By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – The national family feud within the Republican Party rolled through Tupelo today as the Tea Party Express endorsed an in-party challenger for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, a six-term incumbent.
The national political action committee supporting candidates for federal office with views favoring fiscal conservatism, constitutionally limited government and free markets swung through Jackson and Tupelo as part of an endorsement of state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who seeks the elected official held by Cochran, 75.
Amy Kremer, a leader with the Tea Party Express, said the organization supporting McDaniel represents an effort to bring “new blood” to the GOP that fits the mold of limited government favorites such as U.S. Sens. Rand Paul of Ky., Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah.
“We’re here to thank Sen. Thad Cochran for his service to the state and nation,” Kremer told a crowd of about 50 at Veterans Park. “But it’s time for him to come home to Mississippi.”
McDaniel’s endorsement is the first for the national Tea Party organization for the 2014 mid-term elections and joins a handful of other prominent right-wing groups that have supported the challenger.
Cochran’s spokesman has said he will announce later this year his intentions to seek another six-year term.
Traditionally, seniority in federal government could be seen as a strength, a way to rack up political clout to help leverage political relationships that could lead to federal earmarks to support projects back home.
Cochran is known as one of the largest and most prolific congressional leaders for the practice. However, Chris McDaniel, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate and current state senator, and his supporters believe the “political aristocracy” with whom they associate Cochran are part of the problem in the federal government.
“This is not a day in America when we need more earmarks,” said Steve Crampton, a conservative-leaning attorney at the rally today.
McDaniel, on his second Tupelo visit since announcing in October his intentions to run for U.S. Senate, told the crowd that he has faced strong pushback from the establishment and needs grassroots support to win the June primary election.
“We’re going to speak so loudly and so clearly that Washington understands us,” he said.