The tea party-backed lawmaker defeated by U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi’s Republican primary said Monday that he has formally challenged the election’s outcome with the state GOP.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel filed the challenge with the Mississippi GOP state executive committee over Cochran’s June 24 runoff victory, McDaniel attorney Mitch Tyner said during a news conference.
McDaniel will have to prove there were enough illegally cast votes to change the outcome or that the election was so sloppily handled its result is in doubt.
Mississippi voters don’t register by party, but state law makes so-called crossover voting – casting a ballot in one party’s primary and another party’s runoff in the same cycle – a misdemeanor. Tyner said the campaign had found 3,500 instances of crossover votes, along with the 9,500 “irregular votes” and 2,275 “improperly cast” absentee ballots. It was not immediately clear what made the votes irregular, or how the absentee ballots may have been improperly cast.
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Certified results show Cochran won by 7,667 votes, or 51 percent.
“They asked us to put up or shut up, and here we are with the evidence,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel has called the June 24 runoff a “sham” and excoriated Cochran for seeking votes from “liberal Democrats.” While McDaniel stops short of mentioning race, Mississippi is a state where Democrat is often synonymous with black. Cochran says there’s nothing wrong with seeking support from Democrats and independents – it’s something he’s done for decades.
While Mississippi courts have ordered some new local elections, there has been no court-ordered do-over of a statewide election in at least the past six decades of records reviewed by The Associated Press. Tyner has said he had found no examples of a Mississippi court ever ordering a new statewide vote.
McDaniel finished 1,418 votes ahead of Cochran in the June 3 primary, when the runoff was triggered because neither candidate won 50 percent of the vote. In the runoff three weeks later, turnout jumped by 63,295 votes to 382,197.
Cochran drew significant support in the runoff in majority-black precincts in Hinds County, which President Barack Obama won in 2012. Hinds County is home to the capital city of Jackson, and it the most populous county in the state. Cochran also fared well in majority-white precincts in the Jackson suburbs of Madison and Rankin counties, where GOP challenger Mitt Romney received the most votes in 2012.
The Republican nominee will face Democratic former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers and the Reform Party’s Shawn O'Hara in the Nov. 4 general election.
Associated Press writer Emily Wagster Pettus contributed to this report from Jackson.