Meet the Mississippi Man Who Just Cost Republican Donors Millions

Thomas Carey got only a few thousand votes in the Mississippi’s GOP’s Senate primary. But that was enough to force the top two candidates into an expensive three-week runoff.

Third-place Mississippi Republican Senate candidate Thomas Carey
National Journal
Andrea Drusch
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Andrea Drusch
June 4, 2014, 1 a.m.

Mis­sis­sip­pi­ans will have to keep watch­ing Sen­ate TV ads for the next three weeks, and the man who made it hap­pen is not con­cerned.

Former Re­altor Thomas Carey, an af­ter­thought in a heav­ily scru­tin­ized Re­pub­lic­an primary between Sen. Thad Co­chran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel, won just a few thou­sand votes Tues­day night. But he siphoned off just enough sup­port — about 1.6 per­cent — to keep either of the closely matched front-run­ners from reach­ing 50 per­cent, the threshold to win the Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­a­tion. Now, the $12 mil­lion con­test between Co­chran and McDaniel is set to ex­tend an­oth­er three weeks, after they both got close to 49 per­cent on Tues­day. A run­off between Co­chran and McDaniel will be held June 24.

A long­time tele­phone in­staller, Carey worked for South­west­ern Bell for 35 years be­fore chan­ging ca­reers to work in real es­tate in 2001. He re­tired sev­er­al years ago to join the Kairos Pris­on Min­istry with his son. They plan overnight trips to the Mis­sis­sippi State Pen­it­en­tiary to min­is­ter to in­mates.

Carey has nev­er run for of­fice be­fore, didn’t run a single tele­vi­sion ad, and didn’t raise any money, ac­cord­ing to the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. But his cam­paign is go­ing to cost Re­pub­lic­an donors mil­lions of dol­lars in June as they fund a primary that Carey pro­longed.

In a primary-day in­ter­view, Carey ex­pressed no pref­er­ence between McDaniel and Co­chran and said he didn’t plan to vote for either of them in a run­off — if he didn’t win out­right him­self. Carey said he ran a faith-based cam­paign to re­tire two ca­reer politi­cians who he says are out of touch with people in the state.

“I be­lieve the Lord called me to do this,” he said. “Not lit­er­ally, but he woke me up a lot of times in the middle of the night.”

“The av­er­age Mis­sis­sip­pi­an couldn’t even fill up a tank of gas for McDaniel’s cam­paign bus,” Carey con­tin­ued. “How can they re­late to an av­er­age Mis­sis­sip­pi­an who is barely mak­ing it paycheck to paycheck?”

After a primary that fea­tured dis­agree­ments over bring­ing home money to Mis­sis­sippi, Carey cast the ex­ten­ded cam­paign as something like a privately fun­ded stim­u­lus pack­age for the state.

“I’m not really in fa­vor of a run­off, but if it brings mil­lions of dol­lars in­to the state, that’s good for Mis­sis­sippi,” Carey said. “If groups spend money on TV sta­tions and ads that gen­er­ate rev­en­ue for those sta­tions and the sur­round­ing areas.”¦ Who knows, maybe the money will help them hire an­oth­er per­son or two.”

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