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Miss. race grabs top buzz amid primaries

– Strange, unsavory twists in Mississippi’s Senate Republican race are grabbing the most attention of Tuesday’s primary elections in eight states.

Sen. Thad Cochran, seeking a seventh six-year term, faces state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who’s backed by tea party groups.

Voters in Alabama, California, Iowa, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota also will nominate candidates for the Nov. 4 elections.

Things turned bizarre in Mississippi when four McDaniel supporters were charged with crimes after one of them photographed Cochran’s wife in her nursing home, where she has spent 13 years, suffering dementia.

Police said the four men conspired to use the images to advance allegations Cochran was having an inappropriate relationship, which the senator denies. McDaniel and others have raised questions about Cochran bringing a female Senate aide on numerous official trips overseas.

Cochran’s adult children say he remains devoted to his wife. McDaniel says he had no part in the photography incident.

Still, the matter has dominated the campaign’s closing days, with each side accusing the other of underhanded politics.

In Iowa, a much more competitive state, voters will pick nominees to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin.

Rep. Bruce Braley is unopposed for the Democrats’ nod. In the feisty GOP race, state Sen. Joni Ernst faces businessman Mark Jacobs. Ernst’s TV ad boasting of her childhood farm chore, castrating hogs, made national waves.

In South Dakota, businessman Rick Weiland is unopposed in the Democratic primary to replace retiring Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D. Former Gov. Mike Rounds and four others seek the GOP nomination. Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard seeks another term. Former state wildfire agency head Joe Lowe and state Rep. Susan Wismer seek the Democratic nod for governor.

In Montana, Sen. John Walsh was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Democrat Max Baucus. He faces two challengers in the Democratic primary. Rep. Steve Daines and two others seek the GOP nomination.

California is holding its first gubernatorial primary under the new all-candidates system in which the top two finishers, regardless of party, face off in November.

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