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

Four-term Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel said that if elected lieutenant governor, “tax relief” would be his top priority.

“That would include income tax elimination and grocery tax elimination,” McDaniel said, “which leads to more job creation and economic growth … The grocery tax is particularly regressive and punishes people for purchasing necessities and impacts lower-income people the most. I think it’s wrong to tax necessities.”

McDaniel is running against incumbent Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann in the Aug. 6 Republican primary. Mississippi Today recently asked McDaniel and Hosemann to share their ideas for Mississippi’s future.

READ MORE: What Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann wants to do for Mississippi

Another top priority if elected, McDaniel said, would be reinstating voters’ right to ballot initiative — bypassing the Legislature and putting issues or policies to a direct popular vote. A state Supreme Court decision in 2021 nullified Mississippi’s ballot initiative process. Attempts to reinstate it failed the last two years in the Legislature, with many including McDaniel blaming Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and his Senate leadership for its failure.

“The ballot initiative is frankly right up there with tax relief, tied for number one of my priorities,” McDaniel said. “The ballot initiative in my mind is a constitutional right that allows people to circumvent politicians who aren’t listening to their wishes.”

McDaniel said if elected, he plans to push for more parental rights in education, cutting red tape that hinders businesses, protecting property rights, promoting religious freedom, vaccination freedom and pro-life policies. He said he will support policies that are tough on violent crime and generally work to bring more conservative policies to the state Legislature and combat “woke ideology,” particularly in the classroom.

“What we are seeing now nationwide is the insertion of liberal philosophy into the classroom, particularly with sexual orientation and transgender … orientation in the classroom,” McDaniel said. “I believe that teachers should be focused on education, not new gender fads and political philosophies we’re seeing across the country. I have watched Florida push back against this woke ideology, and I respect that very much.”

McDaniel said he believes in smaller government and will work to reduce spending and eliminate “fraud, waste and abuse.”

McDaniel said he believes he can get his major policy initiatives through the Republican-controlled Legislature, a process that has been likened to “herding cats.”

“We have a supermajority, and I expect Republicans to behave like Republicans,” McDaniel said. “… We shouldn’t have to get Republicans to behave like Republicans. I don’t think I would have to herd too many cats. You would expect them to to adhere to our platform and behave the way they campaigned, and I would expect the people that elected them to hold them to that.”

Here is a list of McDaniel’s legislative priorities if elected lieutenant governor:

Education reform

McDaniel said he will promote “parents’ rights and voices in their children’s education. He vows to end “the one-size-fits-all approach to learning, support student tailored education through school choice and protect children in the classroom by ending woke indoctrination.”

Fiscal conservatism

McDaniel said he would work to “put the hard-earned paychecks of Mississippians back in their pockets by eliminating the income tax” and grocery tax. He said he will “fight for the American dream by cutting red tape that is crushing small businesses,” and cut wasteful spending.

Constitutional rights

McDaniel said he will work to “preserve religious freedom and allow for constitutionally protected prayer.” He said he would protect freedom of speech by reinstating the ballot initiative process for voters and protect private property rights of Mississippians. McDaniel said he wants prayer back in school, and “I would like to see us pass legislation whereby we reimplement prayer, and if challenged, take it up to the Supreme Court like we did with Roe v. Wade.”

Pro-life, tough-on-crime policies

McDaniel vows to “protect Mississippi’s most precious through preserving pro-life policies,” and “end soft-on-crime policies that jeopardize the safety of our communities.”

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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.