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Ala. group gets OK to file briefs in dispute over Miss. GOP primary victory by Sen. Cochran

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JACKSON, Mississippi — An Alabama-based group is filing legal arguments to support Chris McDaniel as he tries to overturn his Republican primary loss to six-term Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran.

The Mississippi Supreme Court granted permission Monday for Conservative Action Fund to file briefs. Justices said the group may participate in oral arguments Oct. 2, but only if it uses some time allotted to McDaniel.

Conservative Action Fund chairman Shaun McCutcheon has sent several emails since July calling Cochran's June 24 primary victory "illegitimate" and asking people to contribute money to his group to support McDaniel, a state senator with tea party backing.

"As you may know, I have already given $1,776 to Chris McDaniel, but the bills for filing our challenge are mounting," McCutcheon wrote in a July 16 email soliciting money.

However, as late as Monday, Conservative Action Fund did not show up on the Federal Election Commission website as either a direct contributor to the McDaniel campaign or an independent group spending money to promote him.

Certified results show Cochran defeated McDaniel by 7,667 votes in the runoff, three weeks after McDaniel had led a three-person primary. Cochran and his campaign say the incumbent won the runoff fairly by telling voters about his record in Washington.

McDaniel filed a lawsuit in mid-August, claiming the runoff was tainted by the participation of Democrats. The state does not require voters to register by party. The lawsuit asked a judge to either declare McDaniel winner of the Republican nomination or order a new runoff.

Judge Hollis McGehee dismissed McDaniel's lawsuit Aug. 29, saying it was filed too late. McDaniel is asking the Supreme Court to overturn McGehee's ruling.

Cochran's attorneys have a Wednesday deadline to file their arguments with the Supreme Court.

Mississippi election officials already have prepared a Nov. 4 general election ballot that lists Cochran as the Republican nominee, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers as the Democratic nominee and Shawn O'Hara as the Reform Party candidate.

State law says a new primary could be ordered even after someone wins the general election. If that were to happen, a new general election also would have to be held.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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