Claiming the existence of at least 15,000 questionable votes, conservative Chris McDaniel said Monday that he is formally challenging incumbent Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s victory in June 24’s Republican Senate primary.
“They asked us to put up or shut up,” McDaniel said at a news conference outside his attorney’s office. “Here we are. Here we are with the evidence.” (RELATED: McDaniel Unveils Another Strategy Against That Cochran)
McDaniel’s lead attorney, Mitch Tyner, said the campaign has found evidence of 3,500 crossover votes — Democrats who were ineligible to vote in the Republican run-off because they had previously voted in the Democratic primary. Tyner also claimed to have found another 9,500 irregular votes and 2,275 absentee votes improperly cast in the run-off.
Tyner said they will file a challenge with the state executive committee of the Republican Party and ask them to declare McDaniel the winner of the contest.
“Once the state executive committee has had an opportunity to go through the evidence that we have included in this challenge, then they will see that they have no choice but to recognize Chris McDaniel as the nominee of the Republican Party for the state of Mississippi for the United States Senate,” Tyner said to applause from supporters.
Cochran won 7,667 more votes than McDaniel in the run-off.
McDaniel had the support of many local and national tea party groups, while Cochran boasted support of many of the state’s GOP establishment, like former Gov. Haley Barbour. (RELATED: Another McDaniel Supporter Arrested After Cochran’s Bedridden Wife Photographed)
“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,” Cochran campaign attorney Mark Garriga said in a statement.
“We look forward to holding the McDaniel campaign to the burden of proof that the law requires – and, 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,” Garriga said.
The race was particularly nasty: McDaniel was harmed by the revelation that a supporter broke into the nursing home of Cochran’s bedridden wife to take photos of her; Cochran faced attacks from conservatives over the pork he has brought home to Mississippi over the years.
Also an issue of contention, in the days leading up to the run-off, Cochran attempted to woo black voters to cross party lines and vote for him over McDaniel.
Since the run-off, McDaniel has refused to concede the race, accusing Cochran and his allies of “race-baiting” to win. (RELATED: Chris McDaniel Campaign Accuses Thad Cochran Of ‘Race-Baiting’)
“We know right now that the conservative movement is very angry about what’s occurred,” McDaniel said Monday. “What a segment of our party did in the weeks leading up to the 24th. We saw despicable acts of race baiting.”
“There is no place in the Republican Party for those that would race bait,” McDaniel said.
There have been a number of allegations that Cochran allies played the race card to encourage African-Americans, many of whom usually vote in Democratic primaries, to vote against McDaniel in the run-off.
One reported anti-McDaniel robocall went: “The time has come to take a stand and say NO to the tea party. NO to their obstruction. NO to their disrespectful treatment of the first African-American president.” (RELATED: A Thad Cochran Campaign Conference Call With The Media Gets Hijacked [AUDIO])
Another reported anti-McDaniel flier claimed that the “tea party intends to prevent blacks from voting” and accused McDaniel of racist comments and a voting history at odds with black voters.