By Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON – A Washington-based anti-tax group is criticizing Sen. Thad Cochran for not debating challenger Chris McDaniel in Mississippi’s Republican U.S. Senate primary.
Club for Growth is airing TV and radio ads that say: “After five decades in Washington, Cochran won’t even come home to defend his record.”
Cochran was first elected to the U.S. House in 1972 and to the Senate in 1978. He made dozens of campaign appearances in Mississippi in April, when the Senate was on break. He was in the state again this week, touring areas damaged by tornadoes.
Cochran told The Associated Press that he doesn’t see the point of debating McDaniel because he believes the challenger is misrepresenting his record in Washington.
“I don’t know what there is to debate,” Cochran told AP after he made a campaign stop April 25 in Batesville. “He obviously is going to criticize my record of service. We disagree on some of the issues. And there are probably some things that we can agree on. But he’s obviously, you know, trying to make me look bad by things he’s saying about my performance in the Senate.”
Club for Growth is among the independent groups pumping millions of dollars into the Senate race in Mississippi.
“What’s Thad Cochran scared of?” Club for Growth president Chris Chocola said in a news release Wednesday. “Is he worried that Mississippi voters might reject his record of debt limit increases, bailouts, tax hikes and pay raises? Is he afraid that Mississippi voters might realize he’s been there too long?”
McDaniel and tea party critics have criticized Cochran’s votes on federal spending bills even though the measures brought millions of federal dollars to Mississippi. Cochran also was criticized for his vote in 2013 to halt a government shutdown and voted on New Year’s Day 2013 to avoid a so-called fiscal cliff bill that extended tax rates and postponed automatic spending cuts.
In early January, several Mississippi television stations invited Cochran and McDaniel to debate May 24. McDaniel accepted, but Cochran has not.
McDaniel was elected to the state Legislature in 2007. During a Tea Party Express event attended by about 70 people at the state Capitol on April 24, he said Cochran’s voting record “has been liberal for an awfully long time.”
“He’s been there 42 years — name one fight he’s led against Barack Obama,” McDaniel said. “Name one. Name one time he’s raised his voice in defense of our Constitution, against Barack Obama.”
Cochran’s campaign released an ad in early April that says he has “voted against Obamacare more than 100 times.”
McDaniel also has said Cochran has voted to create trillions of dollars in federal debt.
“Senator Cochran voted to bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Over the last 13 years, he’s voted to raise the debt ceiling 11 times for over $8 trillion,” McDaniel said.
Cochran is the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and he was chairman of the committee when Republicans held the majority in the Senate. He points to a record of bringing billions of federal dollars to Mississippi for disaster recovery, military bases, highway construction, university research and other projects.
“I disagree with the criticism that my opponent is making of my service in the Senate,” Cochran told AP. “I think I’ve acquitted myself with due diligence and have performed in a way that reflects credit on our state.”