JACKSON – U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and his Democratic opponent, Travis Childers of Booneville, are slated to appear back to back on the same stage July 31 at the annual Neshoba County Fair political speakings.
Childers is slated to speak at 10:20 a.m., followed by Cochran at 10:30.
But Cochran spokesman Jordan Russell said fair officials apparently had reserved the six-term incumbent senator “a placeholder slot.” He said it is not clear whether the U.S. Senate still might be in session in late July, preventing Cochran from speaking at the Fair.
Childers spokeswoman Lindsey White said he would be at the event.
The annual Neshoba County Fair political speakings are watched closely by the state’s media and other political observers and normally draw large crowds. The event is held near the center of the fairgrounds on Founders Square under the tin-roofed pavilion.
Cochran, who was elected to the U.S. House in 1972 and to the Senate in 1978, has not spoken at the event since at least the early 1990s or perhaps 1980s. Often, the Senate is in session during the Fair.
In past years, there have been some historic debates at the Fair – most notably in 1995 between then-Secretary of State Dick Molpus who was challenging incumbent Gov. Kirk Fordice.
While no debate is scheduled for the Fair, it is not clear whether Childers, a former U.S. House member, and Cochran will debate before the November general election.
Not long after Cochran won a hard-fought Republican primary runoff against state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville on June 24, Childers said, “I look forward to a spirited debate with Senator Cochran on the many issues facing Mississippi. And I am calling for Senator Cochran to join me in a series of debates beginning next month, so voters can clearly see the differences.”
Childers proposed four debates – one in each congressional district.
Austin Barbour, a senior adviser for Cochran, when asked about whether Cochran will debate Childers before the November general election, said “we will look at all invitations.”
Russell said the campaign is in the process of just beginning to focus on the November general election. Cochran and McDaniel engaged in a contentious Republican primary where the rhetoric was at times intense. And since Cochran’s narrow victory by 7,667 votes, the McDaniel campaign has alleged fraud and voter irregularities and is in the process of reviewing election data from all 82 counties with the intent of potentially filing a legal challenge to the election results. Russell said the Cochran campaign staff has been spread out across the state monitoring McDaniel’s review of the election data.
During the bare-knuckled Republican primary, Cochran rejected McDaniel’s challenges to debate and referred to McDaniel as “unpredictable” and a “wild man.”