We decline to endorse a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Mississippi, the premier political contest in the Nov. 4 general election. In the past, the JFP has declined to endorse in elections where the candidates were equally lackluster. Other times, we sit out endorsements when the contestants so evenly impress us that we are confident that any one of the candidates would make a fine representative.
Neither scenario is true of our decision to endorse neither the incumbent, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, a Republican, nor his rival, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers. Let's start with Childers. Since the summer, when Cochran was still fighting for his life against state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the Republican primary, the Jackson Free Press has been asking Childers—who had virtually no competition in his primary—to sit down with us and make a case for his candidacy to our audience.
In doing so, Childers would have a prime opportunity to introduce and define himself to one of the largest and most diverse audiences, politically and otherwise, among news organizations in Mississippi. Additionally, Childers could have quelled some of the concerns of progressive voters with reservations about some of the candidate's strong conservative positions, such as his pandering to the tea-party set by signing an anti-immigrant group's amnesty pledge. But he had no interest in it.
After signing the Federation for American Immigration Reform's pledge to "protect American jobs," by marginalizing the nation's growing immigrant population, we have serious reservations about Childers' sincerity in taking ostensibly populist stances on equal pay and workers' rights.
That brings us to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, who has had a long career as a seemingly fair-minded wheeler-dealer. To be sure, Cochran has single-handedly put more—and needed—federal money into the state's coffers than any other elected official, Democratic or Republican. The problem is, Cochran rebukes the federal government and its spending when it is politically expedient, even as he rained federal manna down for GOP pet projects.
At age 76 and one of the more senior members of Congress, Cochran's tenure on the Hill is probably drawing to a close. He could be using these years—and his tremendous influence in Washington, D.C., as well as here, at home, in Mississippi—to talk in bold colors about the need for progress in the Magnolia State and the need to reject the politics of division. Instead, he's doubling down and blowing dog whistles to xenophobes by touting how many times he voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act while health-care justice continues to elude the majority of Mississippi.
We also suspect that an establishment Republican is waiting for Gov. Phil Bryant to appoint to the seat should Cochran decide not to serve out a new term. That is, more political games.
We encourage all Mississippians to take advantage of their constitutional right to cast their ballots on Nov. 4. We just can't in good conscience support either man at the top of the ballot.