Chris McDaniel files challenge over Mississippi GOP runoff loss

ELLISVILLE, MS - JUNE 24: Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel talks with members of the media after casting his ballot at the George Harrison Building on June 24, 2014 in Ellisville, Mississippi. Tea Party-backed republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Mississippi State Sen Chris McDaniel is battling against incumbent U.S. Sen Thad Cochran (R-MS) in a tight race. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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JACKSON, Miss. -- A tea party-backed candidate is formally challenging his loss to U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the Mississippi Republican primary.

State Sen. Chris McDaniel announced on his website Monday that he had filed a challenge with the Mississippi GOP state executive committee over Cochran's June 24 runoff victory.

McDaniel will have to prove there were enough illegally cast votes to change the outcome or the election was so sloppily handled its result is in doubt.

McDaniel has called the runoff a sham and excoriated Cochran for seeking votes from Democrats. Mississippi voters don't register by party, but it is against state law to vote in one party's primary and another party's runoff in the same cycle.

Certified results show Cochran won by 7,667 votes, or 51 percent.

Cochran's campaign courted black voters, most of whom traditionally vote Democratic in Mississippi. Turnout in majority-black counties grew by 43 percent from the June 3 Republican primary to the June 24 runoff, while in majority-white counties, it grew 17 percent.

In a statement released in June, McDaniel said his team would be examining "irregularities" in the voting data, saying, "We must be absolutely certain that our Republican primary was won by Republican voters."

Conservative groups like FreedomWorks backed McDaniel in calling for a challenge.

"What I would like to say is he stole it fair and square," Adam Brandon, the executive vice president of FreedomWorks told CBS News Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes. "In Mississippi the Republican primary is open for Democratic voters. And he turned them out in droves because he knew he could not turn out Republicans and conservatives to win his primary."

In a July email to supporters, McDaniel asked for contributions to an "Election Challenge Fund" to "help me contest this corrupt election."

"We have a long fight ahead of us. I know exactly how long and frustrating court battles can be, but I believe this will be worth it," he wrote. "There is too much at stake to back down from this fight. The problem is that court cases are expensive, and we don't currently have the resources to mount the legal challenge that this case deserves."

Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell said the campaign is aware of McDaniel's notice to challenge, and attorneys are discussing it. "This challenge is baseless. It's not going anywhere," Russell said. "The voters made a decision, and it's over."

Separately, the Clarion-Ledger reported that voter integrity organization True the Vote is suing the Mississippi Secretary of State for alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act, including being denied access to voting records. Thirteen plaintiffs joining True the Vote in the suit are all McDaniel supporters.

Mississippi has no formal procedure in place for a recount.