State Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, speaks before a crowd of partisan supporters gathered on the south lawns of the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson, Miss., April 24, 2014.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP Photo

Mississippi Senate race reaches a new low

“Politics ain’t beanbag” is a tiresome cliche, but it persists because those involved in campaigns recognize how ugly fights for public office can become. Voters, candidates, staffers, and journalists have come to realize that election seasons often bring out the worst in people, and everyone adjusts their expectations accordingly.
But once in a great while, a campaign hits the bottom of the barrel, drills a hole, and goes even lower. Take the recent developments in Mississippi, for example.
A Pearl man who runs a political blog is accused of sneaking into a nursing home where U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife is bedridden and photographing her, then posting the image in a video political “hit piece” on the internet.
Madison Police arrested Clayton Thomas Kelly, 28, of Pearl on Friday night on a charge of exploitation of a vulnerable adult. He’s being held on a $100,000 bond.
It’s generally not a topic of conversation, but the senator’s wife of 50 years is bedridden at a Mississippi nursing home, where she has lived for over a decade, suffering from progressive dementia.
For reasons that simply defy comprehension, Kelly, a conservative activist and blogger, is accused of sneaking in to the nursing home, photographing the senator’s ailing wife, and posting it online as part of “an anti-Cochran, pro-Chris McDaniel ‘hit piece’ video.” McDaniel, of course, is the right-wing candidate taking on Cochran in a Republican primary.
If the allegations are accurate, there is no defense for such a morally depraved move, and as best as I can tell, no one has tried to offer one.
But the story took a curious turn when questions arose as to what McDaniel knew about the incident and when.
Soon after the Clarion-Ledger broke the story, reporting that Kelly was arrested and charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult, the McDaniel campaign condemned the blogger’s behavior and insisted that the accused has “no relationship” with the campaign.
However, the Clarion-Ledger soon after followed with another report, noting that the McDaniel campaign “knew details about the break-in at the nursing home” before they were public, raising questions about possible contradictions in Team McDaniel’s story.
Indeed, McDaniel specifically said he hadn’t heard about Kelly until Saturday morning, but McDaniel’s campaign manager left a voicemail message for the Cochran campaign about Kelly’s arrest on Friday night.
The video and photographs of the senator’s wife have been taken down, but the incident has rocked an already ugly Senate race in ways that were impossible to predict.
The primary is two weeks from tomorrow.