By Michael Stewart
Candidates barreling towards a June 24 runoff for the U.S. Senate Republican nomination traded barbs Tuesday .
During a stop at Spaceway truck stop in the community of Meehan, state Sen. Chris McDaniel counted U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran among what he called "some Republicans in Washington who have become too cozy with power."
Cochran, a six-term incumbent, visited Forrest General Hospital and the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, highlighting both as programs he's helped finance, the Associated Press reports. Cochran says it would "dangerous" to elect McDaniel, who has criticized Cochran's role in federal spending.
McDaniel fired back Tuesday, calling Cochran's voting record "liberal."
"Once people begin to peer behind the veil and recognize the way he has voted, they recognize that is dangerous for the long term survival of our republic," McDaniel said.
Cochran defended his voting record and his conservative values in an email to The Meridian Star earlier in the campaign.
"I have voted against Obamacare more than 100 times, opposed President Obama’s gun control and immigration amnesty policies," Cochran wrote. "I am pleased to have the endorsement from the National Rifle Association (NRA) in this campaign, and I have a 100 percent Pro-Life current rating from the National Right to Life."
Neither Cochran nor McDaniel earned the required 50 percent, plus one, vote in the primary last week and square off in the runoff to determine who faces former Rep. Travis Childers, a Democrat, in the general election.
The race has pitted tea party and libertarian groups who support McDaniel against a more traditional GOP base backing Cochran.
"The fight is about philosophy. It is about ideology," McDaniel said Tuesday. "That's why the entire country is watching this race."
McDaniel also called Cochran out for his unwillingness to participate in a debate.
"Senator Cochran owes the people of this state a debate," McDaniel said. "If not a debate, then at least answer our questions. At least be around us. At least hold town halls. At the very least meet with the press. He has avoided the press. He has avoided the people. He has avoided me. If he's not willing to talk with me or debate me, what makes us think he is willing to debate Barack Obama or the liberal Democrats?"
Meanwhile, on Monday, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith said his inquiry continues into three McDaniel supporters who got locked into the Hinds County Courthouse in the early hours Wednesday after the June 3 primary, the AP reports.