SOUTHAVEN, Mississippi—He’s endorsed his colleague Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) re-election campaign. But addressing a crowd of 100 Republicans here Tuesday, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) urged party unity, no matter who wins the bitter Senate primary.
“I think we need to be unified after the primary,” Wicker said in a brief interview when asked if the unity message applies to a victory for Cochran’s primary challenger, state senator Chris McDaniel, too.
“I would have supported my opponents in 1994. I think we’re all going to join together on behalf of the Republican nominee. I hope that Republican nominee is Sen. Thad Cochran but we’re going to join together on behalf of whoever is the nominee,” he added.
In a speech to the DeSoto County Republican Club here at the Southaven Public Library, Wicker told three separate stories of the GOP unifying after a brutal primary: for his own House seat in 1994, Rand Paul’s victory in Kentucky in 2010, and Gerald Ford’s 1976 victory over Ronald Reagan.
“I want to tell you a story—three stories,” Wicker told the group of about 100 Republicans—split down the middle between McDaniel and Cochran supporters. “That primary’s going to be over and we’re going to have to pull together as Republicans, Mississippians. We’ve done it before.”
His first story, which was about his own House primary back in 1994, Wicker said, “there were six of us running and then there was a runoff.”
“A runoff is the worst thing—you’re running against your fellow Republican,” Wicker remarked. “It’s just a terrible three weeks. It was for me. I ran against a gentleman named Grant Fox—a hard-charging young lawyer who had been on Thad Cochran’s staff.”
Wicker said his runoff against Fox was bitter.
“You know what? He said some things that I took offense at,” Wicker said. “And I said some things that he felt were completely beyond the scope of [what was fair]. We fought.”
Wicker won by small margin.
“Somehow or another, I ended up beating him with a vast 53 percent of the vote,” he joked, to loud applause from the room.
“I had already made up my mind: If I had lost that race, I was going to get in my car and head to Houston, MS, and endorse him that night,” Wicker continued. “As it was, the shoe was on the other foot. Fox called me and was very nice and said: ‘I’m going to support the nominee of my party. I’m going to help you.’ A few days later, Grant Fox took me around the square in Houston, MS, and vouched for me in every storefront and to every supporter of his. He was a champion and I’ll never forget it even though there still were some things that had bothered us about that campaign. That happens. It’s happening. But we pulled together and we won that race for America.”