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Six-Term Cochran Holds Off Tea Party Challenge from McDaniel

Six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) won his primary against Tea Party challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the Republican runoff and will face Democrat and former Rep. Travis Childers in the November election.

While the counting for the primary on June 3 went into June 4, last night’s runoff was decided before 11 p.m.

Cochran, who is one election closer to his seventh term, finished with 190,633 votes while McDaniel had 184,260 votes.

“It’s been a real pleasure working closely with so many of you, making appearances in towns all across Mississippi,” Cochran told supporters in Jackson. “What we have tonight is a reflected consensus for more and better jobs for Mississippi workers, a military force and the capacity to defend the security interests of the United States of America.”

While Cochran won, McDaniel did not mention conceding the race in a speech to supporters in Hattiesburg.

“We fought, we had a dream and the dream is still with us,” the state senator said.

Mississippi is an open primary state and McDaniel said Democrats deciding the Republican primary was wrong. He also said the GOP was no longer the party of former President Ronald Reagan.

“We’re not done fighting and when we’re done, it will be,” he said. “We were right tonight.”

McDaniel said dozens of irregularities were reported across the state.

McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch declined to confirm whether McDaniel would concede, but said to stay tuned.

The runoff meant there were extra days for an already bitter primary race and it continued to be eventful.

At a Jackson grocery store on June 20, McDaniel got in a shouting match with a retired schoolteacher. According to The Mississippi Press, John Davis, 77, asked how the state senator would accomplish any of his goals with no seniority and a promise to not get along with anyone. McDaniel then asked what the current incumbents have accomplished by putting the country in debt and the two went back and forth. McDaniel eventually sat down and Davis was shooed away by other attendees.

A McDaniel supporter was arrested for sneaking into a nursing home and taking a photo of Cochran’s wife who has dementia; however, McDaniel’s campaign denied any relationship with the blogger, Clayton Kelly, 28.

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith said there was no crime committed when a McDaniel staffer and two others were locked inside the courthouse on election night, June 3. According to WAPT-TV, Smith said no crime was committed since there were no witnesses and no video recording. However, the courthouse is equipped with surveillance cameras. Ballots were in a locked vault.

Cochran’s camp has also experienced trouble as the campaign’s field representative for DeSoto County was charged with a misdemeanor of malicious mischief for allegedly stealing McDaniel campaign signs.

Southaven Police spokesman Lt. Mark Little told the DeSoto Times Tribune that Little turned himself in and posted bail of $350.

“He’s fired,” Cochran spokesperson Jordan Russell told the Clarion-Ledger. “Unlike Chris McDaniel, we don’t tolerate that kind of behavior.”

The incumbent senator received support from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who gave $250,000 to the PAC supporting Cochran. Senate Conservatives Fund president Ken Cuccinelli said that proves Cochran does not have conservative values.

“The recent news only reinforces what we know about Senator Thad Cochran, that he’s not the staunch conservative the Washington special interests want people to believe he is,” he said.

He went on to say Dave Brat’s win in Virginia over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for the Old Dominion’s 7th Congressional District seat is similar to what could have happened with McDaniel.

Politico said Cuccinelli hung up on one of their reporters last night when asked whether the election results would be challenged in court.

“We have seen a major uptick in the intensity of the grassroots and they are clearly reinvigorated,” Cuccinelli said. “The Brat campaign has redemonstrated to the grassroots that conservative candidates like Chris McDaniel can take on powerful incumbents and win.”

The Senate Conservatives Fund supported McDaniel and while a plethora of state groups poured money into the race, they were not allowed to have observers at polling places, according to a news release from Mississippi Attorney General Jan Schaefer’s office.

In a Tuesday news release from the Senate Conservatives Fund, the PAC said the National Republican Senatorial Committee spent $175,000 on automated phone calls to help Cochran defeat McDaniel.

Of the $2 million groups supporting McDaniel spent after the primaries, $1.1 million went toward advertisements attacking Cochran. The rest went to messages advocating McDaniel’s candidacy.

In other races, Democrat Doug Magee of Mendenhall won the runoff in the 3rd Congressional District race and will face incumbent Gregg Harper of Pearl in November.

(For complete 2014 midterm coverage, get your campaign fix on The Grid.)