State Sen. Chris McDaniel announces that he is running for lieutenant governor during a press conference at the Mississippi Republican Party Headquarters in Jackson, Miss., January 30, 2023. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

State Sen. Chris McDaniel, in a lengthy speech that invoked Presidents Reagan, Taft and Trump, U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, Gov. Kirk Fordice and the ancient Greek politician Pericles, announced he is challenging incumbent Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in this year’s GOP primary.

“Do you want a Trump or DeSantis, or do you want a Mitt Romney or a Liz Cheney?” McDaniel asked a packed room at the Mississippi Republican Party headquarters in Jackson on Monday morning. “That is what this election will come down to.”

McDaniel decried Hosemann as too moderate, even liberal, to lead in deep red Mississippi — a complaint the four-term senator also made about Republican Gov. Tate Reeves when Reeves was lieutenant governor presiding over the Senate.

McDaniel’s speech hit on numerous red-meat conservative issues: “woke-ism,” the right of parents to refuse child vaccinations, states’ rights, gun rights, election fraud and President Biden. The crowd of supporters, including a handful of fellow state lawmakers, replied frequently with applause or “amen.”

“Two of our major press organizations have called (Hosemann) the moderate leader of the moderate wing of our party,” McDaniel said. “Since when do we have a moderate wing of our party?”

READ MORE: Chris McDaniel announces an announcement on challenge of incumbent Lt. Gov. Hosemann

A supporter holds a hat that says “Run Chris Run!” as Sen. Chris McDaniel announces his run for lieutenant governor during a press conference at the Mississippi Republican Party Headquarters in Jackson, Miss., January 30, 2023. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

Supporters put a “Run Chris, Run” ball cap on the head of the baby elephant statue in the MSGOP conference room. McDaniel during his speech was flanked by his wife, Jill, and two sons, to whom he apologized for “going through this fire again” and said, “I was born to fight. I hope you will always remember to fight for what you believe in.”

McDaniel, who has now mended political fences with Reeves, said, “I support Tate Reeves. His agenda is being blocked by Delbert Hosemann.”

McDaniel, 51, a lawyer from Ellisville, promised if elected he will push for tax cuts and elimination, deregulation, state sovereignty, parents’ rights, restoring the ballot initiative, lobbying reform and “eliminating woke culture in our schools and universities.” He said he will fight Medicaid expansion, election fraud and government corruption and work to “push socialism out of this state and defeat liberalism whether they’re Democrats or Republicans.”

More than a decade ago, with the rise of the Tea Party, McDaniel became a leader of the far-right GOP and libertarians in Mississippi. In 2014, he made a seismic challenge of longtime Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. McDaniel, with financial support from out of state conservative groups and the state’s first true social media bombardment campaign, led the late Cochran in the first GOP primary vote, then narrowly lost in a runoff.

McDaniel ran for U.S. Senate again in 2018. He first announced a run against incumbent Roger Wicker, but then switched races and ran in a nonpartisan, four-way race for the seat Cochran had held. McDaniel lost that race with only 16% of the vote. Despite McDaniel’s declared loyalty to Trump, the then-president endorsed Cindy Hyde-Smith, who won the Senate seat.

READ MORE: ‘Remember Mississippi?’ Good Lord, how could we ever forget #MSSen 2014?

Hosemann’s campaign on Monday responded to McDaniel’s announcement with a short press release statement.

“After being rejected by Mississippians in three failed statewide campaigns, the least effective politician in the state with the largest ego is running again, this time for Lt. Governor,” said Casey Phillips, senior adviser to Hosemann’s campaign. “By comparison, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann’s conservative record is clear, implementing Voter ID to secure our elections, delivering the largest tax cut in Mississippi’s history, and overseeing a major teacher pay raise. Results matter and Delbert delivers.”

The deadline to qualify to run for state office is Wednesday. Two lesser-known Republican candidates, Shane Quick and Tiffany Longino, and Democrat Ryan Grover are running for lieutenant governor.

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Geoff Pender serves as senior political reporter, working closely with Mississippi Today leadership on editorial strategy and investigations. Pender brings 30 years of political and government reporting experience to Mississippi Today. He was political and investigative editor at the Clarion Ledger, where he also penned a popular political column. He previously served as an investigative reporter and political editor at the Sun Herald, where he was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team for Hurricane Katrina coverage. Originally from Florence, Mississippi, Pender is a journalism graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and has received numerous awards throughout his career for reporting, columns and freedom of information efforts.