State Senator Chris McDaniel announced Tuesday that he was challenging his narrow Republican primary runoff loss to incumbent U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, claiming a “pattern of conduct” that should overturn the result. But a Meridian, MS Baptist pastor who previously had accused Cochran’s campaign of a vote-buying scheme to illegally turn out African American voters is now claiming that a McDaniel campaign staffer paid him to make the accusation.
In the June 24th runoff, Cochran received 194,932 votes and McDaniel 187,265. McDaniel has asserted that more than 15,000 of the votes cast were questionable or illegal, including many he says were cast by Democrats who were not legally allowed to vote in the GOP primary. He has asked the state Republican party to overturn the primary results and declare him the party’s Senate nominee. An interview included as part of the evidence his campaign released in support of the challenge now threatens to undermine the credibility of the challenge.
Days after the primary, Pastor Stevie Fielder told a conservative blogger that he had been hired by Cochran’s campaign to “offer blacks $15 each” to vote for the incumbent and got thousands of them to do so. Soon after, he changed his story, saying he had been asked to participate in such a scheme, but had not done so. The Cochran campaign acknowledged paying $300 to Fielder to reimburse him for get-out-the-vote expenses, but denied any vote-buying efforts.
Now, after Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) began investigating Fielder’s original claims, he says he was paid to lie. According to a Hood spokeswoman, Fielder told state investigators that he received $2,000 to give the false interview — and that the money came from a McDaniel campaign spokesman.
The McDaniel campaign did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about the allegations.