By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Travis Childers of Booneville, the former 1st District U.S. representative, quietly drove to Jackson on Friday to qualify to run for the U.S. Senate seat held since 1978 by Republican Thad Cochran.
“I look forward to the race,” Childers said via phone explaining that he would later kick off his campaign at events across the state.
Childers, a “lifelong” Democrat who stresses his ability to work across the aisle, was longtime chancery clerk of Prentiss County before winning a special election in 2008 to replace Roger Wicker, R-Tupelo, in the U.S. House.
Later in 2008, Childers won the regular election for a full two-year term in the House where he was one of the more conservative Democrats in the chamber.
Childers was defeated in his bid for re-election by then-state Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, who hammered the Prentiss Countian for his ties to the national Democratic Party in the conservative-leaning 1st District.
On the Republican side, state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville is challenging Cochran.
Vicksburg resident Bill Marcy, who has run unsuccessfully in two elections as a Republican for Congress, has qualified as a Democrat for the Senate post.
In a news release, Childers said, “I look forward to formally launching my campaign and traveling to every corner of our great state in the weeks to come.
“Mississippians know that I have a solid record of being an independent guy who will work across party lines and stand up to the powers that be when needed. In the U.S. Senate, I will continue to put Mississippi’s middle class first.”
Cochran is considered the favorite in the race. First elected to the Senate in 1978, and with the exception of 1982, he has been re-elected with minimal Democratic opposition.
But some political observers believe that with McDaniel running an aggressive campaign in the Republican primary with strong backing from national Tea Party-affiliated groups that Democrats wanted a credible candidate in case of an upset in the primary as has occurred in other states in recent elections.
But Rickey Cole, chair of the state Democratic Party, indicated Childers would run a strong race, regardless of who his Republican opponent is in November.
“Running a race is like being pregnant. You can’t do it a little bit,” he said. “Either you are running or not.”
Cole added, “Travis Childers is not running against anybody, unlike some candidates on the other side. Travis Childers is running for a U.S. Senate seat that is up this year. He wants to serve. He is not running against anybody, but is running for a Senate seat.”
Today at 5 p.m. is the deadline to qualify to run for U.S. House and Senate elections this year. Cole said he did not know if anyone else would qualify with the party for the Senate seat, but added, “Every Democrat I know is for Travis Childers.”
Through an email response, McDaniel said, “I welcome Rep. Childers to the campaign. We may not agree on everything, but I look forward to a healthy debate about the future of our country.”
Cochran’s campaign had no comment on Childers.
Childers, who was part of the “Blue Dog” caucus of conservative Democrats in the House, voted against the Affordable Care Act and against TARP, the federal program to purchase the assets and equities of troubled financial institutions. He voted for the stimulus package (a combination of tax cuts and aid to the states) proposed in 2009 by President Barack Obama to jump-start the economy in the midst of the major economic downturn.
“Regular people and small businesses across Mississippi are still hurting in this economy, but Washington is more partisan and dysfunctional than ever. That has got to change,” Childers said in a statement.
The party primary will be June 3 with the general election Nov. 4.