Cochran’s opponent Chris McDaniel held a slight lead in statewide voting, at 49.6 percent of the Republican Primary vote and Cochran, a six-term incumbent garnered 48.9 percent in a very close race. Cochran took 54.1 percent of the vote in Chickasaw County with McDaniel tallying 44.86 percent.
The statewide margin was not settled Wednesday morning and could force a runoff June 24.
Democratic Senatorial candidate Travis Childers easily won his state primary with 74.1 percent of the vote. Childers took 87.97 percent of the vote in Chickasaw County.
Tea Party favorite McDaniel of Ellisville held an ever-so-slight slight lead over Cochran in Mississippi’s Republican senatorial primary late Tuesday night, but it appeared likely the two candidates would be forced into a runoff by a little-known third candidate – Thomas Carey — in their race.
To win the nomination, a candidate must garner a majority of the vote. As of Wednesday morning 99.5 percent of the state’s precincts had officially reported results.
If neither candidate reaches the majority threshold, McDaniel and Cochran, who has never received less than 60 percent of the vote in his five re-election efforts, will meet in a June 24 runoff in what has been a bruising Republican primary. Tuesday’s race was one of the closest major statewide races in history.
With 1,823 of 1,832 percents reporting, McDaniel had 151,842 votes, or 49.57 percent, to Cochran’s 149,714, or 48.88 percent. Hernando real estate agent Thomas Casey garnered just enough votes – 4,749, or 1.55 percent – to place the outcome in doubt.
Democratic nominee Childers had 61,702 votes, or 74.1 percent, while Bill Marcy of Vicksburg had 10,002, or 12 percent; William Compton of Meridian, 8,145, or 9.8 percent; and Jonathan Rawl of Oxford, 3,408, or 4.1 percent, with 1,823 of 1,832 precincts reporting.
Childers did limited radio advertising and met with key Democratic constituent groups before Tuesday’s primary. That was in sharp contrast to the Republican brawl where an estimated $12 million spent by the candidates and outside groups mostly on pointed television ads and telemarketing.
The Cochran campaign portrayed the 42-year-old McDaniel as a potential embarrassment for the state on the national level and claimed his actual votes in the Senate did not match his often over-the-top conservative rhetoric.
The McDaniel campaign chided Cochran as a Washington big spender, though others praised him for his ability to garner funds for the state, particularly to help rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
As expected McDaniel ran strong in his home county of Jones and around south Mississippi and traditional GOP DeSoto County. He also ran well on the Gulf Coast.
Cochran’s power base appeared to be the Delta and Tupelo. He won the majority of Northeast Mississippi counties.
Cochran, a Pontotoc County native, was first elected to the U.S. House in 1972, representing the Jackson area and southwest Mississippi. In 1978 he won with a plurality of the vote the Senate seat left open by the retirement of longtime incumbent Jim Eastland. In 1984, he won re-election with about 60 percent of the vote against former Gov. William Winter.
After that, the congenial Cochran never faced a serious challenge – until this election.
Bobby Harrison, of the Daily Journal Jackson Bureau, contributed to this story.