ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel are courting voters in parts of the state where each lagged behind the other in the June 3 Republican primary.
Cochran campaigned Friday in coastal Jackson County, shaking hands with workers during the 4 a.m. shift change at Ingalls shipbuilding. It’s the state’s largest private employer and relies heavily on federal contracts.
McDaniel, a state senator with tea-party backing, met privately with farmers in the Mississippi Delta but would not say afterward whether he would support federal farm subsidies.
The state Republican executive committee on Friday certified the results of the three-person June 3 primary, which confirmed there will be a June 24 runoff between McDaniel and Cochran.
The certified results show 318,902 people voted in the three-way Senate primary that also included Thomas Carey, a DeSoto County real estate agent who spent little on his campaign. McDaniel finished 1,418 votes ahead of Cochran.
McDaniel received 157,733 votes, or 49.5 percent. Cochran received 156,315 votes, or 49 percent. Carey received 4,854 votes, or 1.5 percent.
In Cleveland, Mississippi, on Friday, McDaniel was asked during a news conference whether he will support agriculture, one of the main economic drivers of the rural Delta.
“We are going to make sure that Mississippi’s farmers have everything they need to be successful. And we’re going to make sure that that industry grows, along with the rest of our state’s industries as we create an environment for growth,” McDaniel said, according to a video posted to The Clarion-Ledger website.
He was asked if he meant growth without federal subsidies.
“I’ve answered the question,” said McDaniel, who has sharply criticized federal spending.
Cochran is the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee and was one of the lead negotiators on a five-year federal farm bill that was signed into law in February. It expands federal crop insurance and ends direct government payments that go to farmers regardless of whether they produce anything. Most of the nearly $100 billion per year cost is for the food stamp program that covers 1 in 7 Americans.
Cochran was joined by fellow Republican Sen. Roger Wicker before dawn Friday in speaking to shipyard workers in Pascagoula.
Warren Fairley of Lucedale, an officer of a shipbuilders’ union group that has endorsed Cochran, said workers building ships financed by Pentagon contracts understand the importance of seniority in Congress, and he dismissed McDaniel’s promises to “fight for Mississippi” and the shipyards.
“The things he’s saying now don’t match with his voting record and what he’s said in the past,” Fairley said.