Chris McDaniel vowed Wednesday to defend the Mississippi flag in his insurgent bid for U.S. Senate, warning voters that Republican Sen. Roger Wicker is on the wrong side of the issue.
Elected leaders in Mississippi have faced mounting pressure to consider replacing their flag because it includes the Confederate battle emblem, which represents Southern heritage and pride to some and slavery and oppression for others.
“I want to be clear the people of Mississippi have already spoke on that issue and until they speak again we are going to keep that flag,” Mr. McDaniel, a state senator, said at his campaign kickoff event.
Mississippi voters weighed in on the state flag in 2001 referendum, with 64 percent of voters casting their support behind affirming the design.
Mr. Wicker and Thad Cochran, the state’s other U.S. senator, supported the flag at the time, but changed gears in 2015 after Dylann Roof, a 21-year-old with an affinity for Confederate symbols, shot and killed nine parishioners in a historic African American church in Charleston, S.C.
Mr. Wicker reiterated his stance after a white nationalist sponsored event that attracted members of the KKK turned violent in Charlottesville last year, saying he would like to see the flag put in a museum and replaced with something “more unifying.”
Mr. McDaniel said the stance shows Mr. Wicker is out of touch with voters in his home state and puts him on the same side of the debate as Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and other liberal lawmakers in Washington.
“The people of Mississippi very clearly in 2001, very clearly in 2001, selected a state flag,” Mr. McDaniel said. “Roger Wicker when he first ran for office back in ‘08 was for the flag. Washington has a way of changing his viewpoints.”