Tuesday, August 5, 2014
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that there are no second acts in American lives. Clearly, he had never met State Sen. Chris McDaniel.
On Aug. 4, McDaniel commenced Act III of the comedy-drama known as the Republican Senate primary by formally challenging the results of the June 24 runoff against U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. McDaniel campaign lawyer Mitch Tyner said they filed the challenge with the state executive committee of the Republican Party.
"This is it," Tyner said, holding up a large binder of evidence he later supplied to the media. "And we're not done, yet. We've got a couple courthouses (where) we still don't have their information. But we'll supplement it."
McDaniel, standing with his attorney at the Tyner Law Firm in north Jackson, said Republicans supporting Cochran moved more than 40,000 Democrats into the Republican primary, some of whom admitted they would not support the Republican candidate in the general election.
"What we're going to show is a pattern of conduct on the part of a number of people that demonstrates a problem with this election. The evidence is clear," McDaniel said.
The three-inch binder of evidence is stuffed with affidavits from McDaniel volunteers and other operatives, printouts of social-media comments ostensibly proving that people voted illegally in the runoff, and news clippings.
In the official complaint, McDaniel takes aim at Hinds County, saying that examples of "fraudulent voting, insecure ballot boxes and election records and other violations" from the state's most populous county sullied the results of the runoff.
"If the Hinds County results are included in the statewide results, they contaminate the entire runoff election. They destroy the integrity of the runoff election and make the will of qualified Republican electors impossible to determine. For that reason alone, the Hinds County results must be excluded from the statewide results," he wrote.
Between the June 3 primary and the runoff three weeks later, Cochran received about an 8,000-vote bump, with about half of those coming from Hinds County. Speaking Monday at the Stennis Press Luncheon in Jackson, Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef said the party would appoint a four-member panel to review McDaniel's challenge, which he admits is unprecedented.
Pete Perry, chairman of the Hinds County Republican Party, said McDaniel's allegations are made up out of whole cloth.
"I think it shows his idiocy," Perry told the Jackson Free Press this afternoon. "I think the numbers that he put in his complaint are wrong. I think the facts that he put in about Hinds County are totally wrong. I think it conflicts even with what his person found when they sat through the examination. No, I don't think. I know."
At the Monday press conference, McDaniel expressed distaste in how the Republican Party used race to sway votes in the primary. "There is no place in the Republican Party for race-baiting," McDaniel said.
McDaniel also acknowledged the frustration he and his supporters have felt throughout the process of challenging the election and said he was able to leave his emotions out of the investigation by hiring objective lawyers like Tyner. McDaniel said the evidence has supported his claims.
"The facts, they're on our side," McDaniel said. "This is an opportunity for our party to take the lead on honest, good and transparent government."
Tyner said they found 3,500 crossover votes, 9,500 irregular votes and 2,275 problematic absentee ballots, which total over 15,000 votes that should not have been cast.
Additionally, Tyner said McDaniel won the Republican primary runoff by 25,000 votes.
"Chris McDaniel clearly won the Republican vote," Tyner said. "I say that very assuredly because that's what the mathematics show."
From here, the Republican Executive Committee will only hear the challenge for 10 days, after which the law requires the McDaniel campaign to seek judicial review. Tyner said he anticipates the committee will grant a hearing in a public forum and that they will not grant a new election, but will name McDaniel the winner.
"They will see that they have no choice but to recognize Chris McDaniel as the nominee of the Republican Party for the state of Mississippi for the United States Senate," Tyner said.
R.L. Nave contributed to this story.
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