By Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON – Two-term state Sen. Chris McDaniel said Tuesday that he’s leaning toward challenging longtime U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the 2014 Republican primary.
McDaniel told The Associated Press that he was still undecided as of Tuesday evening. He said he will go to his Ellisville home Wednesday, sit in his arbor and pray about it.
“Right now, we’re leaning toward running for U.S. Senate,” he said.
McDaniel spoke to AP hours after a consultant issued a news release saying McDaniel would hold a news conference at noon Thursday in Ellisville to discuss “a possible run for higher office.”
McDaniel, 41, said that if he doesn’t run for Senate, he might challenge 4th District U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo, a Republican who unseated conservative Democrat Gene Taylor in 2010. McDaniel said a run for a statewide office in 2015 is also a possibility.
Cochran, who turns 76 in December, is expected to announce late this year whether he’ll seek re-election in 2014.
Cochran served six years in the U.S. House before winning a Senate seat in 1978. He has served as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, bringing billions of federal dollars to Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina recovery and other projects.
Cochran and McDaniel are both attorneys.
McDaniel has been closely allied with tea party conservatives, and the South Mississippi Tea Party, based on the Gulf Coast, said on its website that it would have a bus trip to McDaniel’s event Thursday. Roy Nicholson, chairman of the Mississippi Tea Party, sent an email Tuesday urging people to encourage McDaniel to challenge Cochran.
“Let’s show the liberal elites that we here in Mississippi still believe in true American values and we will not tolerate our politicians having allegiance to anyone else than us,” Nicholson wrote.