Sen. Thad Cochran narrowly won the Mississippi Republican primary against Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel on June 24. Or did he?
Early reports of “voting irregularities” have been confirmed, and now Reverend Stevie Fielder has come forward with evidence that the Cochran campaign gave him cash to buy votes.
“They said they needed black votes,” said the Reverend Fielder.
Fielder says he was told by the Cochran campaign that McDaniel is a racist, but he now knows that’s not true.
“What I did was wrong,” Fielder said, maintaining that he was misled by the Cochran campaign. Charles Johnson, an independent journalist, broke the story.
— Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) July 1, 2014
The Cochran campaign has vehemently denied the story, painting Fielder as an unreliable source, but they also admitted to employing him in the past.
In addition to allegations of vote-buying, the McDaniel campaign is now claiming they can prove that there were at least 3,300 cases of illegal votes, which is significant because Cochran’s margin of victory was less than 7,000 votes.
True the Vote filed a lawsuit earlier today, challenging the outcome of the election. For a judge to order a special election, a plaintiff must provide evidence that casts serious doubt on the legitimacy of the election results.
A pro-Cochran PAC funded by GOP establishment elements reportedly paid a Democrat organization more than $40,000 to make robocalls that encouraged African-Americans to vote for Cochran, painting McDaniel as a racist. Flyers and radio ads also appealed to African-American Democrats using race-baiting tactics.
Cochran himself attributed his narrow margin of victory to Democrat crossover voting. According to Mississippi law, voters cannot vote in two different primary elections. Therefore, any Democrats who voted in the June 3 primary are prohibited from voting in the June 24 Republican runoff election. It’s estimated that between 35,000 and 40,000 Democrats voted in the June 24 election. Among Republican voters, McDaniel won by about eight percentage points.
What was already a nasty campaign turned deadly when it was discovered that Tea Party volunteer Mark Mayfield had committed suicide. Mayfield was set to face charges for conspiring to take photos of Cochran’s wife in a nursing home, an effort that sought to prove rumors that Cochran was cheating on his wife.
The Mississippi Senator had kept a low profile before McDaniel forced a runoff election on June 3. Since then, an oftentimes incoherent Cochran became much more visible on the campaign trail, leading to a nasty battle between the two. Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell held afundraiser for Cochran, raising over $800,000 in a single night. McConnell has expressed his disdain for the Tea Party on more than one occasion, saying privately that he thinks incumbents will “crush” Tea Party candidates “everywhere.”
Meanwhile, the Tea Party-backed McDaniel pointed to anti-incumbent sentiment and recent polls as proof that they had momentum going into yesterday’s election.
Cochran repeatedly called McDaniel “dangerous” and “extreme” leading up to the runoff election.