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GOP chair criticizes Hosemann over Wade decision

State GOP Chairman Arnie Hederman has sent a letter to Republican Executive Committee Members criticizing Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann's challenge and vote to remove Todd Wade from the ballot in a North Mississippi Senate race. The letter:

TO: Mississippi Republican Party State Executive Committee Members

FROM: Arnie Hederman, Chairman, Mississippi Republican Party

As a member of the Mississippi Republican Party State Executive Committee you voted to certify Todd Wade's candidacy as our Republican nominee for State Senate District 9 (Lafayette, Tallahatchie, Yalobusha Counties). Wade sought the Senate seat currently held by Democrat incumbent State Senator Gray Tollison.

Todd’s qualifications, and therefore your certification, were challenged by the Secretary of State's office on September 9th. On September 13th the Secretary of State and Attorney General voted to remove Todd Wade from the general election ballot.

The Secretary of State has the same right as any citizen to challenge the qualifications of any individual candidate, but it should have been done in a timely fashion according to Mississippi Code Section 23-15-963. As Chairman, it is my responsibility and duty to defend the Party's interest in this case. This is not about Todd Wade, but a matter of election law and due process. The Election Commission's 2-1 vote to remove a certified candidate from the ballot is unprecedented and unfair to all political parties and candidates. The State Executive Committee correctly certified Todd Wade; Governor Haley Barbour and Lt. Governor Phil Bryant agreed with your decision by voting to allow Todd to stay on the ballot.

Since you sit on the Committee that initially certified Todd Wade, I wanted to provide you with the events leading up to Todd's removal from the ballot, as well as the section (below) from the Mississippi Code related to contesting candidates in the general election.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at (601) 368-8455 or my cell (601) 941.0094.

Mississippi Code (full code attached)

(1) Any person desiring to contest the qualifications of another person who has qualified pursuant to the provisions of Section 23-15-359, Mississippi Code of 1972, as a candidate for any office elected at a general election, shall file a petition specifically setting forth the grounds of the challenge not later than thirty-one (31) days after the date of the first primary election set forth in Section 23-15-191, Mississippi Code of 1972. Such petition shall be filed with the same body with whom the candidate in question qualified pursuant to Section 23-15-359, Mississippi Code of 1972.

Timeline of Todd Wade’s Candidacy

May 2, 2011 – Mississippi Republican Party notified of Todd Wade’s interest in becoming a candidate for Mississippi Senate in District 9.

May 13, 2011 – Todd Wade qualifies with the Mississippi Republican Party as a candidate for Mississippi Senate in District 9.

May 30, 2011 – Mississippi Republican Party staff seeks independent confirmation of Wade’s voter registration and residency in the district. Magellan Strategies BR, LLC, provides voter file data to show that Wade is a registered voter in Senate District 9.

June 1, 2011 – The qualifying deadline for candidates to run as Republicans for legislative office in 2011. A non-certified list of candidates is provided by e-mail, from Mississippi Republican Party staff, to the Secretary of State’s office at 5:08 PM.

June 3, 2011 – The Mississippi Republican Party State Executive Committee votes to certify the list of 2011 Republican legislative candidates. A final, certified list is provided to the Secretary of State’s office by Mississippi Republican Party staff, first by e-mail at 2:28 PM and later by hard copy.

June 6, 2011 – Robbie Vance, the Director of Elections Compliance at the Secretary of State’s office, contacts the Mississippi Republican Party staff seeking details on the residency and qualification status of several candidates, including incumbent legislators Bobby Shows and Scott DeLano. Vance speaks by telephone with Mississippi Republican Party staff, inquiring about Wade’s residency. Vance is provided with the information the Party received from Magellan Strategies BR, LLC, on May 30, 2011.

June 13, 2011 – The Secretary of State’s office sends a sample ballot to the Mississippi Republican Party for approval. The ballot includes Todd Wade as a candidate for State Senate District 9.

August 2, 2011 – Todd Wade is nominated by Republican primary voters in Lafayette, Yalobusha, and Tallahatchie counties as the party’s nominee for State Senate District 2. The 31-day window for challenges to Wade’s nomination, pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated § 23-15-963, begins.

September 2, 2011 – The 31-day window for challenges to Wade’s nomination, pursuant to Mississippi Code Annotated § 23-15-963, closes. The Mississippi Republican Party State Executive Committee, as the entity that certified Wade as a candidate, does not receive any petition challenging Wade’s nomination in the August 2, 2011, primary election. According to Mississippi Code Annotated §23-15-963, this “procedure set forth above shall be the sole and only manner in which the qualifications of a candidate seeking public office may be challenged prior to the time of his election.”

September 8, 2011 – Mississippi Republican Party staff is informed of an impending challenge to Todd Wade’s candidacy by the Secretary of State’s office. Wade, in consultation with his attorneys and after speaking directly with an employee of the Secretary of State’s office, provides a sworn affidavit declaring that he meets the constitutional requirements to hold the office to which he is seeking election.

September 9, 2011 – The State Board of Election Commissioners meets, voting to permit Wade to remain on the ballot and requiring him to provide proof that he should remain on the ballot by 5:00 PM on Tuesday, September 13. Wade’s attorneys argue that Mississippi Code Annotated § 23-15-963 is the “sole and only manner” that prescribes for the challenge of a party’s nominees, and that the 31-day window had closed without any such challenge being filed with the Mississippi Republican Party. Governor Haley Barbour asked the record to show that he strongly opposes removing anyone from the ballot.

September 12, 2011 – The Mississippi Republican Party receives a hand-delivered copy of a letter from the Secretary of State notifying Todd Wade of the hearing to be held at 5:00 PM on Tuesday, September 13, where Wade is asked to prove that he has been a qualified elector of the state for the required four years.

September 13, 2011 – A meeting of the State Board of Election Commissioners is held at 12:15 PM, during which the Members of the State Election Commission were provided with an affidavit from Carol Swilley, Rankin County Circuit Clerk, testifying that a lost or not entered voter registration record would not be listed as a registered voter in the SEMS system – the same system the Secretary of State's office used to provide their evidence that Todd Wade is not a registered voter. Acting Governor Phil Bryant votes to allow Wade to remain on the ballot because burden of proof should not be on the candidate. Attorney General Jim Hood and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann vote to remove Todd Wade from the ballot. It is declared that the Mississippi Republican Party has until 5:00 PM on the same day to provide a replacement candidate, or the Republican nomination shall remain vacant.

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