Emily Wagster Pettus over the weekend penned an article that looked at the waning influence of the now essentially defunct Senate Conservative Coalition. With now 7 of the original 11 of the coalition now endorsing Tate Reeves and the coalition campaign account now cleared out, it would appear that the coalition is essentially no more.
One interesting subtext of Pettus’ article was some very overt back and forth between Republican State Senators Will Longwitz and Chris McDaniel.
“From the beginning, it (the Senate Conservative Coalition) was an organization to promote Chris McDaniel,” Longwitz told The Associated Press this past week. “I don’t see anything they have accomplished. It’s just policy losses followed by political fundraising. You lose, you whine, you raise money.”
Republican Sen. Will Longwitz of Madison said he left the coalition within weeks.
In a separate interview with AP, McDaniel said Longwitz’s comments were “very disappointing … Will may talk like he’s a conservative, but his record proves otherwise. That’s the primary reason he received a Republican primary opponent.”
It doesn’t look like tensions there will be cooling anytime soon. It’s pretty odd for peers in the state legislature in the same party to be going back and forth publicly like that. In the 10 years of doing Y’allPolitics, I can’t recall a single time where a legislator of a same party openly went after another on their re-elect.
Longwitz has drawn a primary challenger in SD 25 in the form of Bill Billingsley. Billingsley is the former owner and COO of Gilbert’s Home Health and Hospice and is a member of the Madison County Republican Party Executive Committee. He was notably the face of the McDaniel recount effort in Jackson/Hinds County.
On top of the challenge, Longwitz had his district targeted in the last couple of weeks with live operator calls from folks that reportedly identified themselves as calling on behalf of MS Gun Rights. MGR is run by Noel Fritsch, who was Chris McDaniel’s campaign henchman-in-chief. The calls reportedly disparaged Longwitz on the same gun legislation that they went after Andy Gipson and Sean Tindell.
Over the weekend, McDaniel certainly left no doubt as to where his preferences were in the Longwitz/Billingsley race. It doesn’t appear that Billingsley solicited the support from McDaniel as there have been no press releases or no other overt acknowledgement from the Billingsley camp of the McDaniel support. But nonetheless, McDaniel has been injected into this race.
With Thad Cochran beating McDaniel 2:1 in Madison County and 2.5:1 in Hinds County, which in parts make up the district in question, it again appears that McDaniel is pushing himself into the race and was likely not asked to participate. He probably didn’t intend to hurt Billingsley, but it looks like he equally didn’t care whether his move would help or not. This looks to be a lot more about a proxy between him and Longwitz than anything else.
There will likely be more state legislative seats (and oh, by the way, a special election for a Congressional seat) in 2015 where candidates will either choose to or will be saddled with affiliation with Chris McDaniel. It will be interesting to watch the workings to see who embraces it and who tries to put some distance between themselves and McDaniel.
We will see soon how it works out. Remember . . . #NoGroupHug.