Incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran narrowly won the nomination toward a seventh term Tuesday, coming back after being outvoted by Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel in the June 3 party primary.
Preliminary totals Tuesday had Cochran with 50.8 percent of the vote to McDaniel’s 49.2 percent – a difference of only about 6,400 votes statewide.
In the primary, McDaniel received about 1,400 votes more than Cochran with the closeness of the race surprising many voters. Since McDaniel did not get more than 50 percent of the total vote due to a third candidate’s being in the race, the run-off Tuesday was necessary.
Cochran again carried Union County this week, beating McDaniel 55.8 percent to 44.2 percent. He did not do quite as well as in the June 3 primary, however, when he received 56.4 percent of the Union County vote compared to McDaniel’s 42.6 percent.
And although Cochran carried the county as a whole, McDaniel won the Blythe, Myrtle, King’s Chapel, Blue Springs, East Union and Jericho precincts.
Voter turnout early was lower in Northeast Mississippi than the rest of the state but while run-offs historically have much lower participation than primaries, that was not the case this time.
June 3, Union County turnout was only about 17.6 percent. This past Tuesday it climbed to 22.3 percent.
Cochran will now face Democratic nominee and former Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers and Reform candidate Shawn O’Hara in the general election Nov. 4.
McDaniel charged Tuesday that “liberal Democrats” helped give the Republican Cochran his victory and implied me might challenge the election results in court.
Cochran admittedly did try to broaden his appeal, which likely drew some votes from Democrats, but this has been held as legal as long as a Democrat voting for Cochran Tuesday had not voted in the Democratic primary June 3. Of course, voters may vote for any mixture of parties and candidates they choose in the general election.
The race received national attention, both as a crucial test for the Tea Party and because of the aggressiveness and negativity of campaign materials. According to some published reports, more than $15 million was spent on the campaign, much of it from outside groups.