In 2014, Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel (R-MS) ran for the seat of incumbent U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS). It was a hotly contested campaign which resulted in a primary runoff. With the help of crossover votes from Democrats, Sen. Cochran held his seat by a thin margin in the runoff. The establishment move to use Democrat votes to keep Cochran in power left many conservatives in Mississippi with a bad taste.
Fast forward to 2018. Mississippi is about to be in the political spotlight again. In early March, McDaniel qualified to run against sitting U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS). Many in Mississippi looked at this news and cringed. Not because McDaniel is a bad candidate but because we didn’t want to see another political bloodbath within the state Republican Party like we saw in 2014.
Prior to McDaniel declaring his candidacy against Wicker, there were reports that Sen. Cochran would retire due to health issues. This brought up the possibility of avoiding intraparty fighting in Mississippi. The idea was that McDaniel would not run for Wicker’s seat and instead run for Cochran’s open seat. This would leave Wicker likely unchallenged and a nearly sure chance that McDaniel would win Cochran's seat in a special election.
Things didn’t go quite as planned. Cochran did not retire before the March 1 qualifying deadline which led McDaniel to declare against Wicker. Instead of Cochran retiring when he began facing health problems months ago, it appears that in consultation with the establishment, he intentionally waited until after the qualifying deadline to announce his retirement. In fact, Cochran announced his retirement on March 5 and effective April 1.
This forced McDaniel to declare against Wicker instead of giving him an opportunity to run for Cochran’s open seat and threw as big of a kink as possible in McDaniel’s plan.
If true, this was completely unnecessary and appears to be more dirty politics from the Washington elite. Don’t get me wrong, Sen. Cochran has served Mississippi for decades in the U.S. Senate, and I have much respect for his office but the tactics he used in 2014 and the shenanigans he pulled recently were completely unnecessary.
Despite this likely trickery on behalf of Cochran’s office, McDaniel has wisely withdrawn from his challenge of Sen. Wicker and is instead running for the seat of outgoing Sen. Cochran. Of course some Republicans in Mississippi appear not to want McDaniel to run for any Congressional seat. I can’t seem to grasp the staunch opposition to McDaniel amongst some Republicans in Mississippi. The only thing I can guess is there are either hard feelings from 2014 or some think he’s too conservative.
Nonetheless, many in the Magnolia state can let out a sigh of relief because Wicker will go unchallenged, and McDaniel will have the chance to run again for the seat some argue he already won in 2014. Despite the fact that McDaniel wisely withdrew from his challenge of Wicker, some establishment politicians will still fight his candidacy for Cochran’s seat.
An election will be held in November for Cochran’s seat. My simple encouragement for McDaniel is this, stay above the fray.