Cochran edges McDaniel for GOP Senate nod

Published 11:17 am Wednesday, June 25, 2014

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran kept Warren County in his column Tuesday night as the six-term lawmaker had apparently held tea party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel at bay to keep his seat in the nation’s capital.

Unofficial returns statewide showed Cochran winning by about 6,400 votes, holding 50.8 percent of the vote to McDaniel’s 49.1 percent with all but one of the state’s 1,832 precincts reporting. In November, Cochran will face Democrat Travis Childers, a former congressman, in the heavily Republican state.

The incumbent took 17 of Warren County’s 22 precincts, including Culkin and Vicksburg Junior High School, the county’s largest. Cochran’s victory locally mirrored the rest of his runoff campaign in the rest of the state — one buttressed with support from normally Democratic voting blocs and a showing in the Jackson suburbs that proved good enough to win.

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State Rep. Alex Monsour, R-Vicksburg, and Mayor George Flaggs, a Democrat, supported Cochran’s campaign for a seventh term. Monsour, a key defection from the tea party locally, said the results were important “for the jobs” in Mississippi.

“I’d listen to Supertalk on the radio and it was all McDaniel,” he said as votes were tallied. “I called Cochran’s people and said, ‘Are y’all advertising at all on there?’”

Unofficial totals showed Cochran with 3,128 votes in Warren County to McDaniel’s 2,197. Absentee and affidavit ballots were expected to be counted sometime today. All were hand-counted, as the county had missed a deadline to receive any scannable absentee ballots from the Secretary of State’s Office. No totals were available from local GOP officials on how many were in the batch, but 289 had been requested from the circuit clerk’s office as of Monday.

Cochran countered victories for McDaniel in DeSoto County and in sparser-populated areas in his Pine Belt base in the unofficial numbers with wins in the Jackson suburbs — Rankin and Madison counties — and along the Gulf Coast in Harrison and Jackson counties.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann reported voting had gone “smoothly” to start the day. Counting votes in Warren County was faster than the first primary June 4, as the final precinct’s electronic master ballot card was processed at 10 p.m. — two hours faster than three weeks ago.

The lone write-in vote was from the Culkin precinct — one marked “God.”

McDaniel had beaten the veteran lawmaker in the initial primary round but had fallen short of the majority needed for nomination. In the three-week dash to the runoff, Cochran and his allies had highlighted his seniority while McDaniel had argued that Cochran was part of a blight of federal overspending.

In a brief speech, Cochran credited those who helped. “It’s a group effort, it’s not a solo and so we all have a right to be proud of our state tonight.”

The victory for a stalwart of the Senate Appropriations Committee was a fresh blow to the tea party movement, which spent millions to cast aside Cochran, a mainstream Republican who won a U.S. House seat in President Richard Nixon’s GOP wave of 1972 and has served in the Senate for more than three decades.

The race attracted $12 million in spending by outside groups. McDaniel, 41, an attorney and former radio host, had the strong backing of former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and the tea party movement, which saw his political approach as a change from a Washington status quo of mainstream conservatives willing to compromise.

But Cochran, 76, and his allies, notably former Gov. Haley Barbour, promoted his Washington establishment credentials, focusing on the billions he funneled to his home state, one of the poorest in the nation. In a last-ditch effort, Cochran reached out to traditionally Democratic voters — blacks and union members — who could cast ballots in the runoff. That possible factor in Cochran’s victory is sure to be cited by critics in days and weeks to come.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.