Democrats have said they have a virtually once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to win a U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi but only if tea party darling and Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) beats incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) for the Republican nomination. So it’s easy to imagine the response when news broke that a Democratic operative has actually been helping Cochran’s re-election efforts.
“I don’t see how it serves our cause of helping to provide the people of Mississippi with a clear-cut choice. It muddies the water,” Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole (pictured) told TPM.
TPM had asked Cole about a report of a Democratic operative, James “Scooby Doo” Warren, joining forces with the Mississippi Conservatives PAC, which supports Cochran, to do get-out-the-vote work and rally African-American voters to help the incumbent senator. Warren told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger that he planned to support former Rep. Travis Childers, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, in the general election (so he’s trying to set up a situation where Cochran would face Childers).
In a text message to TPM a few hours after the interview with Cole ended, the chairman said “many Democrats believe that these ‘Democrats’ who are urging Democrats to vote in the Republican primary are being paid, and are akin to Judas who took 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus.”
Specifically, Warren told the Clarion-Ledger he’s working with the Mississippi Conservatives Political Action Committee (PAC) and Bishop Ronnie Crudup Sr. of the New Horizon Church. The New Horizon Church happens to share an address with a newly formed super PAC that recently ran a print advertisement in support of Cochran.
The McDaniel campaign has leveraged this news by painting Cochran as a false conservative who’s willing to court Democrats to win — but many Democrats aren’t happy about the news either.
Cole told TPM that earlier in the week he “sent the word out” to Democratic leadership that Democrats needed to stay out of the Republican primary. Cole added that Warren and Crudup are motivated by money here.
“Because they’re getting paid,” Cole said. “James told a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger that he’s working for the Mississippi Conservatives PAC, which is a [former Mississippi Gov.] Haley Barbour PAC that Brian Perry runs. Crudup may or may not be getting directly paid but I know he’s one of the ministers who benefited from the faith-based initiatives that launched around the Bush administration so some of it could’ve well been about past favors. I don’t know that he’s getting paid directly but I know that James has publicly stated that he’s getting paid through the super PAC.”
Crudup did not respond to requests for comment. Warren did not return multiple phone calls.
Brian Perry, who runs the Mississippi Conservatives super PAC — which is reportedly paying Warren and Crudup to organize get-out-the-vote efforts among African-American and Democratic voters — said Warren isn’t directly affiliated with the PAC, but acknowledged there could be a connection.
“It could be he is working with some folks helping us, but we’ve not employed him,” Perry told TPM.
Renick Taylor, a Democratic activist and chairman of the Harrison County Democrats, called the idea of Democrats trying to help either Cochran or McDaniel “despicable.”
“My read on it is that it’s despicable and Democrats should vote for Democrats,” Taylor told TPM. “When a white conservative plays a black leader to convince black people to vote for the white conservative, as soon as that game is exposed, there’s fallout on both sides. The African-American community is not going to appreciate being sold like that and the McDaniel supporters are going to be rabid at Cochran for trying to bring Democrats in the Republican party. So there’s no winning there. It was a stupid, dumb move.”
But not every Mississippi Democrat thinks supporting Cochran is a sin. A few have expressed support for the senator and Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs (D), who is African-American, has endorsed Cochran and sent out emails supporting his re-election. Flaggs, citing Cochran’s seniority in Congress and status as a powerful appropriator, told TPM Cochran is the candidate he would want to win the whole race, even if the choice was between Childers and Cochran.
“Thad has been too important to Mississippi through his leadership and his ability to get things done for us to get on the sidelines,” Flaggs said.