JACKSON, Mississippi — When Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) was pressed by a local reporter on why he thinks Democrats should cross over to vote for him in the GOP primary runoff against conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel, Cochran said it’s because he originally was one of them.
Scott Simmons, an anchor for WAPT in Jackson, Miss., tweeted on Wednesday afternoon that, when he asked Cochran why he’s courting Democrats to vote for him, Cochran said: “I used to be a Democrat.”
Simmons also paraphrased Cochran as suggesting, “Why not?” when asked why Democrats should vote for him.
Cochran has been a Republican since at least 1968, when he led Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign efforts in Mississippi–though he did grow up as a Democrat. Born in 1937, Cochran didn’t leave the Democratic Party for the GOP until the mid-to-late 1960s.
When Cochran was growing up, however, the GOP was virtually non-existent in the state. With the exception of what seemed like an abnormality-Republican Prentiss Walker’s election to Mississippi’s fourth congressional district seat for one term in the mid-1960s-no Republican had represented Mississippi in the U.S. Congress since the mid-1800s. That was, until Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Trent Lott, both in 1972, were elected to the U.S. House–Cochran from the fourth congressional district and Lott from the fifth.
In video of the segment posted by the National Review–in which Simmons said he asked Cochran about the allegations from the state Democratic Party chairman that Cochran’s allies are paying Democrats to vote for Cochran–he said, “I don’t know anything about that.”
“I haven’t heard that,” Cochran said. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”
During a Wednesday interview on radio host Laura Ingraham’s nationally syndicated program, Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole doubled down on the allegations. Ingraham called them Cochran’s “shenanigans.”
“From our perspective, I don’t believe Democrats ought to be voting in the Republican primary any more than Republicans ought to be voting in the Democrat primary,” Cole said on Ingraham’s program.
“The party primaries are for the party faithful to choose their nominee, in my opinion,” Cole said, when asked by Ingraham about the law that states–according to ex-Department of Justice Civil Rights Division attorney J. Christian Adams–that it is illegal for Democrats to vote in the GOP primary or vice versa. “And that’s the way people ought to approach it. I don’t like this gaming of the system. I’ve never encouraged crossover voting either way.”