Senate campaigns of Thad Cochran, Chris McDaniel accuse each other of distortion

JACKSON, Mississippi — Republican primary challenger Chris McDaniel said Thursday that longtime U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran is “one of the biggest spenders in Washington” and is out of touch with Mississippi.

“Sen. Cochran has a 42-year record … of being a liberal, of exploding the government’s debt, of increasing his own pay, of just about every unbelievable liberal vote one can cast,” McDaniel, 41, said during a news conference outside the Mississippi Capitol.

Republicans and Democrats hold party primaries June 3, with winners advancing to the Nov. 4 general election. Cochran, 76, is seeking another six-year term in the seat he won in 1978. He spent six years in the U.S. House before moving to the Senate, and is a former Senate Appropriations Committee chairman.

Cochran’s campaign spokesman, Jordan Russell, attended McDaniel’s news conference and responded immediately. Russell said the challenger’s statements were “a sign of a desperate campaign.”

“It’s kind of unfortunate, and absurd, really, for him to suggest that somehow Sen. Cochran is not, you know, Mississippi enough,” Russell said. “After all the work Sen. Cochran has done for Mississippi over the years, for our veterans, for Katrina victims, disaster relief, for our universities, for our farmers — Sen. Cochran has worked hard for this state and has an excellent record of conservative service to Mississippi. And for Chris McDaniel to stand up there and lie about him, it’s just really sad.”

As Russell spoke, McDaniel stood to the side and listened, arms crossed. Then, he replied to what Russell had said. It was a small-scale version of what McDaniel has been saying he wants for weeks: A face-to-face debate.

“Look, here’s what it boils down to: He shouldn’t send people down here to call me a liar,” McDaniel said of Cochran.

McDaniel acknowledged that during a campaign appearance Wednesday in Ocean Springs, he said Cochran’s campaign had used a “flat-out lie” about McDaniel’s work as a lawyer.

McDaniel, who was elected to the state Legislature in 2007, said he has talked to people around the state who have never seen Cochran in person.

“Sen. Cochran needs to be home more. He needs to be around the people more,” McDaniel said.

Russell responded that Cochran is in Washington doing his job as a senator.

“He can’t be two places at once,” Russell said.

Russell also said most of McDaniel’s campaign money comes from “out-of-state, phony supporters.”