Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi returned to the Senate on Monday for the first time since last month’s wild-ride election, but the Republican primary runoff he appears to have narrowly won remains far from over. Tea party challenger Chris McDaniel is poised to launch an unprecedented legal challenge after refusing to concede the June 24 election. McDaniel claimed widespread voter fraud after the Cochran campaign openly courted Democratic support at the polls. On Monday night, the Mississippi Republican Party officially certified Cochran’s victory, saying he won by 7,667 votes. But earlier in the day, more than 200 McDaniel supporters arrived at courthouses in the state’s 80 counties to scour voter logs for irregularities. The campaign has offered 15 $1,000 rewards for information leading to voter fraud convictions.
“We’re surprised at the amount of evidence that continues to come forward that shows us that there has indeed been election fraud in this case,” Mitchell Tyner Sr., a Mississippi trial attorney and lead counsel for the McDaniel campaign, said at a news conference at the county courthouse in Jackson. “We do not want to see any election decided by ineligible voters.”
Though McDaniel supporters are livid that Democratic votes for Cochran may have cost McDaniel the Republican nomination, nothing in Mississippi law prevents voters from crossing party lines to cast ballots in primary elections.
However, Mississippi law does prohibit voters who already cast a Democratic ballot in the June 3 primary from participating in the Republican runoff. That’s now the apparent legal basis for McDaniel’s challenge.