EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Tea party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel still isn't conceding to six-term Sen. Thad Cochran in the Mississippi Republican primary runoff, but some groups that spent millions supporting McDaniel are walking away.
McDaniel supporters are examining poll books to try to find people who voted in a Democratic primary June 3 and the Republican runoff Tuesday.
"This is being done to maintain the integrity of the election process and that a fair and honest election was held on behalf of all Mississippians," McDaniel said in a written statement Thursday.
Mississippi voters don't register by party, but state law bars a person from voting in one party's primary and the other party's runoff.
Cochran topped McDaniel by nearly 6,800 votes Tuesday after an expensive and hard-fought race in which tea party groups tried to unseat a former Appropriations Committee chairman. Cochran finished with 51 percent.
McDaniel criticizes Cochran for courting Democrats in a state where most blacks vote Democratic and most whites vote Republican. Turnout jumped in several majority-black counties, boosting Cochran.
Club for Growth, which spent more than $3.1 million to help McDaniel, acknowledges Cochran as the winner.
"We are proud of the effort we made in Mississippi's Senate race and we congratulate the winner," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said Wednesday. "We expect that Senator Cochran and others gained a new appreciation of voter frustration about the threats to economic freedom and national solvency."
McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch did not immediately return messages Thursday, and the campaign didn't say how many counties' roll books are being examined or how much an election appeal might cost, if there is one. Republican executive committees in each of the 82 counties have a July 7 deadline to certify the election results. State law says an appeal would begin with the state GOP executive committee.
Mississippi Tea Party chairwoman Laura Van Overschelde, who has been involved in the McDaniel campaign, said Thursday that workers think they have found nearly 800 instances of Hinds County residents marked as voting in the June 3 Democratic primary and Tuesday's Republican runoff. However, she provided no documentation to support that, and she would not say whether her number includes an error that county GOP officials acknowledge occurred with about 200 people at one precinct.
Pete Perry, the Hinds County Republican chairman and paid consultant for a political action committee that supported Cochran, said election workers in one precinct Tuesday improperly marked about 200 people as having voted June 3. He said they corrected the errors Tuesday by marking through the word "voted" in a June 3 column and rewriting it in the June 24 column. He said votes in that precinct will not be invalidated.
Perry said it's fine for McDaniel supporters, or others, to examine poll books to look for errors, "But I think it's bogus for them to come out here and give numbers that they know are bogus."
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