HATTIESBURG, Mississippi — State Sen. Chris McDaniel will challenge the results of the Tuesday runoff election, in which 41-year incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran won by about 6,400 votes, McDaniel announced to a room of supporters here at his victory party at the Hattiesburg Convention Center late Tuesday evening.
“I want to be very, very clear: There is nothing dangerous or extreme about wanting to balance a budget,” McDaniel said in a fiery speech to supporters. There is nothing dangerous or extreme about defending the Constitution or the civil liberties therein. There is nothing strange at all about standing as people of faith for a country that we built, that we believe in. But there is something a bit strange, there is something a bit unusual, about a Republican primary that’s decided by liberal Democrats.”
McDaniel said Cochran’s decision to seek Democrats to vote for him in the Republican primary runoff was un-Republican.
“So much for bold colors,” McDaniel said. “So much for principle. I guess they can take some consolation in the fact that they did something tonight by once again compromising, by once again reaching across the aisle, by once again abandoning the conservative movement. I would like to know which part of that strategy today our Republican friends endorse. I would like to know which part of that strategy today our statewide officials endorse. This is not the party of Reagan, but we’re not done fighting and when we’re done it will be.”
McDaniel said that Cochran’s actions mean the “conservative movement took a backseat to liberal Democrats” in Mississippi on Tuesday, something he argued can’t be allowed to stand as precedent. “In the most conservative state in the republic this happened and if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere–and that’s why we will never stop fighting,” McDaniel said.
After noting how Cochran and his allies spent “millions of dollars to character assassinate one of their own, or so it seemed,” McDaniel said “I’m still standing,” adding “we were right tonight.”
“As you know today, folks, there were literally dozens of irregularities reported all across this state,” McDaniel said. “You know why. You read the stories. You’re familiar with the problems that we have. Now it’s our job to make sure that the sanctity of the vote is upheld. Before this race ends, we have to be absolutely certain that the Republican primary was won by Republican voters. We will stand with courage, we will stand with judgment, we will stand with integrity. This is our fight, conservatives. This is necessary. We are not prone to surrender, we Mississippians. A strong and sturdy people we are, a brave people we are, a people that can still lead the conservative revival in this country. We will lead the resurgence. That begins right here in Mississippi.”
When State Sen. Michael Watson–one of McDaniel’s biggest supporters–introduced him onstage Tuesday evening, Watson referred to McDaniel as “the Republican nominee for United States Senate.”
In an interview by phone with Breitbart News late Tuesday evening after the McDaniel headquarters cleared out, state Democratic Party chairman Rickey Cole said McDaniel should challenge the election results. “Clearly there was some sloppiness to say the least, and probably some failures to comply with the law,” Cole told Breitbart News.
“I listened to some of McDaniel’s speech, and in a race this close I’m sure there are irregularities that ought to be looked into,” Cole said. “I’ve been around a lot of close elections in my life. I think the candidate owes it to his supporters to make sure that everything was done on the up and up.”
Cole said the most likely error in favor of Cochran could be where Democrats who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary were allowed to vote in the GOP primary runoff on Tuesday. “That’d be the very first thing I’d look for,” Cole said. “And that’s the easiest error that poll workers can make–whether it was an honest error or deliberate, I wouldn’t know. But that’d be the most common error that happens in a runoff–where voters who weren’t qualified because they participated in the other party’s primary would be allowed to vote by mistake.”
Cole said McDaniel could also challenge affidavit ballots, and how he said poll workers may not “reconcile the ballots they had at the beginning of the day with the number they have at the end of the day.”
Cole specifically noted the extensively high turnout in Hinds County, a predominantly Democratic area of inner-city Jackson where a key Cochran ally had already been accused of engaging in suspicious activity on Cochran’s behalf. “I’ve never seen a Republican primary with that many voters in it in Hinds County,” Cole said.
There were 24,889 votes cast in Hinds County in the runoff–17,927 were for Cochran and 6,962 were for McDaniel–but only 20,567 Republican voters are listed in Hinds County, according to the well-known Labels and Lists Voter Data Base. The extraordinarily high turnout in Hinds County is much more than what happened in Hinds County in the primary just a few weeks ago, when 16,640 total votes were cast–10,928 for Cochran and 5,621 for McDaniel.
When asked if that seems a bit off, Cole responded: “Right.”
“I noticed in his speech, McDaniel said ‘dozens of irregularities,'” Cole said. “So I suspect he’ll look into some of the bigger counties like Hinds, Madison, maybe Bolivar up in the north delta–they had a big turnout. Forrest is always a place–that’s where the contested mayor’s race was last year. They went to court and it had to be done over because of irregularities. So, Forrest could be a place to look–but I don’t know where all these irregularities could be.”
Cole said the legal options by which McDaniel can proceed are that he can request to inspect ballot boxes at any and every precinct statewide–there are no recount provisions in Mississippi election law. “They or their representative can come inspect the contents of any box and make notes of any irregularities and once they compile whatever evidence they may have, then they present a challenge to the Republican State Executive Committee,” Cole said. “Then the Republican State Executive Committee would have to rule on it, and if either party was dissatisfied by the Republican State Executive Committee ruling, you would appeal it to a circuit court and it would be heard de novo in the circuit court–which means the circuit court would look at everything the Republican executive committee did just so you don’t have to start completely from the start.”
Cole said the process moves fairly quickly, at least until it gets to a court proceeding. “I’ve seen it go from executive committee to circuit court to state Supreme Court in elections like this,” he said. “It’s all fast-tracked. The candidate has 10 days to inspect the boxes. Then the executive committee has to respond to a request for a hearing on a challenge within 10 or 12 days. Before the end of the month, you could proceed from the inspection process to the circuit court trial.”
“You never know” how long a court process would take, Cole added, because it depends on who the judge selected is.
Cole said that if enough irregularities are found and proven, there could be a new election ordered by a court–something that happened in a mayoral race just last year. “I’d have to learn more about where the irregularities are, and how the irregularities are reported–but it seems to me in a race this close if you got a judge to throw out a whole county for example, if a judge finds there was substantive errors in an entire county, then that threw the election results into question, then sure, if that were enough to affect the final margin and if you get a judge to throw it out, then there would have to be a new election,” Cole said. “That’s what happened last year in the Hattiesburg mayor’s race, if you get a chance to look at that–there was all sorts of legal wrangling because of this kind of irregularity there last year. They had a whole long court trial and the judge ordered a new election and they had a new election city-wide.”
“If enough questions are raised to create a reasonable doubt about enough votes–the status of the law is the voter’s intent, if the voter’s intent can’t be determined after an inspection–then the court has the power to order a new election, sure,” Cole added.
Cole added that any and all illegal activity that may have happened should “absolutely” be prosecuted. “I would say that if my brother were involved, if anybody I know was involved,” Cole said. “If there was any illegality, then they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law–regardless of who it is or who it favors or who it disfavors. Integrity in our elections is paramount. If people don’t believe in elections, they won’t participate in the process–and that defeats the whole purpose of having elections. People have to trust the integrity of the process.”