WASHINGTON – Several pending legal battles are emerging in connection with the dramatic Mississippi Republican Senate race, including a lawsuit FoxNews.com is told is being prepared by the family of a local Tea Party leader who died in an apparent suicide days after the election.
The June 24 runoff race pitted six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran against Tea Party-backed challenger Chris McDaniel, after neither candidate clinched the GOP nomination in the June 3 primary. The runoff was called for Cochran.
McDaniel, though, has refused to concede and is trying to build a case to challenge the outcome over claims of voter fraud.
But on the sidelines, another legal battle is brewing over the death of Mark Mayfield, a real estate lawyer and vice president of the Central Mississippi Tea Party.
Last Friday, Ridgeland, Miss., police responded to a call from Mayfield’s wife. She directed police to a storage room, where they found Mayfield’s body, dead from a single gunshot wound to the head. A suicide note was reportedly found nearby.
Mayfield, a McDaniel supporter, was among those arrested in May over a plot to photograph Cochran’s wife, Rose, who suffers from progressive dementia and lives in a nursing home. He wasn’t accused of taking the illicit photo, but was accused of involvement in the scheme.
But Mayfield’s family claims his treatment was over the top and the arrest destroyed his professional life.
Mayfield’s family told The Clarion-Ledger they plan to sue the city of Madison, its police department and “anyone responsible” in the apparent suicide. Brother-in-law John Reeves also claimed his bond was set at a soaring $250,000.
The mayor of Madison is a Cochran supporter, and the family reportedly claims the arrest was politically motivated and an “abuse of power.” Mayfield’s funeral was held Tuesday.
The family declined to comment to FoxNews.com, but a source close to the McDaniel campaign confirmed that a lawsuit is in the works.
It’s not the only case pending.
Madison Assistant Police Chief Maj. Robert Sanders told FoxNews.com that his office, despite the threatened lawsuit, would continue to pursue a criminal investigation into the Cochran photo scandal.
A Cochran campaign spokesman, reached by FoxNews.com, stressed that “the police made the arrest” and the Cochran campaign had nothing to do with it.
Meanwhile, on the state level, the Tea Party and McDaniel’s campaign made clear they don’t plan to back down from a battle over the runoff itself.
McDaniel’s campaign claims thousands of people may have improperly voted in the race, by first voting in the Democratic primary on June 3 and then voting again, for Cochran, during the GOP runoff.
McDaniel announced Friday the launch of the “Election Integrity Challenge and Voter Fraud Reward” – basically, a bundle of $1,000 rewards the campaign says will be paid to anyone who provides evidence “leading to the arrest and conviction of individuals involved in voter fraud” in the race.
The Cochran campaign, though, is adamantly denying the claims and casting McDaniel as a sore loser.
“Chris McDaniel and a handful of national scam artists are trying to make something out of nothing,” Jordan Russell, a Cochran spokesman, told FoxNews.com.
Russell says all the GOP in-fighting is hurting the “overall cause.”
“Chris McDaniel doesn’t care about the party,” Russell said. “We won, they lost.”
But Noel Fritsch, a spokesman from the McDaniel campaign, said Cochran’s team is trying to use their Washington clout to steamroll over the conservative grassroots movement in Mississippi.
“The people here are livid,” he told FoxNews.com. “The tactics they employed are the politics of division. This isn’t the Republican Party we stand for or support.”