Cochran narrowly leads Miss. tea party challenger

WASHINGTON (AP) — Battling for political survival,
six-term Sen. Thad Cochran led tea party favorite Chris McDaniel Tuesday
night in a bruising, costly Mississippi primary runoff that exposed
deep divisions within the Republican Party.
With 92 percent of
precincts reporting, Cochran led with 51 percent to McDaniel’s 49
percent. The veteran lawmaker and his allies had highlighted his
seniority and Washington clout in the three-week dash since an
inconclusive June 3 primary, while McDaniel had argued that Cochran was
part of a Washington blight of federal overspending.
In a
last-ditch effort, Cochran had reached out to traditionally Democratic
voters — blacks and union members — in what had become an underdog
candidacy against the younger McDaniel, his challenger from the right.
Voters who cast ballots in the earlier Democratic primary were barred
from participating.
The Mississippi contest that threatened to
cast aside the 76-year-old Cochran was the marquee race on a busy June
primary day that included New York, Oklahoma, Colorado, Maryland and
In a special House election on Florida’s Gulf Coast, voters chose
Republican businessman Curt Clawson to replace former Rep. Trey Radel,
who resigned in January after pleading guilty to cocaine possession.
a blow to the tea party movement, two-term Rep. James Lankford of
Oklahoma won the GOP nomination in the race to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn,
who is stepping down with two years left in his term. In the solidly
Republican state, Lankford is all but assured of becoming the next
A member of the House GOP leadership, Lankford defeated
T.W. Shannon, a member of the Chickasaw Nation and the state’s first
black House speaker. National tea party groups and the Senate
Conservatives Fund had backed Shannon, who also had the support of Sarah
Palin and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
In New York’s Harlem and upper
84-year-old Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel, a 22-term
congressman and the third-most-senior member of the House, trailed state
Sen. Adriano Espaillat, bidding to become the first Dominican-American
member of Congress.
Rangel, one of the founders of the
Congressional Black Caucus, drew criticism last month when he dismissed
the 59-year-old Espaillat as a candidate whose only accomplishment was
to be a Dominican in a majority Latino district.
Two years ago, Rangel prevailed in the primary by fewer than 1,100 votes.
Congress’ abysmal public approval ratings, incumbents have largely
prevailed midway through the primary season — with two notable
Little-known college professor Dave Brat knocked out
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s Republican primary this
month, and Republican Rep. Ralph Hall, 91, lost in a Texas runoff to a
younger Republican.
McDaniel declared as he voted Tuesday, "We are
here, we’re going to fight for our belief system no matter what, and
we’re going to reclaim Washington, D.C., one race at a time."
and his allies, including former Gov. Haley Barbour, highlighted his
decades on the Appropriations Committee and his work directing billions
in federal dollars to his home state, one of the poorest in the nation.
That resonated with Jeanette Tibbetts, a 73-year-old retiree.
a ninth-generation Mississippian. … How can you live in south
Mississippi and not see Thad’s evidence?" asked Tibbetts, who voted in
Hattiesburg on Tuesday.
Stanley D. Johnson, 55, of Byram, a family
and marriage counselor who served 25 years in the Air Force, said he
voted for Cochran "because he’s not a tea party member."
don’t appear to be very inclusive of minorities," said Johnson, who is
black and described himself as politically conservative.
Cochran appeal to non-Republicans infuriated McDaniel and prompted tea
partyers — as well as the NAACP and the Justice Department — to keep
tabs on who was voting in Mississippi. State officials also were
observing the voting.
Officials said more absentee ballots had
been requested for Tuesday’s elections than the June 3 first round of
voting, suggesting turnout might be heavier thanks to outside groups’
efforts to motivate allies. McDaniel finished first in that round, but
he was short of the majority needed for nomination.
groups, from tea party organizations to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
have spent some $12 million on the race. Former Green Bay Packers
quarterback — and Gulfport, Mississippi, native — Brett Favre called the
76-year-old Cochran a "proven and respected leader" in one Chamber ad.
41, an attorney and former radio host, has the strong backing of former
vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the tea party movement,
which sees his political approach as a change from a Washington status
quo of mainstream conservatives willing to compromise.
Phipps, a 42-year-old public school teacher from Taylorsville, voted for
McDaniel. "I think we need some new blood," Phipps said.
In the
campaign, McDaniel has had to distance himself from past controversial
remarks that he uttered about Hispanics and blacks on his radio
The runoff winner will face Democrat Travis Childers, a former congressman, in the heavily Republican
Colorado, former Rep. Bob Beauprez won the crowded primary that
included 2008 presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, an immigration
opponent. That was welcome news to national Republicans who fear that
Tancredo could be a drag on the GOP ticket in November. The winner will
face Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
In Maryland, Lt. Gov.
Anthony Brown won the Democratic primary for governor as the state chose
a successor to outgoing Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is
considering a 2016 presidential bid. If elected in the
Democratic-leaning state, Brown would make history as one of the few
African-American governors; Massachusetts’ Deval Patrick is retiring.
reported from Mississippi. AP writers Jack Elliott in Morton,
Mississippi, Jeff Amy in Taylorsville, Mississippi, Alex Sanz in
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
and Philip Elliott in Washington contributed.