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Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville, Miss. / Rogelio V. Solis, AP

JACKSON, Miss. -- Challenger Chris McDaniel is offering $1,000 rewards for voter fraud evidence as he moves to overturn results of the June 24 Republican Senate primary he lost to incumbent Thad Cochran.

McDaniel is asking supporters for donations to fund up to 15 such bounties for evidence that leads to arrests and convictions and for help financing his challenge of the vote.

He claims Cochran and others stole the primary through vote buying and other skullduggery.

The Cochran campaign says the claims are baseless.

The contest was dubbed "the nastiest race in America" this midterm, as McDaniel and state and national Tea Party forces clashed with six-term incumbent Cochran and the state and national Republican establishment. Each side spent millions of dollars attacking the other.

"The most important issue here is maintaining the integrity of the electoral process here in Mississippi," McDaniel said in a statement Thursday.

Cochran spokesman Jordan Russell countered: "With each passing day and each new stunt, it becomes clearer and clearer that Chris McDaniel does not care about Mississippi, that he does not care about the integrity of the process, that he does not care about winning a majority in the Senate and keeping the seat in Republican hands in November.

"What Chris McDaniel cares about is himself. The only thing Chris McDaniel cares about is himself, actually."

Cochran defeated the state senator from Ellisville by about 6,800 votes in the June 24 runoff. McDaniel led the June 3 primary by fewer than 1,500 votes but lacked the majority needed to prevent the runoff. The winner will face Democratic former U.S. Rep Travis Childers and the Reform Party's Shawn O'Hara, a frequent candidate for many Mississippi offices.

For the runoff, which set a GOP primary turnout record, Cochran openly courted Democrats and independents. This drew cries of foul from McDaniel supporters and national Tea Party and conservative leaders and media. It's also brought accusations of Cochran buying votes in the African-American community and collusion with party election officials. Cochran's campaign denies doing anything beyond standard get-out-the-vote spending and work and says McDaniel has presented no evidence.

McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch said the campaign is in preliminary examinations of records in 51 counties has found more than 4,900 improper votes. Most of these are claimed to be people who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary then again in the Republican primary. Mississippi doesn't require party registration and has open primaries, but voters are prohibited from voting in one party's primary and another's runoff.

Fritsch said Thursday the campaign created the $1,000 rewards because it is hearing numerous reports of "all kinds of violations."

The campaign vows to turn over any evidence it receives to authorities, but Fritsch said he is unsure whether anyone from the campaign has talked to authorities at this point.

The Cochran campaign says McDaniel's claim of illegalities is baseless and his claim of thousands of questionable votes overblown - more likely to be "a few hundred votes total, statewide" out of 374,000 due to normal levels of clerical errors.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Miss. challenger offers bounty for vote fraud evidence

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