JACKSON, Miss. — Incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran narrowly defeated challenger Chris McDaniel in the Mississippi Republican Senate runoff.
McDaniel easily won in DeSoto County with close to 70% of the vote.
After coming in second in the June 3 primary, Cochran held more than a 6,000-vote lead according to numbers compiled by the Associated Press.
Cochran will face former north Mississippi Democratic congressman Travis Childers in November.
McDaniel called out Cochran for mobilizing Democrats to vote in the GOP primary.
“There is something a bit unusual about a Republican primary decided by liberal Democrats,” the state senator told supporters. “I guess they can take some consolation that they did something tonight, for once again compromising, for once again reaching across the aisle, for abandoning the conservative movement.”
Mississippi has no recount provisions in its election laws. The only challenge to election results must go through the courts.
And McDaniel hinted that’s a possibility late Tuesday.
“We were right tonight. We were right tonight,” he said. “Now it’s our job to make sure that the sanctity of the vote is upheld. We have to be absolutely certain that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters.”
When asked early Wednesday morning whether they would challenge the results in court, the McDaniel campaign gave CNN a two word answer: “stay tuned.”
Mississippi law allows anyone to vote in the runoff, meaning Democrats could go to the polls as long as they hadn’t voted in the Democratic primary and didn’t plan to vote for their party’s candidate in the general election. By CNN’s count, about 55,000 more people voted Tuesday than in the primary two weeks ago.
Cochran’s backers turned to Democrats, especially African-Americans, who make up 37% of the state’s population.
They actively reminded voters of the senator’s work to secure federal funds for programs such as Head Start and certain medical centers in the state.
But McDaniel and allies argued the tactic was a stretch, and he said a high Democratic turnout for Cochran would reveal the senator’s true colors.
Conservative groups supportive of McDaniel dispatched volunteers to observe poll workers to see if they were turning away those who already showed up in the Democratic primary.
But those efforts mobilized groups such as the NAACP, which sent out its own volunteers to look for any signs of voter intimidation or interference.
In his victory speech, Cochran seemed to at least wink at the crossover voters, thanking supporters for getting them and his supporters to the polls.
“You are the ones who helped reach all the voters, make sure that they knew that they were important to this election because it’s a group effort, it’s not a solo,” he told a victory celebration in Jackson. “And so we all have a right to be proud of our state tonight. Thank you for this wonderful honor and wonderful challenge that lies ahead.”
McDaniel outpolled Cochran by about 1,400 votes in the June 3 primary but was forced into a runoff when he failed to cross the 50% threshold to win outright.
On June 4th, neither Cochran nor McDaniel received more than 50 percent of the votes. Supporters of both blamed low voter turnout for sending them to a runoff.
WREG’s Jessica Gertler was in DeSoto County, where poll workers said there was a bigger turnout than when Cochran and McDaniel went head-to-head earlier this month.
The contest between the two has been closely watched, since the latter is a tea party member and Cochran has held onto his seat for 42 years.
Leading up to the primary, both ran attack ads.
The race took a major turn when four McDaniel supporters were charged with felonies for trying to take a picture of Cochran’s wife, who is in a nursing home and suffers from dementia.
Monday, a field worker for the Cochran campaign was fired for allegedly stealing McDaniel signs. Lee Blair was arrested for malicious mischief and will be in court later this week.