WASHINGTON — Locked in a squeaker of a race, Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran and Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel pointed toward a possible June 24 runoff after battling to a near-draw Tuesday in a primary that underscored Republican differences.
Unofficial returns from 99 percent of the state's precincts showed McDaniel with slightly over 50 percent of the vote in a three-way race and Cochran with 49 percent. All but nine precincts had reported. It takes a majority by one candidate to avoid a runoff.
"For too long, we've been silent. For too long, we sat still. For too long, we let them have their way with us," McDaniel told supporters late Tuesday in a slap at the Washington establishment.
"It's looking like a runoff," conceded Rep. Gregg Harper, addressing a crowd of Cochran supporters.
The Mississippi contest overshadowed races in seven other states, several of which sent GOP establishment-backed candidates into fall campaigns for Senate seats that Republicans have targeted in their drive to gain six seats and a majority.