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Cochran holds off tea party challenge

June 25, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — Voters cast ballots Tuesday in primary elections in six states, plus a runoff in Mississippi. Highlights:

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TOP OF THE TICKET

In Mississippi’s often-bitter Republican contest, veteran Sen. Thad Cochran defeated state Sen. Chris McDaniel. The tea party-backed insurgent had channeled voters’ anti-Washington mood and forced a runoff. McDaniel offered no explicit concession, but instead complained of “dozens of irregularities” that he implied were due to Cochran courting Democrats and independents.

As he sought a seventh term, Cochran reached out to traditionally Democratic voters — blacks and union members — who were eligible to participate in the runoff. People who cast ballots in the June 3 Democratic primary could not vote in the runoff.

Cochran, 76, has sent billions of federal dollars to his poor state over a long career. His 41-year-old challenger said taxpayers could not afford that federal largesse.

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NEW LAWMAKER FOR NEW YORK?

Looking for a 23rd term, Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York worked to fend off a state senator who could become the first Dominican-born member of Congress. The race was too close to call early Wednesday, with an undetermined number of absentee and provisional ballots outstanding.

The 84-year-old Rangel, the third-most-senior member of the House, faced a rematch against state Sen. Adriano Espaillat in the district that includes Harlem and upper Manhattan. Two years ago, Rangel prevailed in the primary by fewer than 1,100 votes.

In this race, Rangel, one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, drew criticism when he said the 59-year-old Espaillat should tell voters “just what the heck has he done besides saying he’s a Dominican?”

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DOUBLE DIPPING IN OKLAHOMA

Both of Oklahoma’s Senate seats were on the ballot for the first time in recent history.

Sen. Jim Inhofe fended off minor challengers in the Republican primary in one of those contests.

In the other, two-term Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma won the Republican nomination in the race to succeed Sen. Tom Coburn, who is stepping down with two years left in his term. In a blow to the tea party movement, Lankford, a member of the House Republican leadership, defeated T.W. Shannon, a member of the Chickasaw Nation and the state’s first black House speaker.

National tea party groups and the Senate Conservatives Fund had backed Shannon, who also had the support of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Shannon, 36, had questioned if Lankford was sufficiently conservative. Lankford, 46, who is also a former Southern Baptist camp leader, supported bipartisan budget agreements and voted to increase the nation’s borrowing authority — favorite objections for tea party leaders.

Oklahoma has not elected a Democrat to an open Senate seat since David Boren in 1978, and Republicans were expected to hold it.

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COLORADO REPUBLICANS DIVIDED

Primary day was an all-Republican affair in Colorado, a reflection of how the party remains divided in that key state.

Former Rep. Bob Beauprez won the crowded primary that included another former congressman, Tom Tancredo, an immigration opponent. That was welcome news to national Republicans who feared that Tancredo would be a drag on the Republican ticket in November in a state with a growing Hispanic voting bloc. Beauprez faces Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

District Attorney Ken Buck, a former Senate candidate, defeated three other Republicans for the party’s nomination to replace Rep. Cory Gardner. The congressman passed on re-election to challenge Democratic Sen Mark Udall.

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SENATE CONTROL

Tuesday’s primaries were unlikely to affect the partisan makeup of the Senate.

Udall and Gardner were assured of their parties’ nominations. Their Nov. 4 contest will help determine whether Republicans can pick up the six seats they need to control the Senate next year.

Mississippi and Oklahoma are solidly Republican states, so winners of those primaries will be strongly favored in November.

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Associated Press writers Charles Babington in Washington, Nicholas Riccardi in Denver and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.

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