wicker has received $5,400 from Vice President Mike Pence's political action committee, Great America Committee. He was endorsed last week by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who rallied social conservatives when he ran for president in 2012 and 2016. Wicker has also announced that he is supported by 68 local leaders in Mississippi of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign. 


Steve Bannon, a former adviser to Trump, had been urging McDaniel to run against Wicker this year. Bannon's involvement faded after he ran a losing campaign for Republican Roy Moore in a special U.S. Senate election in Alabama in late 2017. 


No Democrat had entered the Senate race in Mississippi by Friday, state party chairman Bobby Moak said. The state has not had a Democrat in the U.S. Senate since John C. Stennis retired in 1989.




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