The long and bitter Republican primary fight between Senator Thad Cochran and his Tea Party challenger descended into accusations of voter fraud on Friday, with the defeated candidate, State Senator Chris McDaniel, making clear he would not accept the results anytime soon. The escalating feud raised the prospect that a seething bloc of conservative voters could sit out the November election, improving the chances of the long-shot Democratic candidate, Travis Childers. A somber note was introduced into the intraparty fight on Friday when a Tea Party leader committed suicide. The man, Mark Mayfield, had been accused of being part of a conspiracy to photograph Rose Cochran, Mr. Cochran’s wife, in the Mississippi nursing home where she lives. Mr. Mayfield, a lawyer and a leader of the Central Mississippi Tea Party, had been arrested last month and charged with conspiring to break in to the room of Mrs. Cochran, who has dementia.
“This is an election, but an election shouldn’t cost a life,” said Grant Sowell, a leader of the Tupelo Tea Party, who was informed of the suicide on Friday morning.
Mr. Mayfield’s lawyer, Merrida Coxwell, said his client had faced little chance of being convicted, let alone of being sentenced to jail. But the arrest “was more than he could stand,” he said.
“Sadly, Mark may have taken his own life, but that lies at the feet of some other people,” Mr. Coxwell said. “They will have to explain that.”