The two Republican candidates in a bitter Mississippi primary escalated their feud on Wednesday, as the two campaigns continued to trade allegations after the weekend arrest of a local activist and blogger.
The campaign of Chris McDaniel, a state representative and intra-party challenger to incumbent Thad Cochran, released an “open letter” from McDaniel to Cochran. The letter blasts Cochran for “shameful slander” over the past several weeks — and then things got personal.
McDaniel went on to say he has been “forced to reconsider” whether he respects Cochran as a “man of honour.” He also described the senator’s conduct “an embarrassment to our great state.”
“Mississippi deserves better than this,” McDaniel wrote.
McDaniel also reiterated his call for Cochran to participate in a primary debate using equally emotional language.
“You have refused to come home to Mississippi and debate,” McDaniel said. “Until then, I will not engage either your campaign or the liberal media in their absurd witch hunt. No matter how many press releases your campaign puts out, I will simply not stoop to your level.”
The letter comes as tensions between the two candidates have ratcheted up over the past few days. Cochran’s campaign has accused McDaniel’s team of being behind the actions of Clayton Thomas Kelly, a local blogger who was arrested last weekend after police said he snuck into a nursing home to snap a photo of Cochran’s unsuspecting wife that was used in a video designed to fuel rumours of a romantic relationship between the senator and his executive assistant.
Meanwhile, the McDaniel campaign has denied any involvement with Kelly and accused Cochran of attempting to exploit the situation. Specifically, Cochran has faced criticism for waiting weeks after finding out about the photo before hiring an attorney, who conducted an investigation and handed over information to police three weeks later.
On Wednesday the Cochran’s team hosted a press call featuring an attorney, Scott Newton, who has not worked for the campaign. Newton suggested that McDaniel, an attorney, may have violated the Mississippi Bar Association’s rules of conduct by not immediately reporting Kelly’s video to authorities.
“In my opinion, the Cochran campaign took the measured approach,” Newton said.
On the call, Cochran spokesman Jordan Russell also rejected McDaniel’s plea for a debate, saying it “wouldn’t be very productive.”
Read McDaniel’s full letter below:
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