Three weeks later, Cochran edges upstart GOP challenger

Senator Thad Cochran held off a challenge from Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel. Cochran took 51 percent of the vote.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Senator Thad Cochran held off a challenge from Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel. Cochran took 51 percent of the vote.

WASHINGTON — Two long-serving members of Congress appeared to fight back political challenges in primaries Tuesday, with six-term Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi edging out Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel and Representative Charles Rangel, a 22-term New York congressman, declaring victory over state Senator Adriano Espaillat.

Cochran beat McDaniel in a bruising, costly Republican runoff that pitted Washington clout against insistence on conservative purity.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Cochran had 51 percent to McDaniel’s 49 percent, three weeks after McDaniel had beaten the veteran lawmaker in the initial primary round but had fallen short of the majority needed for nomination. In the three-week dash to the runoff, Cochran and his allies had highlighted his seniority and Washington clout while McDaniel had argued that Cochran was part of a Washington blight of federal overspending.


The victory for a stalwart of the Senate Appropriations Committee was a fresh blow to the Tea Party movement, which spent millions to cast aside Cochran, a mainstream Republican who won a House seat in President Richard Nixon’s GOP wave of 1972 and has served in the Senate for more than three decades.

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Cochran and his allies, notably former governor Haley Barbour, promoted his Washington establishment credentials, focusing on the billions he funneled to his home state, one of the poorest in the nation. In a last-ditch effort, Cochran reached out to traditionally Democratic voters — blacks and union members — who could cast ballots in the runoff. That possible factor in Cochran’s victory is sure to be cited by critics in days to come.

In predominantly black neighborhoods of Hattiesburg’s south side, an organized effort for Cochran was evident. Ronnie Wilson, a 50-year-old unemployed Hattiesburg man, said he had been encouraged by his pastor to vote for Cochran.

‘‘They say the other guy is trying to cut food stamps and all that,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘I’m trying to look after the majority of people not working.’’

McDaniel had railed against the federal spending sprees by Cochran, but his calls to slash the budget unnerved some voters.


In New York’s Harlem and upper Manhattan, Rangel, the third-most-senior member of the House, held a slight edge over state Senator Adriano Espaillat, bidding to become the first Dominican-American member of Congress.

Rangel, 84, one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, drew criticism last month when he dismissed the Espaillat, 59, as a candidate whose only accomplishment was to be a Dominican in a majority Latino district.

Two years ago, Rangel prevailed in the primary by fewer than 1,100 votes.

The Mississippi and New York contests were the marquee national races on a busy June primary day that included Oklahoma, Colorado, Maryland, and Utah. In a special House election on Florida’s Gulf Coast, voters chose Republican businessman Curt Clawson to replace former Representative Trey Radel, who resigned in January after pleading guilty to cocaine possession.

In another setback for the Tea Party, two-term Representative James Lankford of Oklahoma won the GOP nomination in the race to succeed Senator Tom Coburn, who is stepping down with two years left in his term. In the solidly Republican state, Lankford is all but assured of becoming the next senator. Part of the House GOP leadership, Lankford defeated T.W. Shannon, a member of the Chickasaw Nation and the state’s first black House speaker, backed by former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.


In Colorado, former representative Bob Beauprez won the crowded gubernatorial primary that included 2008 presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, an immigration opponent. That was welcome news to national Republicans who feared that Tancredo could be a drag on the GOP ticket in November. Beauprez will face Governor John Hickenlooper.

In Maryland, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown won the Democratic primary for governor as the state chose a successor to Governor Martin O’Malley, who is considering a 2016 Democratic presidential bid.