TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) — Both of Mississippi’s senators took time to check personally on relief efforts in the wake of April’s tornados.
But they wouldn’t talk about the heated Senate campaign that now is entering a frantic three-week runoff.
Senators Roger Wicker and Thad Cochran stopped by Tupelo’s Joyner Elementary. That school was in the path of the April 28th tornado, which damaged the kindergarten wing, and also destroyed and damaged homes in the Joyner neighborhood.
The senators met with school board members, Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton and neighborhood residents, along with Joyner teachers and staff.
Cochran, who visited Tupelo two days after the tornado hit, says a lot of progress has been made, despite many obstacles.
I was disappointed more hadn’t been done but it’s just an impossible challenge with streets blocked, and huge trees all over the place, people can’t understand why it takes a long time to recover from a devastating event like this, but the people of the area have shown patience, we are going to continue to monitor the needs and try to respond in every possible way,” Cochran said.
But when reporters tried to ask questions about his race primary campaign with Chris McDaniel, Cochran either wouldn’t answer or ignored them. As they left, a staffer blocked reporters and herded him off to another stop at a medical clinic in Manrachie.
“I’m hear to talk recovery, not campaign,” Cochran said.
STORY FROM THE NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI DAILY JOURNAL
By Robbie Ward/Daily Journal
TUPELO – Embattled GOP U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who is neck-deep in the political fight of his life, rolled into Tupelo today but refused to talk politics.
The six-term incumbent’s campaign bus arrived at the tornado-damaged Joyner Elementary School this morning, but the senator refused to answer and then ignored questions from reporters about the campaign.
“I’m not here playing politics,” Cochran said. “I’m here to help out.”
Cochran visited the small group of mostly public officials and campaign supporters for roughly 20 minutes, never entering the school.
As Cochran left the outside entrance of the school, a staffer shielded him from reporters asking questions.
“We’re running late guys,” the staffer said, his arm around the 76-year-old Cochran.
Cochran’s campaign had a scheduled stop at a rural medical clinic in nearby Mantachie, less than 20 miles away.
If Cochran didn’t see the event as a campaign stop, he didn’t inform supporters. As Cochran returned to his bus, longtime supporter Paul “Buzzy” Mize reminded the group to vote.
Cochran’s refusal to discuss politics seems baffling three days after finishing with less than 50 percent of the vote and 1,386 fewer votes than tea party darling and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, 41.
Mississippi’s GOP primary has turned into one of the nastiest political slugfests in recent state politics. It also pitted the state Republican status quo against activist tea party supporters who strive for less compromise on issues.
Big money, special interest PACs and super PACS have poured cash and support into the state to support and attack both candidates.
A June 24 runoff election between the two candidates will determine the Republican nominee to face Democratic nominee and former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers.