Cochran Defeats Tea Party Candidate McDaniel in Tight Mississippi GOP Senate Runoff Race

| by Lisa Fogarty

Voters in Mississippi had a tough time choosing between six-term Sen. Thad Cochran and Tea Party challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel, but the tight Republican Senate runoff race yielded one clear winner: Cochran will hold down the fort he has inhabited since 1972.

The close runoff race follows the state’s June 3 primary, in which neither GOP nominee proved a winner. And, despite 76-year-old Cochran leading with over 6,000 votes, McDaniel – who received 49.2 percent of votes – has reportedly not offered a concession, Fox News reports.

McDaniel and his Tea Party backers have complained that there are “dozens of irregularities” in Cochran’s campaign, referring to the way the veteran senator “courted” African American and Democrat voters.

Cochran reportedly won Democrats in his state over by reminding them that he has a track record of bringing home federal dollars to his state, which has seen its share of financial struggle, reports USA Today. He enlisted the help of former NFL quarterback Brett Favre, who backed him in a popular TV advertisement, and was endorsed by Arizona Senator John McCain.

Unofficial returns show Cochran outperforming his opponent in primarily African-American populated areas of the state – and winning far more votes in those communities than he had in the first round of voting.

McDaniel blasted Cochran for not being conservative enough and for increasing the nation’s budget deficit as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The candidate’s backers are deciding whether to challenge the runoff results on the grounds that Democratic voters may have “crossed over” from the Democratic primary to vote for Cochran. They say it is highly questionable whether those same voters will support the senator in the general election, as is required by Mississippi law.

“We are not prone to surrender, we Mississippians,” McDaniel said. “Before this race is over we have to be absolutely certain the Republican primary was won by Republican voters.”

Groups that support the Tea Party, including FreedomWorks and the Senate Conservatives Fund, sent volunteers to polling stations to ensure the election process was fair, reports NBC News.

Despite the controversy, Cochran already seems to be enjoying his victory. “You were the ones who helped reach all the voters and made sure they knew they were important to this election, because it is a group effort, not solo,” Cochran told supporters on Tuesday night. “We all have a right to be proud of our state tonight.”

Sources: Fox News, USA Today, NBC News