Black Leaders in Mississippi Say Thad Cochran Should Now Return the Favor

The state's senator won a hotly contested Republican runoff with support from Black voters.

Posted: 07/07/2014 04:10 PM EDT
Black Leaders in Miss. Say Sen. Cochran Should Now Return the Favor

After African-American voters in Mississippi came to the aid of Sen. Thad Cochran in a recent, hotly contested Republican primary runoff, several Black officials and leaders are calling on the incumbent senator to return the favor by adopting some policy changes.

For one thing, they cite the importance of having congress reinstate some of the most significant portions of the Voting Rights Act, measures that were struck down by the United States Supreme Court last year.

Cochran narrowly won the runoff election by defeating Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel. Under Mississippi election law, the runoff election is open to any voter who did not cast ballots in the Democratic primary. As a result, Cochran courted that state’s Black voters, who provided a crucial margin of victory to the longtime senator.

“Senator Cochran should work to pass federal legislation to reinstate the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act to include Mississippi,” said Derrick T. Simmons, a Mississippi state senator who represents portions of the state’s largely Black delta region, in an interview with BET.com.

His position was echoed by Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP in Mississippi.

“I think Senator Cochran should seize upon the opportunity to support the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in light of his previous support when he voted for reauthorization in 2006,” Johnson said in an interview with BET.com.

“That gives him a great opportunity to stand up as a statesman for all the people of Mississippi. And he could do so free from the political pressure that has haunted him leading up to this election.”

Simmons suggested that Cochran work as an emissary to his fellow Republicans to produce changes in a number of policies.

“As someone representing the people in the Mississippi delta, I’m sorry to say that the Republican leadership in this state has been unreasonable regarding public policy regarding the people in the state with the greatest needs,” Simmons said. “I think Senator Cochran should start to work with his Republican colleagues to try and develop more humane policies.”

Specifically, Simmons discussed Mississippi House Bill 49, which would require welfare recipients under the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program to be drug tested as a condition of receiving benefits.

“This is something that I’m afraid will hurt Mississippi children,” Simmons said. “No matter what the situation is with the parent, even if a parent is using drugs, you don’t want to have public policy that hurts children.”

Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

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(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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