HATTIESBURG, Mississippi — The most closely watched campaign in the country will continue for another three weeks, as Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel and Sen. Thad Cochran head to a June 24 runoff in the Republican primary here. Neither candidate won a majority in Tuesday’s primary vote, but McDaniel’s margin of about 2,000 votes out of more than 300,000 votes cast was enough for the young state senator to declare his win “a historic moment” for Mississippi.
“Our fight is not over,” McDaniel told the crowd in the Hattiesburg Convention Center ballroom last Tuesday night, as votes continued to be counted. “Whether it’s tomorrow, or whether it’s three weeks from tonight, we will stand victorious.”
The runoff was forced because there were three candidates on the ballot and a little-noticed third candidate, businessman Thomas Carey, got nearly 5,000 votes — only 1.6 percent of the total, but enough to keep McDaniel below the crucial majority needed to avoid the runoff. Yet the result Tuesday was cause for celebration among Tea Party activists who have spent months campaigning to defeat the six-term incumbent Cochran.