It’s official; Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel is challenging the results of the June 24 runoff, where incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran won by 7,667. Yet, his victory has been marred by allegations of vote buying and dirty political tactics revolving around racially charged radio ads.

According to Politico, McDaniel will make his case to the 52-member central committee of the state GOP to declare him the winner, whilst keeping the option to settle this matter into the courts. All of the evidence will be submitted to the committee outlining how Sen. Cochran allegedly stole the race from him.

As National Review’s Eliana Johnson wrote before the first bout in the Mississippi primary, the Hospitality State is anything but when it comes to politics. A major point of contention within this debacle surrounds racially charged ads that McDaniel supporters say smeared the senator.

So, who released them? Last month, Johnson reported:

The political-action committee that aired the ads raised eyebrows from the outset.

For one thing, it had the same address, phone number, e-mail domain, and leader — the bishop Ronnie Crudup — as the Jackson-based New Horizon Church International. Crudup told Mississippi’s Clarion-Ledger earlier this month that he founded the PAC and raised $200,000: “Some money from the Republicans,” some from African Americans. “I raised money from a number of sources,” he said.

As it turns out, Crudup raised all of the $144,685 his PAC took in from exactly one source: Haley Barbour’s political machine. A report filed with the Federal Election Commission reveals that Mississippi Conservatives, the political-action committee founded by the former Mississippi governor and Republican National Committee chairman and run by his nephew, Henry, provided that money to Crudup’s group in four installments. The first, in the amount of $62,685, came on June 10, a week after the race was thrown into a runoff. Cochran and his allies were looking to increase voter turnout across the state, particularly among African Americans and Democrats who had not voted in the June 3 primary.

Barbour’s PAC paid an Atlanta-based Democratic consultant, Mitzi Bickers, $44,000 for “phone services.” Barbour previously told National Review Online that he paid Bickers far more for live calls than for robo-calls and that he had not heard the automated call that went out. Asked to provide a copy of it, he did not.

Then again, it now seems was this radio offensive was the brainchild of a few elderly Democratic women? (via Washington Examiner):

 A Democratic activist has claimed responsibility for controversial radio ads that attempted to tie Mississippi Senate candidate Chris McDaniel to the Ku Klux Klan.

Ruth Harris, 65, of Jackson, Miss., said she and five other like-minded Democratic women pooled their resources to fund three radio spots urging voters to support Sen. Thad Cochran over McDaniel, a state senator, in Mississippi’s contentious June 24 GOP primary runoff.

Harris’ claim counters charges leveled by the McDaniel campaign that the Republican Establishment and GOP operative Henry Barbour were responsible for the ads.

In a telephone interview with the Washington Examiner on Monday morning, Harris said she has never met Barbour and doesn’t know how he ended up being linked to the radio ads. Harris also said she has never met either former Gov. Haley Barbour, Henry Barbour’s uncle, or Austin Barbour, Henry Barbour’s brother who advised the Cochran campaign.

“It was a group of ladies and I,” she said. “I don’t know how the Barbours even got [mentioned.] I’ve never met any of them.”

Well, the McDaniel campaign isn’t buying it. Noel Fritsch, McDaniel’s campaign spokesman, said in an email to the Washington Examiner that “Democrat activists don’t spend their own money in Republican primaries, and one way or another Republicans who engaged in this reprehensible behavior will be held accountable.”

I know some media outlets are calling McDaniel “the defeated Tea Party candidate that won’t go away,” but we shouldn’t fault his campaign for being furious about these ads; their candidate was being compared to the KKK and saying that he will go backwards on “race relationships between blacks and whites and other ethnic groups.” It’s outrageous. Sen. Ted Cruz even thought there should be an investigation into everything that went on during the runoff.

We shall see what happens now that a challenge has been filed. Shortly after the Fourth of July, the Associated Press reported that the window to settle this dispute was closing–and money is an issue for McDaniel; he reportedly doesn’t have the funds for a legal fight:

Money is a problem, too. Even after the Senate Conservatives Fund wired McDaniel $70,000 for his challenge, he begged for money. “We don’t currently have the resources to mount the legal challenge that this case deserves,” McDaniel wrote Wednesday in the latest of several emails soliciting donations.

State law and state history also make a successful challenge by McDaniel a long shot at best.

Mississippi law requires McDaniel to file his first election challenge with the state Republican executive committee. His campaign attorney, Mitch Tyner, said that is likely to happen next week. Ten days later, McDaniel could file a lawsuit in any county where he believes problems occurred. The state Supreme Court would appoint a special judge.

The general-election sample ballot must be given to local election officials by Sept. 10, which is 55 days before the Nov. 4 general election. That squeezes the time for a lawsuit and a new primary runoff.

I’m still convinced we need a little more time to flesh out the details regarding this fiasco.

UPDATE: The Clarion-Ledger reported earlier today that a Democratic operative called a Mississippi radio station repeatedly to make an ad buy, which turned out to be the radio spots in question:

The owner of a Canton radio station says that Democratic political operative Greg Brand contacted the station multiple times to discuss a campaign buy that ended up being controversial ads linking GOP primary challenger Chris McDaniel and the Ku Klux Klan.

Jerry Lousteau, who owns WMGO, said Brand called him just a few days before the June 24 primary runoff and asked if he could still make an ad purchase. Lousteau said he has never met Brand but had talked to him several times in relation to the Chancery Clerk special election. Brand was supporting and assisting then-Supervisor Ronnie Lott, who won the seat.

Lousteau said if Brand is denying talking to him or talking to his office manager about the ads, “then he is lying.”

Here’s a clip of the ad courtesy of the Ledger.

UPDATE II: Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is saying that Stephen Fielder, the man who gave evidence of vote buying, was paid $2,000 by McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch to make such claims; Fritsch has denied these allegations.

I reached out to Mr. Fritsch via email and he gave me this statement:

Charles Johnson [investigative reporter for gotnews.com] paid for the texts and emails Saleem Baird – a Cochran and Wicker staffer – sent to Rev. Fielder that strongly suggest Cochran paid $15 for Democrat votes. Those texts and emails are consistent with Rev. Fielder’s 20 minute interview in which he claimed Cochran staffers Amanda Shook and Kirk Sims paid $15 per vote on behalf of Thad Cochran, and we wonder whether Attorney General Hood will subpoena the emails and text messages the Cochran camp sent to Rev. Fielder about buying votes.​

UPDATE III: Today, Aaron Gardner over at RedState wrote his take on this development.  He also cites Johnson’s piece and Greg Brand contacting the radio station (see previous updates above) to make the case that this wasn’t “a few elderly women pooling the change from their sofas to launch one of the most offensive and racist group of political ads in the 2014 election cycle.”  It certainly raises questions.

UPDATE IV:  Missisippi GOP won’t hear the McDaniel campaign’s challenge to the runoff results (via Fox News):

Chris McDaniel campaign officials said Wednesday they will continue to contest Mississippi’s Senate Republican primary election after the state’s GOP said it won’t hear the Tea Party-backed candidate’s challenge.

The party’s decision almost certainly means that the McDaniel campaign will file a challenge in circuit court.

But Joe Nosef, the chairman of the state’s GOP, said Wednesday that the organization is incapable of reviewing the election.

“It is neither prudent nor possible in a single day for any political committee to process and review the significant amount of complex evidence necessary to make such a decision, and attempting to do so would be prejudicial to both candidates,” Nosef said in a statement.

Mitch Tyner, the lead attorney for the McDaniel campaign, said the candidate was “very disappointed” by the party’s decision.