On Tuesday, Mississippians will go to the polls to make their choices in the Republican and Democratic primaries for the U.S. Senate.

In the Democratic primary, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers of Booneville faces minimal opposition and should breeze into the November general election.

Who Childers will face in November is, of course, the hottest current topic in Mississippi politics, a race pitting six-term incumbent Thad Cochran against two-term state senator Chris McDaniel.

The race has been among the most acrimonious and ugliest in recent history, as the Tea Party candidate McDaniel takes on Cochran in what is widely viewed as a fight over ideological control of the Republican Party between the Tea Party.

The bitter struggle hit a low point in recent weeks as the focus of the contest shifted from policy to scandal after police in Madison arrested four McDaniel supporters and charged them with illegally conspiring to photograph Cochran’s wife in the nursing home where she has lived since 2001 with dementia. Police investigators say Rose Cochran was photographed on Easter Sunday and her image was included in an anti-Cochran political video posted briefly online six days later. While McDaniel has condemned the act and vehemently denied any involvement, the four men charged in the photo incident are McDaniel supporters and two of them were particularly close associates of the candidate.

That ugly spectacle aside, we believe there is a clear choice in this race.

McDaniel, in true Tea Party fashion, strikes the pose of someone unwilling to compromise. He is going to Washington to wage war and take no prisoners. No negotiations. No compromises. That approach might win points among his supporters, but it suggests that McDaniel has a naive approach to how government works — and doesn’t work.

Cochran, on the other hand, has proven to be an effective, thoughtful and conciliatory leader. Over his five terms in the Senate, he has exhibited his effectiveness by the millions of dollars in funding, facilities and programs he has brought to a state ever in desperate need. Our state’s share of the military pie alone, speaks to his effectiveness. With major Air Force bases in Columbus and Biloxi, the NASA facility in Bay St. Louis, the SeaBee Base in Gulfport and the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Mississippi is a major player in our defense industry. Likewise, major research facilities at our universities also attest to the skills of our congressional delegation.

Now in his 36th year in the Senate, Cochran is tied for its third most senior member. The influence and advantages accompanying that seniority should not be discarded without good reason.

Thad Cochran’s record on behalf of Mississippians makes him the easy choice as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.

Read more here. 


Much has been said and written about the nastiness of the U.S. Senate race pitting challenger Chris McDaniel against longtime incumbent Thad Cochran.

The negative tenor of the campaign, while regrettable, is hardly surprising.  The Republican Party is seriously divided in a nation that’s seriously divided.

When you strip away the attack ads, though, Tuesday’s Republican primary represents a pivotal point for Mississippi that pits practicality against ideology.

In years past, a six-term incumbent such as Cochran, who has conducted himself with dignity in office and has been highly successful at steering federal dollars to his home state, wouldn’t have to break a sweat in a re-election campaign.

Mississippians–Democrat and Republican–have understood that it’s only through seniority that this small state has been able to hold its own and then some in securing federal dollars and programs.  It’s partially because of this clout that for every dollar Mississippi sends to Washington in taxes, it receives more than three dollars in return.

The GOP’s tea party wing, which is backing McDaniel, is asking voters to forget about that highly favorable balance of payments and to toss Cochran out, even as he has a real shot at becoming chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful positions in Congress.  They are asking the state to commit fiscal suicide, all in the name of making a point about the federal debt, about being uncompromisingly true to conservative principles, about registering general dissatisfaction with the country’s direction.

They make the argument that Mississippi was the poorest state in the nation when Cochran first went to Washington 41 years ago, and it’s still the poorest state in the nation.  So what has all that federal spending done? they ask.  The answer is simple.  It’s kept Mississippi from being even poorer.

Without the clout of seniority, it’s unlikely Mississippi would have a shipbuilding or space industry on its Gulf Coast.  It’s likely that the Delta, propped up by farm subsidies and flood-control projects, would be further depopulated.  It’s unlikely that the state’s universities would have many of the attractive facilities or programs they now do.  It’s likely that the Gulf Coast, decimated just nine years ago by the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, would be nowhere near its current state of recovery.  In short, if not for the influence of Cochran and many of his like long-tenured predecessors, this state would be even further behind the rest of the country on most every meaningful economic, educational and social measuring stick.

Certainly, some of these benefits for Mississippi were achieved through legislative compromise.  That’s the nature of getting things done in Congress and most any institution that’s democratic in nature.  The problem in Washington is not there’s been too much deal-making of late.  It’s that there’s been too little on all sides.  The Affordable Care Act to which McDaniel and his tea party faithful object so strongly is in fact the product of an unwillingness to compromise.

One of these days, Cochran should retire.  At 76, he is showing his age.

When he does step down, though, it should be to a candidate in his mold:  one who can reach across party lines to get things done, who brings this state together rather than drives it apart, who has more to him than a fire-breathing speech.

That candidate is not McDaniel.

We strongly recommend that voters in the Republican primary cast their ballots for Cochran.

Read more here. 


The Sun Herald endorses Thad Cochran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.

This is Cochran’s seventh campaign for the Senate, and one we encouraged him to make last summer when he was still weighing his options.

As we noted then, Cochran played an indispensable role in helping steer tens of billions of dollars in federal aid and tax incentives to help the Coast and inland areas of Mississippi recover from Hurricane Katrina, the nation’s worst natural disaster.

His effectiveness was enhanced by his seniority. Today, only three senators have more tenure in the Senate than Cochran.

But longevity is not the key to Cochran’s success. At 76, he remains an active legislator and a respected conciliator among his colleagues, admired for his willingness to move legislation forward in a bipartisan manner when possible.

When he decided to seek re-election in December, he said he would “run hard and be successful so that I can continue to serve the people of Mississippi and our nation effectively.”

We encourage voters in Tuesday’s Republican primary to move him closer to that goal.

That no major Republican was willing to take on Cochran is testament to the senator’s standing in both the state and the Senate.

Not that Cochran is unopposed. State Sen. Chris McDaniel is conducting a fierce campaign to unseat the state’s senior senator.

We remain disappointed Cochran did not engage McDaniel in at least one debate.

But there is no debating that Thad Cochran should be re-elected.

Again, we have made no secret of our admiration for Cochran’s service and our desire for him to stay in the U.S. Senate as an effective legislative leader for both Mississippi and the nation.

This endorsement simply makes it official.

This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions expressed by columnists, cartoonists and letter writers are their own.



Campaign Shows Leadership: Chris McDaniel in a crisis shows little ability.

Allegations aside that someone, allegedly a supporter of Chris McDaniel, went into the room of the wife of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and shot her picture and posted it on a website to infer an extramarital affair (if all that can be set aside), the recent unpleasantness of that race showed McDaniel’s skills, or lack thereof.

McDaniel, challenging Cochran for the GOP spot on the general election ballot, two weeks ago saw the wheels fall off his campaign when a supporter was arrested for shooting Cochran’s wife’s picture in her bed in an extended care facility in Madison.

At the moment there’s no saying McDaniel or his campaign had anything to do with or prior knowledge of the decision to get the picture of post it on the internet.

What became abundantly clear is that when it comes to crisis management, neither McDaniel nor anyone on his staff has a clue how to behave once the pressure is on.

With the pressure on the staffers, separately and independently, issued a fuzzied array of stories on what they knew and when they knew it; he blasted Cochran for sitting on the allegations for two weeks, about the time needed for a reasonable investigation; he pulled out the tired old complaint of a media conspiracy; he clamed the confusion on his staff, and never once took responsibility for the public relations debacle.

McDaniel apparently has the social skills of a cannon with a short fuse; Cochran is known for statesmanship.

McDaniel has no experience; Cochran is the consummate pro. McDaniel has no connections, and few prospects of developing any. And now it’s amply demonstrated that a man looking for one of the most pressure-filled jobs in the country can’t handle pressure.

Decision time is days away.

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As a former Adjutant General of the Mississippi National Guard and current Chair of the Mississippi Military Communities Council, I know first-hand how important our military installations and defense industry are to the State of Mississippi. The Armed Forces and National Guard represent the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Mississippi families and many billions of dollars of economic impact for the state’s economy.

And I know firsthand, how important Thad Cochran is to protecting those installations and the men and women who support them.

Even without a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, the Navy and Army are shrinking to pre-World War II levels. The Air Force will be smaller than at any time since it became an independent service in 1947. I also know firsthand that the National Guard is facing severe cutbacks, most notably the potential deactivation of the 155th Brigade Combat Team.
We call this the “Shadow BRAC” and it is more pressing than any future BRAC round that may occur. We are currently working with our extraordinary Congressional delegation to fight proposed moves that will pull resources and jobs out of the state.

Make no mistake, decisions made about force structure and missions today could lead to the shuttering of Guard units or military installations across the state in the years to come. The good people of Meridian, Biloxi, Hattiesburg, and Columbus (to name a few) know of the terrible impact a closure or loss of mission would have on their communities.

All of our delegation works tirelessly on behalf of the state, but Senator Thad Cochran has showed time and again his ability to protect and grow our defense sector. Space will not permit me to describe the number of times Senator Cochran has stepped in to bring a mission to a Mississippi military base, or protect the jobs of the thousands of workers at Ingalls Shipbuilding, or ensure that our National Guard soldiers have the resources they need to protect our country abroad and support public safety at home.

Senator Cochran has been deeply and personally involved in confronting threats and proposed cutbacks to Mississippi’s military missions and its defense and aerospace industry. His efforts are a significant reason that the federal military installations and private sector defense industry presence in Mississippi remained so robust. The economic impact of the military presence in Mississippi alone is roughly $5.7 billion.

As we face the challenges of a once in a generation defense reduction, it would be foolish to surrender our most valuable asset in Washington, DC. I cannot imagine fighting for Mississippi military bases now or in a proposed BRAC round in 2017 without having Senator Cochran in our corner.

William L. Freeman Jr. is chairman of the Mississippi Military Communities Council and former adjutant general of the Mississippi National Guard.

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