Thu, Jun 26, 2014 - Page 7 News List

Cochran defeats Tea Party rival

Reuters, HATTIESBURG, Mississippi

Veteran US Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi narrowly defeated challenger Chris McDaniel on Tuesday in a high-profile runoff election that pitted the Republican party’s old guard against its anti-establishment Tea Party movement.

The bitterly fought Mississippi Republican Senate primary election overshadowed other primary contests across the country. It was seen as a multimillion-dollar referendum on the direction of the party as it tries to win control of the US Senate in the November congressional elections.

Cochran, 78, has steered hundreds of billions of federal dollars to his impoverished state over a four-decade career in the US Congress, and courthouses and research centers throughout the state bear his name.

McDaniel had said that Cochran’s nuts-and-bolts approach is out of step with voters in his deeply conservative state and promised to take a more confrontational approach to US President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Washington.

Cochran won in part thanks to an unusual strategy of appealing to the state’s heavily Democratic African-American voters, who were able to vote in the runoff as long as they had not voted in the June 4 Democratic primary.

It was the latest battle in a months-long primary season that has pitted the party’s business-friendly wing against Tea Party groups that have pushed to slash federal spending.

Cochran edged McDaniel by fewer than 7,000 votes out of more than 370,000 cast — a dramatic increase over the 313,000 votes cast in the earlier contest.

“What we have tonight is a consensus for more and better jobs for Mississippi workers,” Cochran told supporters.

In a defiant speech, McDaniel did not concede the race and hinted at possible legal action.

“Before this race ends, we have to be absolutely certain that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters,” McDaniel said.

Tea Party groups said that Republicans should not rely on Democratic voters and federal dollars to win elections.

“I think the GOP [Grand Old Party] establishment just died tonight because it won’t be winning a lot of national elections using this model,” said Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, a conservative group that campaigned for McDaniel.

Business groups like the US Chamber of Commerce spent US$4 million on Cochran’s behalf, while small-government groups spent US$7 million backing McDaniel.

Neither candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 4 primary, prompting a runoff election that drew millions of dollars in outside spending.

Cochran had said that McDaniel would not be able to secure as many resources for a state that relies on federal dollars for nearly half of its state budget.

Cochran is strongly favored to defeat Democrat Travis Childers in the Nov. 4 election.

Republicans need to pick up six seats to win control of the 100-seat US Senate, which would give them greater leverage to oppose Obama’s agenda during his remaining two years in the White House.

Business groups have helped several high-profile Republican incumbents beat back Tea Party challengers this year, but the surprise defeat of US House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor by a little-known candidate two weeks ago showed that clout in Washington is no guarantee of victory back home.

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