On January 30, State Senator Chris McDaniel of Jones County announced his third statewide attempt for higher office; this time for Lieutenant Governor. McDaniel is no stranger to uphill battles. He forced well respected and longtime US Senator Thad Cochran into a runoff back in 2014. While McDaniel ended the primary in first place with 49.5% of the vote, his failure to get the required 50%+1 forced him into a runoff where he lost to Thad Cochran by a mere two percentage points.
A popular incumbent faces a firebrand challenger
This time, McDaniel is also challenging a statewide institution and popular incumbent in Delbert Hosemann. Hosemann, known for his fun and quirky advertisements of an elderly woman mispronouncing his name, is one of the most popular elected officials in the state. While Tate Reeves won in 2019 by a mere 5.5%, Delbert ran the table and defeated his opponent by 20 points. However, he may be in for the fight of his political life against Chris McDaniel who, while divisive, brings with him a passionate and excited grassroots base eager to get him elected.
While the race has only just begun, it has already gotten nasty. McDaniel railed against Hosemann for appointing Democrats to committees in the state senate, his endorsement of Mitt Romney in 2012, and his refusal to go along with Tate Reeves’ and the House Republicans’ plan to eliminate the state income tax. Delbert, on the other hand, is casting McDaniel as someone who hasn’t accomplished anything during his time in public office. After McDaniel’s announcement, the Hosemann campaign released a statement calling McDaniel “the least effective politician with the largest ego in the state.” Hosemann also touted legislative successes such as implementing voter ID, cutting the state income tax, and passing a teacher pay raise.
The Reeves factor
McDaniel in his previous runs has cast himself as the “anti-establishment” candidate. He is still gunning for this title, but what makes this time different is him extending an olive branch to certain voters who may be more inclined to support more establishment backed candidates. During his announcement speech, McDaniel talked about how he was a supporter of Tate Reeves and his agenda while Hosemann was blocking it. This puts Governor Reeves in an interesting position. He has frequently clashed with Hosemann over key parts of his agenda and would likely not shed too many tears in the event that Hosemann was not reelected. McDaniel, on the other hand, endorsed Reeves during a tough primary fight back in 2019. He even went so far as to campaign with Reeves during the closing days. While Reeves will likely stay out of the race, it is very telling that McDaniel is reaching out to his supporters in an attempt to rebrand himself.
This race also has very different stakes for McDaniel than his two previous statewide runs. During his 2014 and 2018 Senate races, even in the event of losing, McDaniel was able to keep his state senate seat. He does not have that luxury this time. So the big question of this race is “will Chris McDaniel finally fulfill his dream of becoming a statewide office holder? Or will he see his political career finally come to an end?” Only time will tell.