By Emily Wagster Pettus
JACKSON – Bill Marcy said Friday that he’s changing party labels, but not his conservative beliefs, to run as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in Mississippi this year.
The Vicksburg resident courted tea party voters when he ran as a Republican for the U.S. House in 2010 and 2012. Both times, he lost to Democratic incumbent Bennie Thompson.
Marcy, 67, said Friday that he filed qualifying papers for the Senate race Wednesday with the state Democratic Party. He’s the first Democrat to enter the statewide race for a seat that has been held by Republican Thad Cochran for 35 years.
Cochran, 76, is seeking a seventh six-year term and faces a primary challenge from Chris McDaniel, 42, a state lawmaker with tea party backing.
Candidates’ qualifying deadline is March 1, and party primaries are June 3.
In a phone interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Marcy described his candidacy as “Plan B,” a way to give tea party members a voice in the Nov. 4 general election if McDaniel loses the Republican primary to Cochran.
Marcy, who is black, said he believes he’ll be elected with support of black voters and tea party members — a coalition he concedes would be unusual in Mississippi politics. About 38 percent of Mississippi residents are black, and Marcy said many are socially conservative but don’t like the Republican label.
“I couldn’t bring black people into the Republican Party,” Marcy told AP.
Marcy is a former Chicago police officer who moved to Mississippi several years ago. He lived in Meridian before moving to Vicksburg in 2010 to live in the 2nd Congressional District, which Thompson has represented since 1993. Mississippi has four U.S. House districts, and the 2nd is the only one with a majority-black population.
Mississippi Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole said Friday that he expects other Democrats to file to run for Senate. Cole chose his words carefully when asked about Marcy.
“I’m interested to see how his campaign takes shape and how he develops his message,” Cole said.
Cochran is a former Senate Appropriations Committee chairman and has steered billions of federal dollars to Mississippi for military installations, university research, disaster recovery and other projects. When he announced in December that he’s running again, he was immediately endorsed by several prominent Republicans, including Gov. Phil Bryant.
The anti-tax group Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Action, the super PAC arm of a group founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, have been airing television ads in Mississippi introducing voters to McDaniel and presenting the second-term state senator as an outsider who would curb the federal debt.