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Tensions rise between lieutenant governor candidates during showdown at Neshoba County Fair

Masses of Delbert Hosemann and Chris McDaniel supporters gathered at the Neshoba County Fair Wednesday (Photo by SuperTalk Mississippi News)

To no one’s surprise, tensions have elevated in Mississippi’s race to see who will represent the Republican Party for lieutenant governor.

A mud-slinging match between incumbent Delbert Hosemann and challenger Sen. Chris McDaniel capped off Wednesday’s round of speeches at the Neshoba County Fair.

McDaniel, who has been adamant in criticizing the lieutenant governor as a “RINO,” or “Republican In Name Only,” came out swinging, accusing Hosemann of giving preferential treatment to Democratic senators when it comes to committee assignments.

The four-term state senator also blamed Hosemann for allowing Mississippi Senate District 37 to be redistricted, subsequently costing Republicans a seat in the chamber, while also ensuring that no Democratic seats were in jeopardy.

“Since he’s been [lieutenant governor], I’ve served with only 16 Democrats. For some reason, he appointed 13 of those Democrats to powerful chairmanships,” McDaniel said. “For some reason, he used the power of redistricting to eliminate a conservative Republican, but he saved every Democrat in the chamber for another four years.”

Hosemann, who had refrained from attacking McDaniel until recently, disputed his opponent’s claim that he has been catering to Democratic members of the Senate and strapped on the boxing gloves with a counterpunch at McDaniel’s performance in the capitol.

“There are 45 committees in the Mississippi Senate. I only have 36 Republicans. Send me more Republicans,” Hosemann responded. “I did have one Republican chairman that I was really disappointed in. That was my opponent… He didn’t hold one hearing. He didn’t pass one bill. He’s not a smoke-and-mirrors politician. He’s a fake one. He doesn’t work at all and he doesn’t show up for work.”

McDaniel continued his “Delbert the Democrat” campaign by calling out the lieutenant governor for not publicly endorsing Donald Trump for president in 2016 and 2020. The incumbent was bashed for telling Trump’s fraud commission that they could “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico” over a request for detailed voter file information in 2017.

“In 2016, I endorsed Donald Trump because I like the president. In 2020, I endorsed Donald Trump again because I admire the president. Delbert Hosemann, to this day, has never endorsed Donald Trump for a single thing,” McDaniel said. “He won’t. Here’s why — because he is too busy endorsing the likes of Mitt Romney, and that’s a problem. We know him by the fruits he’s borne.”

Hosemann, a lifelong Republican, touted his status as a member of the GOP and threw another jab at his challenger by citing McDaniel’s vote to advance a Democratic candidate in favor of a popular Republican during Mississippi’s 2003 gubernatorial election.

“In 1981, I put up as a candidate for a Republican congressional district. I was a [Ronald] Reagan guy. I wanted to see the world change. My opponent was nine years old when I started running as a Republican,” Hosemann said. “Just as a sidebar, by the way, my opponent voted in the Democratic primary in 2003 for Ronnie Musgrove when our candidate was Haley Barbour.”

The mud continued to be slung by both candidates, but it got much more personal when Chris McDaniel resurfaced his allegation that Hosemann, who champions himself as a pro-life advocate, had previously served as vice president of an abortion clinic in Mississippi’s capital city.

“It’s a verifiable fact that from 1976 to 1990, he was the vice president of an abortion clinic,” McDaniel said.

While Hosemann did work for the now-defunct South Jackson Woman’s Clinic early in his career, the clinic’s president wrote in a 1998 memo that Hosemann only provided services from 1977 to 1981, prior to abortions being performed.

Nevertheless, the lieutenant governor took special exception to his opponent’s accusation and referenced the infamous 2014 U.S. Senate election in which one McDaniel supporter was arrested and eventually sentenced for breaking into the late Thad Cochran’s ill wife’s nursing home room. It has never been proven that McDaniel or his team played any role in the incident.

“You’d think after the Thad Cochran race, he would learn about that,” Hosemann said. “McDaniel is using hundreds of thousands of dark money, out-of-state money to try to buy your election. I was endorsed in 1998, and every year after, by Mississippi Right to Life and the National Right to Life. I’m pro-life; he’s pro-lie.”

On actual policy issues, like taxation, the two candidates accused one another of standing in the way of progress.

McDaniel, who has consistently argued in favor of cutting the state’s income and grocery taxes, blamed Hosemann for not fully slashing either.

“We need to eliminate the income tax in this state. We need to eliminate the grocery tax in this state. The only reason we have not thus far is because Delbert Hosemann has stood in the way,” McDaniel said. “Give businesses a chance to thrive and give individuals the chance to keep more of their money. That’s a core Republican principle, but Delbert does not govern as a Republican.”

The incumbent contended that McDaniel is a hypocrite when it comes to tax policy. Hosemann asserted that while McDaniel openly supports a small government tax agenda, he has voted against legislation that would grant local municipalities the power to determine how taxes are levied in their towns.

“Senator McDaniel voted against every single local and private tax bill in the Senate in the last four years and the last eight years that I know about,” Hosemann continued. “He took the position time after time after time that you were not smart enough to determine your own tax in your own city.”

With just under two weeks left until the August 8 primaries, the lieutenant governor’s race is expected to keep gaining steam as election day approaches.

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