Mississippi Conservatives PAC, a super PAC supporting Sen. Thad Cochran's re-election, is firing back at the senator's GOP primary opponent , pointing to more than a dozen votes state Sen. Chris McDaniel has missed in the state legislature so that he could campaign.
According to recorded votes in the state legislature , McDaniel is the fifth-most-truant member of the Mississippi state Senate this session, which began on Jan. 7. The four state senators who have missed more votes than McDaniel this session include a lawmaker recovering from surgery , a state senator battling lung cancer , and McDaniel's own campaign manager, state Sen. Melanie Sojourner.
Of the 14 votes McDaniel has missed, one was a vote to include "In God We Trust" on the state seal. At the time, McDaniel was in Washington, D.C., appearing on GOP commentator Glenn Beck’s The Blaze television network .
The attack on McDaniel's voting record came just days after the primary candidate told a group of reporters in Washington, D.C., that Cochran "almost never" spends time back home in the Magnolia State.
"I’ve been a state Senator for seven years, and I’ve seen Sen. Cochran once in my lifetime, and that was in Washington, D.C.," McDaniel said at a meet-and-greet Monday at a forum with candidates endorsed by FreedomWorks, a group that supports tea party candidates. "I have friends of mine who are in their 50s who have never physically laid eyes on him. I spoke to a group a few days ago of 70 men at a church breakfast — not a single person had ever physically laid eyes on Sen. Cochran."
McDaniel's campaign dismissed the attacks on his missed votes.
"This is a silly political attack from Senator Cochran, who has missed more votes than the average senator, to obscure his votes for tax increases, pay raises for himself, Obamacare funding, debt limit increases, gun control and taxpayer-funded abortions," McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch said in a statement.
GovTrack data shows Cochran missed 8 out of 292 votes in 2013.
The time that long-serving senators spend back home has been an issue on the campaign trail in the past.
Just last cycle, Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind., lost his primary to former State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Mourdock successfully made an issue of Lugar's Virginia residency , making Lugar appear out of touch with Indiana voters. In 2010, Majority Leader Harry Reid's rivals made his frequent stays in Washington an issue.
Residency issues recently rose to the forefront again, after revelations that three-term Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., no longer owns a home in the Jayhawk State and is scrambling to rekindle ties in the face of a primary challenge.
McDaniel's primary challenge — backed by outside conservative groups such as Senate Conservatives Fund and the Club for Growth — presents Cochran, 76, with his first competitive election in 30 years .
No matter who wins the June 3 primary, Mississippi's Senate seat will stay in GOP control. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the state by a 10-point margin in 2012.