A Mississippi lawmaker claims the photo of the tutu is being misused in the campaign. It raises funds for cancer research.

JACKSON, Mississippi — Republican Mississippi state senator Jeremy England said he intentionally wore what he considers a “very embarrassing” Halloween costume to raise money for breast cancer research — a sparkly pink bodysuit with a short pink skirt.

Now England says a photo of him in the outfit has been misused, with an insult directed at him, in an increasingly divisive GOP primary as he backs Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann for re-election.

A person supporting one of Hosemann’s opponents posted an image of England in a tutu on Twitter with a comment: “Hosemann and his groomer weirdos.”

“I consider that to be one of the worst, dirty forms of politics — which is, of course, where we are now in this race,” England told The Associated Press.

“Broomer” is commonly used to describe how sex offenders initiate contact with their victims. The word has become ubiquitous in American politics as some conservatives attempt to equate certain educational materials with pornography or child molestation.

Hosemann faces two challengers in the Aug. 8 primary. State Senator Chris McDaniel has hosted two unsuccessful U.S. Senate races in the past decade, including a hard-fought run against longtime incumbent Thad Cochran in 2014. Tiffany Longino is a low-spending educator in her first run for public office. If no one wins a majority, the race will go ahead on August 29.

In a new Hosemann TV advert, England says he backed McDaniel in 2014 for the Senate, but now considers that a mistake and endorses Hosemann for a second term as Lieutenant Governor. England said shortly after the ad began airing, he received a text message from state senator Melanie Sojourner, who publicly supports McDaniel. England said the post had no words – just a picture of England wearing the tutu.

“It was obvious she was sending it to me as a threat,” England said.

England responded to Sojourner with a “HaHa” to the photo and wrote that he wore the costume around his neighborhood to raise money for breast cancer research as part of the American Cancer Society’s “Real Men Wear Pink” effort.

The following day, another McDaniel supporter posted a similar photo of England on Twitter with the reference “crazy groomers”. The tweet was deleted, but England saved a screenshot of it.

England posted the episode on Facebook and he reignited his fundraising effort for the American Cancer Society. By Saturday, he had raised over $5,400.

In response to questions from the AP, Sojourner said the tone of the text exchange between her and England “is devoid of any intent to threaten and/or intimidate Senator England.” She said he laughed and liked her posts.

“As the prankster of the Senate chamber, Senator England’s new decorum is both ironic and bizarre,” Sojourner said. “Sen. England are crying foul just to score political points for their chief facilitator, Delbert Hosemann.

Sojourner said she did not know if the person who called England a ‘groomer’ was associated with the McDaniel campaign.

McDaniel said in a statement to the AP, “To be clear: I do not condone any vitriol aimed at Senator England, or any of the toxicities that our modern political environment engenders. Volunteers are what campaigns are won and lost on, but it’s impossible for a campaign or candidate to control every volunteer on social media.

During the 2014 U.S. Senate campaign, some McDaniel supporters entered a nursing home without permission and photographed Cochran’s wife, who has dementia. Images of her briefly appeared online. McDaniel said he had nothing to do with the incident. McDaniel refused to concede defeat in the GOP primary runoff after Cochran’s campaign wooed black voters who typically vote in Democratic primaries.

Republican-run Mississippi is electing state officials this year, including a governor and lieutenant governor. Although candidates for both jobs run as one ticket in some states, the governor and lieutenant governor are elected separately in Mississippi.

The office of lieutenant governor is one of the most powerful positions in the government of Mississippi. The person presides over the Senate of 52 member states, appoints Senate committee heads and has wide latitude to decide what legislation lives or dies.

In the Nov. 7 general election, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor will face Democrat D. Ryan Grover, who says he hasn’t spent any money on his campaign so far.

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