JACKSON, Miss. — A pro-life leader in Mississippi is speaking out against a Republican senatorial candidate over his support of Planned Parenthood, and has instead chosen to endorse his Tea Party-backed challenger in the primaries.
Personhood Mississippi founder Les Riley announced his official endorsement of State Senator Chris McDaniel in his race against incumbent U.S. Senator Thad Cochran this past weekend, labeling Cochran a “big spending, big government RINO.”
In his statement, Riley cited “the $17 trillion federal debt that has been built during the tenure of the current Senator while average Mississippians struggle.” He went on to dissuade others from backing Cochran, asking whether Mississippi voters should be supporting a man “who has voted to give literally billions of taxpayer dollars, including those of pro-life Mississippians, to the world’s largest abortionist, Planned Parenthood.”
Riley was referencing statistics that Planned Parenthood, while performing over 300,000 abortions annually, also receives over $350 million state and federal tax dollars each year. Cochran, a Southern Baptist, has reportedly voted in favor of the funding during his Congressional tenure.
Other groups have likewise expressed uncertainty over Cochran’s conservative credentials, as the conservative and libertarian organization FreedomWorks gave Cochran a 41% ranking in 2013, while Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum scored him at 66%.
In response to concerns, Cochran’s campaign has been running television advertisements asserting that he is the legitimate candidate in the race. One promotional advertisement states that he is the only candidate running with a 100% pro-life ranking from National Right to Life (NTRL).
“Only one candidate for U.S. Senate has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association,” the advertisement states. “Only one candidate has voted against Obamacare more than 100 times. … And only one candidate has a 100 percent pro-life voting record from National Right to Life.”
However, some disagree, noting that Cochran received a score as a low as 33% from NRTL in 2001. Others view NRTL as losing its place as the political voice of the pro-life community as they have recently received criticism for supporting legislation legitimizing the killing of babies conceived through rape or incest.
“Cochran does not have a 100 percent record with Right To Life and has voted many times for funding of Planned Parenthood, and no on parent notification for teen abortions,” wrote columnist Robbie Nichols in a recent article in the Clarion Ledger.
Despite opposition, Cochran remains ahead in the polls 45 to 37 %. Popular Governor Phil Bryant has also endorsed Cochran, calling the incumbent Senator “a pioneer of the Mississippi Republican Party.”
“Our state has benefited from Senator Cochran’s leadership for over three decades,” he said. “In today’s political environment, we need this experience for Mississippi’s future.”
Cochran and McDaniel, both Republicans, are polling significantly ahead of leading Democrat challenger Travis Childers, making the June 3rd primary the decisive race in determining the next Mississippi U.S. Senator.
Republicans hope to win control of the U.S. Senate this year, giving them majorities in both houses. Tea Party and other reform groups hope to usher in a better cast of Republicans than those who held majorities under the George W. Bush administration.