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Prominent outsider seeks rerun of Mississippi U.S. Senate primary

By Jonathan Kaminsky

(Reuters) - The prominent head of a political action committee has filed a complaint seeking a possible rerun of last month’s Mississippi U.S. Senate Republican primary race, which Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel lost amid accusations of illegal voting, an attorney said Monday.

The closely contested win by six-term U.S. Senator Thad Cochran, which has split Tea Party and establishment wings of the Republican Party in Mississippi, was certified last week by the state Republican party.

"We are very concerned about the integrity of the election process," said Christina Sirois, a lawyer for Shaun McCutcheon, who filed the complaint with the Mississippi Secretary of State's Office on Friday.

McCutcheon is known as the plaintiff in a landmark case in which the U.S. Supreme Court in April ruled that donors may give money to as many political candidates, parties and committees as they wish.

McCutcheon, who is also chairman of the Conservative Action Fund, a political action committee, asserts in his complaint that the election was tainted by illegal voting by Democrats.

His complaint mirrors allegations made by McDaniel, who last week asserted that more than 8,300 questionable votes cast in the June 24 runoff had been identified, in a race he lost by a margin of fewer than 7,700 votes.

McDaniel and his supporters allege that thousands of people voted in the Democratic primary on June 3 and then in the Republican runoff, which is illegal under Mississippi law.

Mississippi politics is broadly split along racial lines, with most blacks voting for Democrats and whites voting for Republicans. Cochran's campaign made a push to turn out black voters for the runoff after the incumbent finished a close second in the primary, in a move derided by McDaniel and his supporters.

Workers from both campaigns have over the past week sorted through election records in all 82 Mississippi counties. The Cochran camp has said it saw evidence of only a small number of questionable votes.

Representatives for the two campaigns and for the Secretary of State's Office did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky)

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