JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Chris McDaniel — a four-term Mississippi legislator who has lost two races for U.S. Senate in the past decade, including a bitter 2014 election that he refused to concede — announced Monday that he will try to unseat Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in this year's Republican primary.
As he has in past campaigns, McDaniel spoke of himself in sweeping terms as a candidate who will defend individual liberty. He said he wants to prevent the country from descending into “the ash heap of totalitarianism," and he said Hosemann has beliefs that “align more with the Democrat party” than they do with former President Ronald Reagan and former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater.
McDaniel cast the Mississippi Republican primary in national terms. He said Hosemann had not endorsed former President Donald Trump and has not tried to challenge the Biden administration, as Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has done.
“Do you want a Trump or a DeSantis?” McDaniel said. "Or, do you want a Mitt Romney or a Liz Cheney?”
That drew applause from dozens of McDaniel supporters who attended his announcement at the state Republican Party headquarters in Jackson.
Casey Phillips, senior adviser for the Hosemann campaign, said in a statement Monday that McDaniel is “the least effective politician in the state with the largest ego.”
“By comparison, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann’s conservative record is clear, implementing Voter ID to secure our elections, delivering the largest tax cut in Mississippi’s history, and overseeing a major teacher pay raise,” Phillips said. "Results matter and Delbert delivers.”
The lieutenant governor presides over the 52-member Mississippi Senate, appoints committee leaders and assigns bills to committees, which gives that person great influence over which proposals live or die.
In the 2014 U.S. Senate race, McDaniel ran with tea party backing as he challenged Thad Cochran, who was first elected to the Senate in 1978 and had brought billions of dollars to Mississippi as chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
McDaniel finished narrowly ahead of Cochran in the first round of voting but Cochran won the runoff three weeks later, partly because the incumbent courted Black voters in the metro Jackson area who traditionally vote in Democratic primaries.
McDaniel refused to concede, contending that Cochran drew support from “liberal Democrats.” Mississippi voters do not register by party. People who vote in one party's primary may not vote in the other party's runoff, but people who did not vote in a primary are allowed to vote in the runoff.
McDaniel said Monday that he respected Cochran, who died in 2019.
In 2018, McDaniel announced he would challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, but McDaniel changed course and ran instead in that year's special U.S. Senate election to fill the final half of the term started by Cochran after the longtime lawmaker resigned. McDaniel placed third in the nonpartisan special election.
The other candidates seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor are Shane Quick, who ran a low-budget campaign against Hosemann in 2019, and Tiffany Longino. The only Democrat in the lieutenant governor’s race by Monday was D. Ryan Grover.
Wednesday is candidates' qualifying deadline for Mississippi elections for statewide, regional, legislative and county offices. Party primaries are Aug. 8, with runoffs Aug. 29. The general election is on Nov. 7, with runoffs Nov. 28.