McDaniel campaign likely to challenge Mississippi runoff loss

Associated PressJuly 16, 2014 

JACKSON -- Lawyers for TEA Party candidate Chris McDaniel said Wednesday they intend, in the next 10 days, to file a challenge of McDaniel's loss to six-term U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in the Mississippi Republican primary.

Attorneys and advisers to McDaniel said they need more time to examine ballot boxes and poll books. They said they are seeking voting irregularities in the June 24 runoff. McDaniel did not appear at the event at attorney Mitch Tyner's office in Jackson, and it was not immediately clear where he was.

Certified results show Cochran won the June 24 runoff by 7,667 votes, or 51 percent.

Mississippi voters don't register by party, but it is a misdemeanor, under state law, to vote in one party's primary and another party's runoff in the same cycle.

Burden of proof

McDaniel would have to prove there were enough illegally cast votes to change the outcome or that the election was so sloppily handled its result is in doubt.

Austin Barbour, a senior adviser to the Cochran campaign, said they have heard enough.

"For three weeks, we've heard allegations that always turn out to be false or never backed up with facts," Barbour said in a news release. "We continuously hear after these allegations that there is evidence forthcoming -- just wait for … we promise, Now today they say we need more time -- in ten days we will be ready.

"As of today we are focusing on winning the general election in November and moving away from this circus."

Although the McDaniel campaign says it has found thousands of irregularities, including potential crossover votes, Tyner said the campaign still will not release any documents to back up its claims. He said documentation would be released upon the filing of a challenge.

"We're going to be mature about this," he said at a news conference attended by about 50 McDaniel supporters.

Tyner and Republican state Sen. Michael Watson of Pascagoula are two of the three attorneys working on behalf of McDaniel to seek access to poll books that include voters' birth dates, which they say they need to fully identify people.

Attorney General Jim Hood issued a nonbinding legal opinion Wednesday that voters' birth dates should be redacted, for privacy. He said each voter has a unique voter-identification number that can be used to differentiate people with similar names.

McDaniel would file a challenge with the Mississippi GOP executive committee, according to his lawyers. After about 10 days, they said, he would file a state court lawsuit seeking a new election.

Money where your mouth is

Toward the end of the McDaniel press conference, Tyner said the campaign was threatened by Circuit Clerk Joe Martin, who Tyner said wanted them to take him at his word that there were 24 crossover votes there or he would charge them $1 a page.

Martin said no threats were made but, "I love it when they talk about me; when they quit talking about you, you better be worried about it."

"I didn't threaten them," he said. "I told them what the law said. We follow the law. We also have a county policy that allows us to charge 50 cents a page … for whatever copies you make. Now the McDaniel campaign is not making any copies so we got by that."

He said the law -- and a judge's order filed Tuesday -- also allow him to charge for his deputies who have to be there as the records are examined.

"It wasn't a threat, it was a quote of the law that says it's not free," he said.

Paul Hampton, Sun Herald politics editor, contributed to this report.

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