- Associated Press - Monday, December 8, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi Republicans are reuniting after a divisive party primary for the U.S. Senate, a potential 2016 presidential candidate said Monday.

First-term Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul was in Jackson to speak at a $250-per-person fundraising luncheon for the Mississippi Republican Party.

During a news conference before the event at the Old Capitol Inn, Paul was asked about the division between establishment Republicans who supported the re-election of Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran and tea party Republicans who backed Cochran’s unsuccessful primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

McDaniel led a three-person primary June 3, and Cochran rallied to defeat him in a June 24 runoff. McDaniel filed a lawsuit weeks later, claiming Cochran’s victory was spoiled by voting irregularities. A judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying McDaniel had waited too long to file it. The state Supreme Court agreed with the judge.

Paul, a libertarian favorite, said he believes Mississippi Republicans were united by the November general election, when Cochran won a seventh term. Cochran received 60 percent of the vote and defeated Democratic former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara.

“I would say the party nationally has these battles everywhere. We had a bunch of spirited primaries. And for the most part I think we’ve come together,” Paul said Monday.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, said at the news conference that Paul has demonstrated “an independent thinking ability in the Republican Party, and we welcome that.”

Responding to a question about the 2016 presidential primaries, Paul said he doesn’t know what kind of ideology Republican voters will want in a nominee. He did not mention the possibility that he might be a candidate.

“There will be great competition for who gets to be the standard bearer…. We’re all going to remain friends and in the end we’re going to sing ‘Kumbaya,’” Paul said.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: https://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .


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