The Mississippi Senate Race Has Jumped the Shark

Days after Chris McDaniel formally challenged his loss to Sen. Thad Cochran in a Republican primary run-off, a McDaniel staffer is accused of paying someone to lie about a vote-buying scheme.

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When we last left the supposedly-over Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Mississippi, Tea Party candidate Chris McDaniel was challenging the results of a run-off he lost to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran.

McDaniel was accusing the Cochran campaign of relying on illegal votes from Democrats who had already cast ballots in their party's primary.

Now, the charges are flying against McDaniel's campaign – specifically its spokesman, Noel Fritsch.

The Clarion-Ledger reported Wednesday that a pastor named Steven Fielder accused Fritsch of paying him $2,000 to lie in an interview by claiming that a member of the Cochran campaign asked him to pay people to vote for the six-term senator.

Fielder's interview with blogger Charles Johnson on had been included in a 250-page stack of affidavits that the McDaniel filed as part of its election challenge to the Mississippi Republican Party State Executive Committee.

The Mississippi state attorney general, Jim Hood, told the Clarion-Ledger in an interview last week that Fielder had claimed he was paid to lie.

The newspaper confirmed with Hood's office that the person who paid Fielder was Fritsch, who did not specifically address the allegations in a statement to the Clarion-Ledger on Wednesday night.

"Charles Johnson paid for the texts & emails Cochran/Wicker staffer Saleem Baird sent that prove Cochran bought Democrat votes."

Contacted by The Wire on Wednesday, Fritsch sent along a longer version of that statement, referencing portions of the Fielder interview posted above and wondering whether Hood would issue a subpoena to Saleem Baird.

Charles Johnson paid for the texts and emails Saleem Baird - a Cochran and Wicker staffer - sent to Rev. Fielder that strongly suggest Cochran paid $15 for Democrat votes. Those texts and emails are consistent with Rev. Fielder's 20 minute interview in which he claimed Cochran staffers Amanda Shook and Kirk Sims paid $15 per vote on behalf of Thad Cochran, and we wonder whether Attorney General Hood will subpoena the emails and text messages the Cochran campaign's Saleem Baird sent to Rev. Fielder about buying votes.

All in all, quite the epilogue for a primary that was decided six weeks ago.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.