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Chris McDaniel wants Mississippi GOP to name him winner of U.S. Senate runoff

McDaniel slams supporters of U.S. Senator Thad Cochran for “dirty tricks”

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

mississippi mugJACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — Citing widespread voting irregularities, State Senator Chris McDaniel is asking the Mississippi Republican Party to overturn the results of the June 24 primary runoff and declare him the U.S. Senate nominee instead of incumbent Senator Thad Cochran.

State Senator Chris McDaniel

State Senator Chris McDaniel

“They asked us to put up or shut up. Here we are. Here we are with the evidence,” McDaniel said at an August 4 press conference. “What we’re going to show is a pattern of conduct on the part of a number of people that demonstrates a problem with this election. The evidence is clear.”

“We saw the dirty tricks. We saw the dirty money come from Washington D.C.,” he said. “Through the actions they took, they moved more than 40,000 Democrats into the Republican primary, and in so doing, mistakes were made.”

McDaniel led Cochran in the first round of voting on June 3. But after making direct appeals to Democratic and independent voters to cross over and vote in the runoff, Cochran erased McDaniel’s lead and won by 7,667 votes.

About 67,000 more people voted in the runoff than in the primary, and in Hinds County — which includes the predominantly black city of Jackson — Cochran’s margin of victory was 11,000 votes, nearly double what it was in the first round.

State law only allows voters to cross over to vote in the Republican runoff if they didn’t vote in the Democratic primary in the first round. McDaniel’s attorney, Mitch Tyner, said there were at least 3,500 crossover votes that should not have been allowed.

Tyner also said another 9,500 votes were “irregular,” and 2,275 absentee ballots were improperly cast. Those votes, together, are more than Cochran’s margin of victory.

McDaniel is asking the executive committee of the Mississippi Republican Party to declare him the winner, rather than calling for a new election.

“We anticipate that after they review the challenge that they’ll see Chris McDaniel clearly, clearly won the Republican vote on the runoff,” Tyner said. He said the state party doesn’t rule on the challenge in 10 days, McDaniel will go to court to overturn the election.

McDaniel also asked the executive committee to hold a public hearing to consider the evidence his supporters have collected.

“This is an opportunity for our party to take the lead on honest, good and transparent government,” he said.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

Responding to McDaniel’s challenge, Mark Garriga, an attorney for Cochran’s campaign, said “we are dedicated to the defense of the votes of those Mississippians who voted on June 24 for Thad Cochran as their United States Senator, an election which has been as thoroughly reviewed and examined as any in modern Mississippi history.”

“The filing of this challenge marks the point where this matter moves from an arena of press conferences and rhetoric into a setting where nothing matters but admissible evidence and the rule of law,” Garriga said in a statement.

The bitter Senate race in Mississippi pitted Cochran and the state’s Republican establishment against Tea Party activists and outside conservative groups — such as the Senate Conservatives FundFreedomWorks and the Club for Growth — that strongly backed McDaniel.

Cochran was one of five Southern Republican senators targeted in primaries this year. Four of them survived, with a fifth race to be decided August 7 in Tennessee.

View video of McDaniel’s press conference:

Analysis: Why Chris McDaniel’s fight won’t succeed even if it does

The best possible outcome — overturning his primary loss — won’t get him to the U.S. Senate

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel and his supporters are still seething over his primary runoff loss to veteran U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, particularly vexed by the fact that the only way Cochran survived was with Democratic cross-over votes.

In the weeks since the runoff, McDaniel has been making noise about a court challenge to the result and has even been raising money to pay for it. His camp claims to have evidence of more than 8,000 questionable votes — a number of voters larger than Cochran’s margin of victory.

State Senator Chris McDaniel

State Senator Chris McDaniel

Such a court challenge might be satisfying for people who think they were cheated out of a much anticipated victory. But would it be wise?

Consider the best possible outcome for McDaniel. It is exceedingly unlikely that a judge would just toss the result and hand the GOP nomination to McDaniel. A more possible (but not likely) scenario is that a judge throws out the primary result and orders the runoff to be rerun.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that McDaniel wins the third time around. He would be the nominee of a fiercely divided party. The atmosphere between his supporters and Cochran’s would be poisonous. The Democratic nominee, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, would be in the driver’s seat come November.

In that case, the Republican nomination would be a thing not worth having. And McDaniel would take the blame.

An even worse possible outcome for McDaniel would be to try to overturn the result and lose. Right now, he has political capital from being perceived as a wronged party. He still has a future in statewide politics. But if he drags Mississippi Republicans through a bitter fight, that capital vanishes.

History gives us two examples that are pertinent here.

In 1960, Richard Nixon narrowly  lost the presidency under questionable circumstances. But he decided not to contest the results. Eight years later, he was president.

In 2000, Al Gore decided to put America through Florida recount hell, even though he knew he was unlikely to prevail. It was the end of his political career.

Nixonian behavior is not normally recommended. But there are times when the best thing to do in a bad situation is just walk away, no matter how unfair it might seem at the time.

Chris McDaniel raises money for suit to overturn Mississippi GOP U.S. Senate runoff

McDaniel says his June 24 runoff loss to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran was a “sham” with “illegal voting” by Democrats

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

mississippi mugJACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — In the clearest sign yet that State Senator Chris McDaniel isn’t going quietly into the political sunset, he has sent an email to supporters asking for money to pay for a lawsuit to overturn the results of Mississippi’s June 24 GOP runoff for U.S. Senate.

State Senator Chris McDaniel

State Senator Chris McDaniel

“Thanks to illegal voting from liberal Democrats, my opponent stole last week’s runoff election, but I’m not going down without a fight,” McDaniel said.

“We’ve already found thousands of irregularities in the voting process. According to Mississippi state law, Democrats who voted in the Democratic primary cannot vote in the Republican runoff, and that is exactly what happened.”

McDaniel asked supporters to contribute at least $50 for what he described as a “long fight” to overturn the runoff.

After narrowly beating U.S. Senator Thad Cochran in the first found of primary voting on June 3, McDaniel lost to the veteran incumbent by about 6,700 votes in the runoff.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

Cochran’s campaign made direct appeals to Democratic and independent voters to support him in the runoff, which they were free to do if they hadn’t already voted in the Democratic primary.

The results of the second round of voting showed how well that strategy worked. About 67,000 more people voted in the runoff than in the primary, and in Hinds County — which includes the predominantly black city of Jackson — Cochran’s margin of victory was 11,000 votes, nearly double what it was in the first round.

The race in Mississippi pitted Cochran and the state’s Republican establishment against Tea Party activists and outside conservative groups — such as the Senate Conservatives FundFreedomWorks and the Club for Growth — that strongly backed McDaniel.

Outside groups on both sides poured millions in advertising into the Magnolia State, clogging its relatively inexpensive airwaves.

McDaniel and his conservative Tea Party supporters cried foul over Cochran’s cross-party strategy, and he has refused to concede defeat. A conservative watchdog group, True the Vote, has already filed a federal lawsuit to overturn the election.

In another bizarre twist in this bitter race, Mark Mayfield, a McDaniel supporter who was arrested during the campaign for his alleged role in videotaping Cochran’s invalid wife in her nursing home, committed suicide after McDaniel’s runoff loss.

Cochran is one of five sitting Southern GOP senators targeted for defeat by Tea Party activists and outside conservative groups. So far, Cochran and three other incumbents have survived, with one contest still to come in August in Tennessee.

If his runoff win holds up, Cochran will face Democratic former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers in the fall.

Thad Cochran survives Mississippi Senate runoff

In Oklahoma, U.S. Rep. James Lankford wins Republican nomination for open U.S. Senate seat

mississippi mugJACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — Buoyed by an influx of support from Democratic and independent voters, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran has turned back a bitter GOP primary challenge in Mississippi, defeating State Senator Chris McDaniel.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

Cochran, 76, took 51 percent of the vote in the June 24 runoff, compared to 49 percent for McDaniel. The runoff was triggered when neither man captured a majority in the first round of voting June 3.

“We all have the right to be proud of our state tonight,” Cochran told his jubilant supporters. “Thank you for this wonderful honor and wonderful challenge that lies ahead.”

But a clearly unhappy McDaniel refused to concede, criticizing Cochran’s campaign for appealing to black and Democratic voters in order to win the primary and stay in office.

“There is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats,” McDaniel said. “So much for principle.”

Cochran will now face former Democratic U.S. Rep. Travis Childers in November’s general election.

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, U.S. Rep. James Lankford has captured the Republican nomination for the Sooner State’s open U.S. Senate seat, defeating former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon.

Lankford took 57 percent of the vote, compared to 34 for Shannon, with five other Republican candidates trailing the front-runners.

Given Oklahoma’s pronounced Republican tendencies, Lankford will be the heavy favorite in November’s general election. The Democrats will decide an August 26 runoff between State Senator Connie Johnson from Oklahoma City and retired teacher Jim Rogers.

The Oklahoma seat opened up when U.S. Senator Tom Coburn announced he would retire at the end of this year due to health issues.

The race in Mississippi pitted Cochran and the state’s Republican establishment against Tea Party activists and outside conservative groups — such as the Senate Conservatives FundFreedomWorks and the Club for Growth — that strongly backed McDaniel.

Outside groups on both sides poured millions in advertising into the Magnolia State, clogging its relatively inexpensive airwaves.

After trailing McDaniel in the first round of voting, Cochran’s campaign began making appeals to Democratic and independent voters who did not vote in the GOP primary in the first round.

That is legal in Mississippi, as long as those voters didn’t already vote in the Democratic primary.

The results of the second round of voting showed how well that strategy worked. About 67,000 more people voted in the runoff than in the primary, and in Hinds County — which includes the predominantly black city of Jackson — Cochran’s margin of victory was 11,000 votes, nearly double what it was in the first round.

Cochran is one of five sitting Southern GOP senators targeted for defeat by outside conservative groups. So far, incumbents have survived primaries in Texas, Kentucky, South Carolina  and Mississippi, with one contest still to come in August in Tennessee.

Cochran’s victory is bad news for Democrats, who were rooting for a McDaniel victory to have an outside shot at capturing a Senate seat in deeply Republican Mississippi.

Childers was elected to the U.S. House from Mississippi in 2008 but lost his seat in the Republican wave of 2010. He got into the race when it appreared Cochran might lose, which could have given Democrats an opening against a more conservative candidate running statewide for the first time.

In the closing days of the race, Cochran and his allies told voters that nominating McDaniel, an outspoken radio talk show host, was too risky.

The GOP Senate primary in Oklahoma came down to a battle between two of the party’s fastest rising stars.

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

U.S. Rep. James Lankford

Lankford, 45, represents much of metro Oklahoma City in the House, In just his second term in Congress, he was elected head of the House Republican Policy Committee, the fifth highest position in the House GOP leadership.

That insider resume drew fire from some Tea Party and conservative groups who rallied around Shannon, 35, from Lawton, an African-American who is also an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation.

A one-time aide to former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, Shannon rocketed to prominence in state politics, becoming speaker just six years after being elected in 2006.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham rolls to primary victory in South Carolina

Graham avoids runoff with majority in a race against six GOP rivals

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

south-carolina mugCOLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham — the No. 1 target of Tea Party and anti-establishment groups in this year’s GOP primaries — has easily won renomination over a field of six challengers.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham

Graham took 56 percent of the vote in the June 10 Republican primary, far ahead of the second place finisher, State Senator Lee Bright of Spartanburg, who took just 15 percent. The rest of the field polled in single digits.

Graham will now face Democratic State Senator Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, who won the Democratic primary, Given the state’s strong Republican tendencies, Graham will be a prohibitive favorite.

Graham, 58, who is seeking this third term in the Senate, has run afoul of some Tea Party groups and conservative anti-establishment activists for his efforts to reach bi-partisan compromises with Democrats, including his support of an immigration reform bill that was opposed by most Republican senators.

His close political and personal friendship with U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona has also drawn fire, particularly over their blistering criticism of U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky for his filibuster over President Obama’s drone strike policy. Tea Party groups tried, and failed, to oust McCain during his 2010 re-election bid.

However, over the past year, Graham has buttressed his conservative credentials with heavy criticism of the Obama administration for its handling of the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and for the IRS’s targeting of tax exempt groups.

Graham benefited from the large number of Republicans who filed to run against him, which fragmented the field and did not allow any of them to catch fire.

Fully anticipating he would be challenged in the primary, Graham also raised and spent more than $7 million, dwarfing his competitors, according to reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

Graham is one of five sitting Southern Republican senators in 2014 who have drawn primary challengers backed by Tea Party and anti-establishment conservative groups. Those challenges fell short in Kentucky and Texas but in Mississippi, U.S. Senator Thad Cochran was forced into a runoff. The fifth race is in Tennessee, which doesn’t hold its primary until August.

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