Senate race kicks off at Neshoba County Fair

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The last of the political speeches at the Neshoba County Fair wrapped up Thursday morning, and for some, it was the kickoff for the United States Senate general election.

"I'm pleased and honored to accept your nomination," said incumbent Senator Thad Cochran to a standing room only pavilion on the historic Founder's Square.

Although Cochran and Democratic opponent Travis Childers remained focused on November, the day did not pass without signs of Chris McDaniel or talk of the Mississippi GOP's divide since the runoff.

"This divide must be healed for the health of the party, and more importantly, the health of our state," said Speaker of the state House of Representatives Phillip Gunn.

A small group of McDaniel supporters showed up for the speeches with lips taped and signs that showed their disapproval of the runoff results. Word among political circles expected more of an uproar, but nothing got too out of hand. In fact, among the candidates and elected officials, the feeling was that they are ready to just move on.

"I'm running on my own and trying to do what's best for Mississippi," said Cochran. "I can't get sidetracked with a lot of partisan political bickering, and I'm not up to that. I don't want to be a part of it."

But McDaniel supporters will still have the opportunity to vote in November, so whose side will they choose? Childers didn't expand on any strategy to get voters, but his speech did appeal to the Tea Party crowd.

"When the Tea Party says we cannot sustain a 17 trillion dollar debt, they're right," said Childers to a welcomed applause.

Childers stuck mostly to the issues of his platform Thursday- education, minimum wage and equal pay. As he has said all along, no matter who votes for him, if he wins, he will represent all Mississippians, therefore sometimes working across the aisle.

"I'm happy to work with Democrats, I'm happy to work with Republicans. I'm happy to work with anyone who has a good idea that will move Mississippi off the bottom," he said.

Childers also announced Thursday that he has accepted an invitation to participate in a debate at the University of Mississippi's Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. No word from the Cochran campaign on if they will participate in that or any other debate. Cochran's campaign strategist Austin Barbour said it would depend on the senator's schedule.

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