Funding public education wouldn’t normally become an issue in a race for a U.S. Senate seat, but it has become one in the nationally watched Republican senatorial runoff. Reelection of veteran Sen. Thad Cochran is in jeopardy from 42-year-old State Sen. Chris McDaniel of Jones County. McDaniel, allied with the far-right Tea Party wing of the GOP, opposes federal educational subsidies.
McDaniel has been able to mask from voters how far to the right he really is. Investigative magazine Mother Jones in 2013 had reported that McDaniel was the featured speaker for a neo-confederate, pro-secessionist conference in Jones County at which many attendees wore Confederate uniforms.
The New York Times has sent two reporters into Mississippi to cover the Cochran-McDaniel runoff. Last Saturday one Times reporter interviewed Carl Ford, a 77-year-old lawyer in McDaniel’s hometown of Ellisville. Ford, a staunch McDaniel backer, admitted he was active in the county’s Sons of Confederate Veterans, which holds annual dinners on Robert E. Lee’s birthday.
What The Times didn’t know is that in 1998 Ford had been a defense attorney for the late Sam Bowers of Laurel, who in the 1960s and 1970s was Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The White Knights was a Mississippi-born group which the FBI said plotted several brutal terrorist murders during Mississippi’s celebrated 1960s “Freedom Summer.”
Bowers was three times prosecuted as the mastermind for violent racial crimes – once in federal court and twice in state court. In 1998, with Ford on the defense team, Bowers was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the Dahmer murder. Bowers died in prison in 2006.