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Unheralded candidate believes he played spoiler in Mississippi primary

By Jeremy Diamond, CNN
updated 6:39 PM EDT, Wed June 4, 2014
  • Thomas Carey had no chance of winning the GOP Senate primary
  • But he believes the small support he got prevented a clear winner
  • Sen. Thad Cochran and challenger Chris McDaniel will meet on June 24

(CNN) -- The top two contenders in Mississippi's too-close-to-call GOP Senate primary are headed for a runoff, and a businessman who finished a distant third in the balloting believes he played the spoiler.

Thomas Carey, a realtor from the town of Hernando -- which is not far from the Tennessee border -- captured less than 2 percent of the vote on Tuesday, according to the latest count.

It's not clear if the unheralded Carey actually took enough votes away from either Sen. Thad Cochran or state Sen. Chris McDaniel to delay the outcome. But it's possible Carey supporters may have been the reason there was no clear-cut winner.

He certainly thinks so.

"I was really shocked ... that my votes would keep either Senator Cochran or (McDaniel) from winning," Carey said Wednesday in an interview with CNN. "I really didn't expect it to be so close."

Cochran and McDaniel failed to reach the necessary 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff election, according to figures compiled by the Associated Press. Fewer than 2,000 votes separated the two and Carey received 4,800.

Carey said he knows who he'll vote for in three weeks, but won't endorse either candidate publicly.

But he did heartily endorse term limits for congressmen and senators. Cochran, who is 76, has held onto his Senate seat since first being elected in 1978.

Carey participated in the hotly contested race without raising any money and spent less than $2,000 from his own pocket, he said.

Instead, the former telephone installer touted his candidacy as a "faith-based campaign."

Voters will now head to the polls again June 24, prolonging a race defined by negative attack ads and a scandal involving Cochran's ailing wife.

New ads in nasty Mississippi GOP primary battle

Carey urged the rivals to stop the "backbiting" and focus on offering solutions to fix the economy during the likely three-week runoff campaign. He also hopes both men will fight to repeal Obamacare.

"They need to take those 2,500 pages and put them in the outhouse and put it to good use," Carey said.

McDaniel, who is backed by the tea party, represents the group's best chance at unseating a member of the Republican establishment after failing to unseat the majority of incumbents challenged in primary races this season.

As for Carey? He'll be back, he said, potentially in 2016 to challenge his own congressman, GOP Rep. Alan Nunnelee.

"I just believe we need a different voice in Washington," he said. "Once people get to Washington, they get brainwashed."

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