- Associated Press - Friday, July 18, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel said Friday that other Republicans used “race-baiting” to hurt him in a U.S. Senate primary, and the GOP needs to be “purged” of people who use racially inflammatory campaign techniques against members of their own party.

McDaniel lost the Republican primary runoff last month to six-term U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, but he has not conceded. McDaniel says he intends to challenge that loss, and his campaign is still examining ballot boxes and poll books to seek voting irregularities.

In an interview Friday on “Focal Point,” a talk-show on American Family Radio in Tupelo, McDaniel criticized Cochran’s campaign and political action committees that supported the incumbent.

“They hired Democratic operatives to go out into Democratic communities and call me a racist,” McDaniel told host Bryan Fischer. “That’s despicable. It’s the scarlet letter that they know works in society. It’s the way Democrats campaign. It’s the way liberals campaign.”

McDaniel, a tea party-backed candidate, made sharp reduction of federal spending a centerpiece of his campaign. He criticized ads that ran on black radio stations before the June 24 runoff that said he would cut programs such as food stamps if he were elected.

“It goes to show that there are elements within our own party that have to be purged,” McDaniel said Friday. “There are elements within our own party that have no business being Republicans. Republicans should not behave in that fashion.”

The Cochran campaign has said many times in the past several weeks that it sought to increase turnout from a wide range of voters, including African-Americans, after Cochran finished behind McDaniel in the June 3 primary. With a third candidate on the ballot, nobody received a majority needed to win, so the race went to a runoff three weeks later.

“Sen. Cochran received tremendous support from the African-American community in Mississippi because of a 40-year relationship built on respect and fairness,” Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell told The Associated Press Friday in response to McDaniel’s radio interview.

“If Chris McDaniel had asked African-Americans to vote for him rather than complaining about them participating in the process, he might have won the election,” Russell said.

Campaign finance records show that Mississippi Conservatives PAC, which was backed by Republican former Gov. Haley Barbour, gave almost $145,000 to All Citizens for Mississippi, a PAC that helped turn out black voters to support Cochran.

“Because of the race baiting, because of all the nasty things they said about me and conservatives in this state, they pushed more than 40,000 Democrats into the Republican runoff,” McDaniel said Friday.

Mississippi voters do not register by party. State law bans people from voting in one party’s primary and the other party’s runoff in the same election cycle. The only people prohibited from voting in the June 24 Republican runoff were those who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary.

McDaniel is in his third year as chairman of the state Senate Elections Committee, and he has not pushed for legislation to create party registration or closed primaries.

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