(CNN) – In another bizarre twist in the ugly showdown for the GOP Senate nomination in Mississippi, Chris McDaniel's campaign is on the defense Thursday after a few of its staffers were found locked inside a local courthouse.
McDaniel is the tea party-backed state senator who's challenging Thad Cochran for the incumbent senator's seat. He edged out Cochran by just 1,300 votes in Tuesday's primary, but since neither cracked 50% of the vote, they'll face off again in a runoff on June 24.
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As votes were tallied in Tuesday's primary, three McDaniel staffers were sent to the Hinds County Courthouse to monitor the election process. They gained access to the building early Wednesday morning and were subsequently locked in.
Mississippi GOP primary heads for runoff
As the story gained traction Thursday, McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch released a statement explaining that its staffers were granted access "through an open door after being directed by uniformed personnel."
"They were then locked inside the building," he said. "At this point they sat down and called the county Republican chairman, a close Cochran ally, to help them get out. Eventually a Sheriff's officer showed up and opened the door to let them out."
Spokesman Othor Cain said that the Sheriff's department just concluded their investigation, launched Wednesday, into the incident. He said they found no reason to believe any criminal activity took place, and the staffers were there to assist in the vote count.
He said that it appeared as though they accessed to the building through an employee entrance that was propped open or malfunctioning. Upon realizing the building was empty, they tried to leave but found themselves locked inside.
The ugliest primary in the country
The apparent mishap is the latest turn in the winding saga in the race - deemed a high-profile tea party vs. establishment showdown.
Last month, political blogger Clayton Kelly, a McDaniel supporter, was arrested for obtaining an image of Cochran's wife, who suffers from dementia and has lived in a nursing home for 14 years. Police charged three more men in connection with the scandal.
McDaniel's camp has fiercely denied any involvement in the plot, and so far there has been no tangible evidence that links the campaign directly to Kelly.
In Hinds courthouse controversy, the McDaniel campaign accused Cochran supporters of ginning up buzz over the issue for political gain.
"Predictably, a close Cochran ally wants to make hay out of this," Fritsch said. "Sadly, the Cochran campaign wants to make this election about anything but issues. Mississippians deserve better than this sort of distraction politics."
Hinds county is part of the Jackson metropolitan area. The area turned out for Cochran in the June 3 primary.
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These GOP trash is so funny, world is laughing at these animals. Leave this Berdahl alone. GOP trash no one has credence.
Sound like a tactic in Iran or Syria, not America
While democrats are MASSIVELY plagued with scandals.
Vote the dems 0ut before its to late they are not for the working man or woman ! just trix and lies and broken promises and more penny candy for a vote .
I'm sure they didn't tamper with any votes whatsoever. Riiiiiiight.
I never thought I'd ever be rooting for a long-time incumbent GOP senator from Mississippi, but here we are. The Tea Party is on the verge of taking over the Texas state government as it is.
Thad Cochran , another Scott Walker clown in a kock brothers suit .
Until the GOP buys a bag of brains from a wino , they will never have any humility , only arrogance .
It is just sad!
Thank GOD I don't live in Mississippi! But then, I have Chris Christie as my Governor. The vindictive, sarcastic S.O.B. who runs all over the country for Republican causes. How about taking care on New Jersey Fat Boy? Shouldn't be too hard to find me if you want to discuss this.
Seems like a fire code violation. Well, it is Mississippi.
Instead of manufacturing false `voter fraud" claims as a pretext to discriminate against minority voters, it would seem the Republicans should be more focused on policing their own people so that they don`t engage in ballot stuffing and manipulation.
So what was McDainels staff doing in the Courthouse. Stuffing the ballot box? change the vote tally. Just what were they doing?