Possible challenger for US Senate in Mississippi sets event

FILE - In this Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, file photo, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., speaks during an address before business leaders in Jackson, Miss. Mississippi lawmaker Chris McDaniel is hinting strongly that he will challenge Wicker in the 2018 U.S. Senate race. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

JACKSON, Miss. - A tea party-backed lawmaker who lost a hard-fought race against one of Mississippi's two U.S. senators will announce this week whether he will run against the other senator this year.

Republican Chris McDaniel has said he might challenge Sen. Roger Wicker in the GOP primary.

McDaniel will hold an event Wednesday in his hometown of Ellisville, a day before candidates' qualifying deadline, to clarify his intentions, Republican strategist Rick Tyler said Monday.

McDaniel, a state senator, never conceded his 2014 Republican primary loss to longtime U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. The race grabbed national attention after a McDaniel supporter entered a nursing home without permission and photographed Cochran's wife, who was bedridden with dementia. Images of her appeared briefly online. McDaniel said he had no connection to the incident.

Tyler said he is "helping" McDaniel, although McDaniel "doesn't have a campaign."

"He's a state senator and he's got a political career and I do political advising, guide people through decisions," Tyler told The Associated Press. "He's a pretty smart guy."

McDaniel did not immediately return phone calls Monday.

Tyler was a spokesman for the 2016 presidential campaign of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. McDaniel campaigned for Cruz.

McDaniel, 45, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he is considering three races: U.S. Senate this year, lieutenant governor in 2019 or U.S. Senate in 2020.

McDaniel began trying to unseat Cochran during the autumn of 2013, about eight months before the 2014 primary. He acknowledged that he would be getting a much later start if he enters this year's Senate race against Wicker. But McDaniel also said he has about 6,000 volunteers ready to start working statewide, no matter which race he enters — a network he lacked at the start of the last race.

Wicker has been in the Senate since late 2007. In 2016 he led the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which raised money for candidates nationwide. He had more than $4.1 million in his campaign account at the end of 2017, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Wicker has received $5,400 from Vice-President Mike Pence's political action committee, Great America Committee. He was endorsed last week by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who rallied social conservatives when he ran for president in 2012 and 2016. Wicker has also announced that he is supported by 68 local leaders in Mississippi of President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

Steve Bannon, a former adviser to Trump, had been urging McDaniel to run against Wicker this year. Bannon's involvement faded after he ran a losing campaign for Republican Roy Moore in a special U.S. Senate election in Alabama in late 2017.

No Democrat had entered the Senate race in Mississippi by Friday, state party chairman Bobby Moak said. The state has not had a Democrat in the U.S. Senate since John C. Stennis retired in 1989.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .


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