YEAR IN REVIEW: Senate Showdown - - Jackson, MS

YEAR IN REVIEW: Senate Showdown

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Mud slinging and party politics were taken to a new level during the 2014 U.S. Senate election. 

A divide in the Republican party deepened over the course of several months. It was six term incumbent Thad Cochran versus Tea-Party backed state senator Chris McDaniel.

The Washington Post called it the "nastiest primary in the country." Things took a strange turn in May when blogger Clayton Kelly was arrested. 

He labeled himself as a Chris McDaniel supporter. He allegedly snapped a picture of Senator Cochran's wife at St. Catherine's Village on Easter. 

Investigators said in court that he used the picture in a YouTube video.

"Showed a picture of her in her residence at St. Catherine's Village, in her bed, in a state of unconsciousness is what it appeared," described Madison County Sheriff's Department Investigator Viki Currie.

Chris McDaniel denied any knowledge of the scheme.

"He was a lone wolf," said McDaniel. "He was doing this on his own. It's despicable. He has to pay the price for doing it and we hope that happens."

Three other men were later arrested for conspiracy in the case. Cochran never went into much detail about his reaction.

"It's an unfortunate, sort of bizarre incident," Cochran said to reporters during a campaign stop. "But it's being handled by authorities. And I'm trusting their good judgement and the system to be fair with her and with other who are involved."

There was record turnout at the polls, despite the photo scandal. But the Senate showdown didn't end with primary day. 

It was forced into a runoff. That meant another three weeks of non-stop campaigning and political ads. 

Thad Cochran won out by nearly 7,000 votes. But Chris McDaniel refused to concede election night. He instead launched an investigation of the election results.

"It's our job to make sure that the sanctity of the vote is upheld," explained McDaniel from the podium. "Before this race ends, we have to be absolutely certain that the republican primary was run by republican voters."

McDaniel criticized the Cochran campaign's tactics of reaching out to Democrats in the runoff. 

Those crossover and irregular votes became the focus over the course of the next four months. McDaniel launched an official election challenge. 

In a binder filled with nearly 250 pages, McDaniel also alleged race bating and vote buying. 

The challenge was dismissed in trial court, so his attorney's filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court.

The court wasn't charged with deciding if the election was a fair one. Instead, they were asked whether McDaniel waited too long to file his challenge.

His attorney Mitch Tyner's gave this conclusion in court.

"There is no deadline in which to file his challenge," Tyner argued.

Cochran's attorneys disagreed, saying there was a 20 day deadline and McDaniel waited 41 days to file.

"Senator Cochran has complete faith in the Mississippi Supreme Court will confirm the ruling of the trial court," described Cochran's attorney Mark Garriga. "And we're glad that this will soon be behind us we hope."

Finally, the Court ruled that Chris McDaniel waited too long and did not revive the election challenge.

Thad Cochran went on to defeat Democrat Travis Childers in the general election. 

Chris McDaniel is chairman of the state Senate Elections Committee. He has said he will continue to fight for election integrity and conservative values in Mississippi.

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