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Veteran Republican Senator Thad Cochran draws Tea Party challenger in Mississippi

State Senator Chris McDaniel is getting backing from national conservative groups

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics editor

mississippi mugELLISVILLE, Mississippi (CFP) – Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran has drawn a Republican primary challenge from State Senator Chris McDaniel, a Tea Party favorite with backing from national conservative groups.

McDaniel, 41, in his second term in the State Senate, announced his bid to unseat Cochran in front of a hometown crowd in Ellisville on October 17.

Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel

Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel

“I’ve been told that the powers that be are going to come after me with everything they’ve got,” McDaniel said. “Take names when they come, because they’re not after me, they’re after the people.”

“The idea that I would let a spirit of fear keep me away from this race is absurd,” he said.

McDaniel has been endorsed by both the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund, which have been critical of Cochran for being, in their view, insufficiently conservative. Chief among Cochran’s sins: His recent vote in favor of the compromise legislation that restarted the government.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

Cochran, 75, is the most senior Republican in the Senate and was a former chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. He has not announced if he will run for a seventh term in 2014, but he has salted away more than $700,000 for a potential race.

The winner of the GOP primary would be a prohibitive favorite in the general election, given Mississippi’s strong Republican tendencies.

Cochran is the third Southern Republican senator to face a Tea Party-inspired challenge. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is facing three foes in that state’s GOP primary, and Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is being challenged by Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, who has also claimed the Tea Party mantle and was recently endorsed by the Senate Conservatives Fund.

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