Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is wading into the Mississippi Senate Republican primary, calling for an investigation into allegations of election fraud, as Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and primary challenger Chris McDaniel continue to clash over Cochran’s win.
Cruz pledged not to weigh in on incumbent primaries earlier this year, after facing blowback from colleagues frustrated by his engagement with the Senate Conservatives Fund, a conservative group that spends heavily against incumbents and has contributed to the party’s loss of multiple winnable seats in previous cycles.
While he didn’t endorse in Mississippi, he slammed the Washington, D.C., and Mississippi GOP establishment for helping Cochran in the primary runoff.
“What happened in Mississippi was appalling. Primaries are always rough and tumble, but the conduct of the Washington, D.C., machine in the Mississippi runoff was incredibly disappointing,” he said.
With the help of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the full political muscle of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), Cochran orchestrated an improbable win in the runoff two weeks ago. He was driven to victory in part by an aggressive and successful effort to woo African-American Democratic voters to turn out for him.
That tactic was decried by conservatives, however, and has caused McDaniel and his supporters to accuse Cochran of “stealing” the election. McDaniel has yet to concede and has been gathering evidence to challenge the election in court.
An attorney for his campaign announced Monday the campaign was poring over poll boxes and absentee ballots, and had found thousands of voting irregularities. The attorney, Mitch Tyner, said they were “surprised at the amount of evidence that continues to come forward that shows there has indeed been election fraud in this case.”
As of Thursday, the McDaniel campaign said it found 6,900 voting irregularities, slightly less than the 7,667-vote lead Cochran posted after the vote count was certified on Monday.
However, the Cochran campaign sent staffers out to conduct their own review of the ballots on Monday and found considerably fewer irregularities. After an incomplete review of the state’s 82 counties, the Cochran campaign said 236 “questioned” ballots were found.
The Cochran campaign has dismissed McDaniel’s count as lacking evidence.
“Senator Cochran's victory was certified today and was in excess of 7,600 votes. These are specifics, and we urge the media to demand the same level of specificity from the McDaniel campaign,” said Jordan Russell, Cochran’s spokesman, in a statement.
In response, McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch said they’ll deliver evidence of their own count when they file their challenge to the results with the state party.
“Our team will submit evidence of irregular votes when we file our complaint with the State [Executive Committee] of the Mississippi Republican Party. Rather than stifling the effort of our over 300 volunteers, Senator Cochran and his team should join Chris McDaniel in his effort to shine a light on all the allegations of criminal misconduct and rampant voter fraud over the last two weeks,” he said.
“The integrity of the party is at stake.”