Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel announced his bid to replace U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., on Wednesday in what could be a contentious primary campaign.
Before a crowd of enthusiastic supporters in his hometown of Ellisville, McDaniel said Mississippi needs a conservative to help move President Donald Trump’s agenda forward as Republicans work to maintain a slim majority.
“I’m tired of the way things are being done in Washington. Donald Trump told us he wanted to drain the swamp,” McDaniel said during his announcement. “I’m going to go there to help him drain the swamp.”
McDaniel, a favorite among Tea Party conservatives, previously ran against Senator Thad Cochran in the 2014 Mississippi Republican primary. McDaniel’s campaign challenged the results of the runoff in court, and the candidate claims Cochran won because Democrats crossed over and voted for his opponent.
During his speech, McDaniel challenged Wicker to a debate and claimed that the junior senator from the Magnolia State is not a true conservative. He also said he wasn’t fazed by Trump’s support of Wicker, but urged voters to rally behind him to further support the president.
“We’re not mad about it, we understand it. That’s the Washington way, you have to cut deals. … We’re going to give Donald Trump the actual help he needs to have a conservative senate,” McDaniel said.
Senator Wicker declined to give a response on camera, but his campaign did provide Fox News with a statement.
“Gayle and I are looking forward to this campaign and sharing my record of successfully fighting to reduce job-killing regulations, confirm conservative judges, enact historic tax cuts, rebuild our military, and honor our veterans,” Wicker said in a statement. “We will work hard to once again earn the votes and support of all Mississippians.”
Trump chimed into the race releasing a statement in support of incumbent Wicker in a statement released from his campaign on Wednesday.
“Since 2007, Roger Wicker has served the great state of Mississippi to effectively promote economic growth and manufacturing initiatives for his constituents,” Trump’s campaign said in a statement. “We are pleased to announce our support for Senator Wicker to win his reelection and serve the state of Mississippi for another six years.”
A December 2017 Mason Dixon Mississippi poll has Wicker with 49 percent support among Republicans while McDaniel has 33 percent support with 18 percent undecided.
The 2018 Mississippi GOP Primary will be held on June 5.