JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi voters deserve to hear U.S. Senate candidates debate issues such as the minimum wage and the availability of health care, the Democratic nominee said Thursday.
Former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers said he's challenging six-term Republican Sen. Thad Cochran to debate him four times before the Nov. 4 election — once in each of Mississippi's congressional districts.
Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell responded that the campaign will consider all scheduling requests. Cochran did not debate his Republican primary challenger and has said voters can compare candidates' records without seeing them on the same stage.
Childers, who won a north Mississippi congressional seat in 2008 and was defeated in 2010, said he has accepted invitations for a Senate campaign debate at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. He said dates have not been set.
"Unlike in the Republican primary, calls to debate cannot go unanswered. The issues are too important," Childers said Thursday outside the MC law school.
Russell said Cochran keeps a busy Senate schedule and has campaigned in 42 of the 82 counties in the past few weeks.
"Obviously, it's not up to one candidate to dictate the other candidate's schedule, and I 'm sure everyone understands that," Russell said.
Childers, who has also campaigned extensively, was asked how he and Cochran compare on issues.
"We differ on the 300,000 people here in the state of Mississippi who have no access to health care nor hopes of getting any. We differ on making minimum wage a living wage," Childers said.
Republican state officials have opposed expanding Medicaid, which is an option under the federal health overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010. Officials have said up to 300,000 Mississippi residents could qualify. Cochran and Childers both voted against the federal law. The decision about expanding Medicaid is up to state lawmakers, not federal ones.
Meanwhile, it remained unclear when state Sen. Chris McDaniel would announce whether he will try to revive his lawsuit that sought to overturn Cochran's Republican primary victory. Certified results show Cochran won the June 24 GOP runoff by 7,667 votes, but McDaniel's lawsuit claimed the runoff was spoiled by voting irregularities.
McDaniel's camp had said he would announce Wednesday whether he will ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to reverse a judge's dismissal of the case. He made no announcement Wednesday or by Thursday afternoon.
Judge Hollis McGehee dismissed McDaniel's lawsuit Friday, saying it was filed too late. McGehee announced his ruling from the bench, but court officials said McGehee had not filed a written order of dismissal by close of business Wednesday.
After the written order is filed, McDaniel has 30 days to appeal McGehee's ruling to the Supreme Court.
McDaniel told Mississippi Public Broadcasting in a radio interview Wednesday that he did not expect his case to be dismissed and he had not decided whether to appeal.
"The question from my mindset, before I spend more money and before I spend more time: Do we have a good case?" McDaniel told MPB (http://bit.ly/1tw0uP2 ). "That's always been my question. And my lawyers have told me, absolutely, we have a strong case they expect to win."
A Reform Party candidate, Shawn O'Hara, also is on the general election ballot.