by Alan Lange

The late Alan Nunnelee was notorious in both the Mississippi Senate and in the US House for saying, “let your yeas be a yea and your nays be a nay.”

Voting “present” for legislation, as opposed to voting yes or no or just not voting, is known euphemistically in the chamber as “taking a walk” on a vote.  It basically says to constituents, “I’m in the chamber doing my job, but I’m not willing to say yes or no”.


In his runup to a second US Senate campaign, state Senator Chris McDaniel has been pretty strident about political courage.  Specifically, he has repeatedly said that “establishment” Republicans don’t have any.  Yet since the beginning of 2016, he’s voted present 75 times in the Mississippi legislature.

Here are some examples from McDaniel about how he feels about less than committed conservatives.

Here’s a facebook video from 2016 of McDaniel discussing who to look up to in Congress 

Taking a walk

Since 2016, most of the votes that McDaniel has taken a walk on fall into just a few categories.


  1. Bond or Appropriations bills
  2. A local/private bill that passes without a dissenting vote
  3. Social issues that he likely wouldn’t agree with but would be one of if not the only dissenting vote

Here are just a few examples.

On Mar. 25, 2018, McDaniel voted present on a bill to authorize the state’s omnibus $200 million bond bill. (Mississippi Senate, 2018 Regular Session, HB 1649, Passed 50-0, 3/25/18, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Apr. 18, 2016, McDaniel voted present on the conference report for $100 million+ for the additional appropriations bill for various state agencies for FY 2016. (Mississippi Senate, 2016 Regular Session, SB 2924, Passed 46-5, 4/18/16, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Mar. 23, 2016, McDaniel voted present on the $2.25 billion appropriations bill for the Department of Education. (Mississippi Senate, 2016 Regular Session, HB 1643, Passed 48-0, 3/23/16, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Feb. 6, 2018, McDaniel voted present on a bill to revise services and provider reimbursement rates, and extend a repealer on, the Mississippi Medicaid program. (Mississippi Senate, 2018 Regular Session, SB 2836, Passed 31-16, 2/6/18, McDaniel Voted Present)

Those bills represent well in excess of $3 billion of Mississippians’ tax dollars being spent in the last three years that Senator McDaniel failed to be heard on one way or the other.

We asked the McDaniel campaign for comment on the four listed bills above as they are clearly large memorable votes on controversial issues or big expenditures of tax dollars over the last few sessions.  His comments were as follows:

In general, I sometimes vote “present” even where I might support what the bill’s author is trying to accomplish, but the legislation is just too voluminous to digest before a scheduled vote; or the proposed law may have implemented partial reforms, but didn’t go far enough; or additional research is required to understand the bill’s full impact; or the bill duplicates current law or already-passed legislation.

I might also vote “present” when the chairman making the presentation on the floor was unable to answer questions, or his answers were elusive or created further confusion. In rare instances, I have been recorded as a “present” vote when I intended to vote “no,” but such clerical mistakes are almost always insignificant. In short, a “present” vote indicates, in my opinion, that the bill needs more answers, research or revisions before I can support it.

Here are a few other votes of interest.

On Mar. 29, 2016, McDaniel voted present on a bill to revise Schedules I, II, III, and IV of the controlled substances law. (Mississippi Senate, 2016 Regular Session, HB 1369, Passed 42-7, 3/29/16, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Apr. 14, 2016, McDaniel voted present on a bill to authorize Sunflower County to issue bonds in order to assist in the completion of the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. (Mississippi Senate, 2016 Regular Session, SB 2953, Passed 48-0, 4/14/16, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Apr. 19, 2016, McDaniel voted present on a bill to authorize Humphreys County to contribute funds to little league baseball teams within the county. (Mississippi Senate, 2016 Regular Session, HB 1735, Passed 49-1, 4/19/16, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Apr. 19, 2016, McDaniel voted present on a bill to authorize Marshall County to contribute funds to certain 501(c)(3) organizations that operate food pantries. (Mississippi Senate, 2016 Regular Session, HB 1778, Passed 48-0, 4/19/16, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Feb. 8, 2017, McDaniel voted present on a bill to make domestic violence grounds for fault divorce. (Mississippi Senate, 2017 Regular Session, SB 2703, Passed 51-0, 2/8/17, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Feb. 15, 2017, McDaniel voted present on a bill to authorize the city of Vicksburg to make contributions to Read by Third Grade. (Mississippi Senate, 2017 Regular Session, SB 2921, Passed 48-1, 2/15/17, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Mar. 9, 2017, McDaniel voted present on a bill to authorize Tallahatchie County to make a contribution to the Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation. (Mississippi Senate, 2017 Regular Session, HB 760, Passed 49-0, 3/9/17, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Mar. 28, 2017, McDaniel voted present on the conference report for a bill to extend a repealer on the statute regulating the hunting of nuisance animals and wild hogs. (Mississippi Senate, 2017 Regular Session, HB 455, Passed 49-1, 3/28/17, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Feb. 2, 2018, McDaniel voted present on a bill to prohibit pyramid promotional schemes. (Mississippi Senate, 2018 Regular Session, SB 2805, Passed 48-1, 2/2/18, McDaniel Voted Present)

On Mar. 1, 2018, McDaniel voted present on a bill to extend the repeal date on the City of Southaven’s restaurant tax. (Mississippi Senate, 2018 Regular Session, HB 1471, Passed 47-0, 3/1/18, McDaniel Voted Present)

These votes on their face don’t seem particularly complicated.  Some of those bills are only a few pages long.  As some old-timer legislators would say, “you’re either fer it or agin it”.

Running for higher elective office can certainly be a tricky thing, especially if you’re a legislator.  But the aforementioned is just a smattering of a pattern of votes that it would be fair to characterize that McDaniel at the very least wouldn’t want to be seen as a “yes” vote on.  But he’s most assuredly not a “no” vote on them either.  Things like big appropriations bills and omnibus bond bills that he chides Republicans for DC in voting for are the exact sort of issues he’s clearly taken a walk on in recent years.

The Roger Wicker campaign really didn’t even start to get ultra-specific on their attacks on McDaniel.  But November is a long ways off.  Other campaigns and third parties will likely be pressing on these themes as the campaign for the open US Senate seat begins in earnest.