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

Chris McDaniel is challenging incumbent Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann to a series of debates ahead of the Aug. 8 GOP primary.

“Mississippi voters deserve the chance to hear directly from the candidates running to represent them in Jackson,” McDaniel, a four-term state senator, said. “… I hope Delbert Hosemann will join me and provide Mississippi voters with transparency on where his values and priorities are.”

Hosemann campaign spokeswoman Leah Rupp Smith in a statement responded: “We have already been to candidate forums, one with all lieutenant governor candidates, and others are planned in the future.”

Conventional campaign wisdom is for an incumbent frontrunner, particularly one with a wide-margin lead in fundraising and-or name recognition to shy away from debates that could give a little-known insurgent a toe hold. But McDaniel is well known to voters from unsuccessful but notable runs for U.S. Senate and he could make hay if Hosemann refuses to debate. Voters tend to expect debates in top-ticket races such as for lieutenant governor and governor.

Last cycle, Hosemann and his Democratic opponent, then-state Rep. Jay Hughes, had a televised debate in Hosemann’s successful first run for lieutenant governor.

READ MORE: Hosemann, Hughes agree a lot during debate; neither will work to legislatively change flag

News in the GOP primary race for lieutenant governor has thus far been dominated by Hosemann’s claims that McDaniel’s campaign and a PAC he created violated campaign finance laws with improper reporting and large donations from an out-of-state dark money group, most of which McDaniel has reported he returned.

READ MORE: Chris McDaniel’s reports deny accurate public accounting of campaign money

McDaniel in a letter to Hosemann asked him to participate in debates — “a staple of American elections and key to the Democratic process.” He posted the letter on social media and said, “Enough of Delbert ‘the Democrat’ and his nonsense political games. It’s time to talk about the issues impacting Mississippi voters everyday.”

McDaniel is proposing holding televised debates in Jackson, Tupelo, Gulfport-Biloxi, the Pine Belt, DeSoto, and also having one at the Neshoba County Fair.

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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.