Cochran focusing on Childers, not McDaniel

August 12, 2014

In a visit to Greenwood Monday, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran was focusing on economics and his fall general election campaign against Democrat Travis Childers despite lingering challenges from his primary opponent.

Cochran held a coffee reception with supporters Monday morning at the historic Elks Lodge in downtown Greenwood before touring the newly expanded Milwaukee Electric Tool plant and joining the Greenwood Rotary Club for lunch.

The longtime Republican incumbent said he wasn’t worried about a legal challenge to his June 24 runoff victory in the Republican primary over his tea party-backed challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

“I’m not thinking about that challenge or worrying about it,” Cochran said. “I’m campaigning in a positive way on my abilities and my proven experience to get things done for the betterment of Mississippi.”

The bitterly fought campaign against McDaniel – Cochran’s toughest re-election bid since first being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978 – has continued to drag on, with the challenger alleging in a lawsuit that irregularities and illegally cast ballots robbed him of the election.

As part of the challenge, McDaniel’s lawyers have pointed to a paid interview by Meridian preacher Stevie Fielder, who claimed that the Cochran campaign tried to recruit him to solicit black voters in Lauderdale County to back Cochran by offering to pay them $15 each.

Attorney General Jim Hood has since claimed that it was Noel Fritsch, a McDaniel campaign spokesman, who paid Fielder $2,000 to tell that story. Both Fielder and Fritsch deny Hood’s accusation, and Fielder has insisted that Cochran campaign aides did approach him with the scheme.

Monday, Cochran said he didn’t know whether the conversations had taken place or not. “I wasn’t part of it,” he said. “I’ve not been involved in the argument one way or the other. I’m campaigning on my performance as a U.S. senator and my ability to do the job in a way that reflects credit on the people of Mississippi.”

Cochran said that his appeal to both white and black voters in the normally politically polarized state is based on his long track record of representing the interests of the entire state.

“I think people … know that I don’t have prejudices that bias me for or against one race or color or creed,” Cochran said. “I am trying to represent all of the people of Mississippi, whatever their political inclinations or economic background may be.”

Cochran said his focus in the Senate has been on spurring economic growth in Mississippi and promoting strong jobs growth throughout the state.

He said he wouldn’t be second-guessing President Barack Obama’s decision to order airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq or the president’s decisions to pull U.S. troops out of the country.

“I’m respecting the decisions they are making on the details and the challenges that they are facing on the battlefield,” Cochran said. “I’m not going to purport to say that I know how to do it better.”

Cochran did say that President Obama’s reported intention to use executive orders to bypass Congress on immigration reform to grant legal status to potentially millions of illegal immigrants would be constitutional overreach.

“Ultimately that’s the role for Congress to play, not the president,” Cochran said. “He doesn’t have the capability of unilaterally devoting the energies of his administration to that kind of initiative.”