State Sen. Chris McDaniel’s campaign told Breitbart News that the conservative firebrand is already halfway to finding enough allegedly ineligible votes counted to launch a legitimate challenge to the results of last Tuesday’s GOP primary runoff against incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS).
With more than half of the state’s counties–and many of the state’s African American-majority counties, where many of the ineligible crossover votes are suspected to have occurred–still uncounted, McDaniel’s team told Breitbart News he has at least 3,300 ineligible votes counted. That 3,300 is, according to the McDaniel campaign, just from looking at voters who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary, then crossed over–allegedly illegally–to vote in the June 24 GOP primary runoff.
“Our volunteers on the ground have found over 3,300 irregular votes after examining fewer than half of Mississippi’s counties, and that total does not include the Delta counties or even the more than 18,000 absentee ballots, which are sure to include many more irregularities, since that was the prime focus of Cochran’s Get Out the Democrat Vote strategy,” McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch told Breitbart News.
Breitbart News has not independently verified any of the ballots the McDaniel campaign says are illegitimate.
Election integrity group True The Vote alleges, in a new lawsuit filed on Tuesday against Mississippi GOP chairman Joe Nosef and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, that the two are not cooperating with McDaniel’s campaign’s or other independent groups’ efforts to verify the election results. True The Vote’s lawsuit seeks a federal judge to order the state government and party officials to share election records to be inspected for ineligible votes.
For McDaniel to launch a solid challenge against the election outcome–in which Cochran beat McDaniel by just under 6,700 votes–McDaniel would need to be able to cast doubt on the legitimacy of at least the number of votes that comprised that margin of victory, if not more. Right now, the effort is focused specifically on identifying those votes from Democrats who voted in the June 3 Democrat primary in addition to the June 24 GOP primary runoff.
McDaniel may be able to find enough votes in just those places to make up the margin by which Cochran won, but if he cannot, there are other ways to get the numbers he needs to call for a new election. Other possibilities for McDaniel and his team to drive up the number of allegedly ineligible votes include, for example, the challenging of absentee ballots–which saw a massive spike heading into the runoff, as well as any other instances of alleged fraud or irregularities.
“The campaign is focusing primarily on ineligible votes cast in the June 24th Republican primary runoff by voters who participated in the June 3 Democratic primary, but there are other types of irregularities voters all over Mississippi keep sending in to us which we’re collecting for such time as a legal challenge is filed,” Fritsch said.
One such major allegation broke Monday evening via freelance journalist Charles Johnson, who found a pastor–the Rev. Stevie Fielder–who says Cochran’s campaign paid $15 per vote in the black community to vote for Cochran through people like him. Fielder provided Johnson with text messages after Johnson paid him for the story, which ran on Johnson’s new GotNews.com on Monday evening, that allegedly show a Cochran campaign staffer discussing the distribution of cash to Fielder. In the text messages published online, a phone number identified on Fielder’s phone as Cochran campaign staffer Saleem Baird appears to discuss putting cash in envelopes for Fielder to pick up.
Cochran’s campaign has since denied the allegations of vote-buying, but Cochran spokesman Jordan Russell confirmed to the Clarion-Ledger that the campaign did hire Fielder and did pay him and others with envelopes full of cash–known colloquially in Mississippi politics as “walking around money.” owever, Russell told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger it would be “baseless and false” for Fielder to allege that cash was used to pay for votes directly.
Russell told the Clarion-Ledger the campaign agreed to pay Fielder $600, half up front, for get-out-the-vote work. “He was paid for reimbursement for gas, driving people around, get out the vote work,” Russell said. “But he never completed any work for the second $300. He never provided any names and addresses of people he said he was getting to work. He waffled on providing names and addresses.”
Russell added that Fielder is “obviously a guy who is a liar, who sold his story to a blogger who’s openly proclaiming he will pay people to tell him a story.”
“Most disturbing is [Charles Johnson, the blogger to whom Russell refers] is attempting to solicit pictures of Mrs. Rose Cochran in her nursing home, with a bounty up to $1,000,” Russell said.
The Clarion-Ledger found two key community leaders to cast doubt on Fielder’s reputation. The Clarion-Ledger‘s Geoff Pender wrote that Deacon Robert Markham of the First Union Missionary Baptist Church said that Fielder “is not an associate pastor at the church, but is a self-proclaimed minister.”
The paper also quotes church member Melba Clark, a member and former chairman of Mississippi’s Lauderdale County Democratic Executive Committee, to say she doesn’t believe Fielder’s accusations.
“Not only do I not believe any vote buying went on, I don’t even know who Mr. Fielder was supposed to have taken to the polls,” Clark said. “I’m not aware of any people that Mr. Fielder took to the polls, or anybody having promised money to people. Yes, I think I would have heard about that.”
Clark added she thinks Fielder is someone who seeks the political spotlight–no matter who gives it to him–when election time comes around.
“Whenever an election comes around, he makes himself available to whatever party he can get to avail him,” Clark said. “His reputation here is not good, and that’s putting it mildly.”
Russell, on Cochran’s behalf, threatened legal action against Fielder and Johnson. “If I were these two men, who made the claims or wrote the story, I would be talking to a lawyer,” Russell said. “Because we are most definitely talking to ours.”
Fielder told Breitbart News in a brief Tuesday afternoon interview he stands by everything he said to Johnson–something he confirmed when reached late Monday as well–and that he’s talking to his wife about next steps before he comes out with any more information or does more interviews, given the level of legal threat from the Cochran campaign.
Johnson, for his part, seems unfazed by the Cochran campaign’s threats. “The Cochran campaign has repeatedly threatened journalists throughout this election cycle,” Johnson responded to Russell’s comments in an emailed statement to Breitbart News. “The NRSC is peddling oppo against me to ‘conservative’ publications. I will not be intimidated. I have received death threats before and lawsuit threats but never been brought to court yet. Bring it on, bitches.”
Tea Party group FreedomWorks called on federal authorities to investigate the allegations. “We call on the US Attorney’s offices, the Elections Crimes Unit at the Department of Justice and the FBI to investigate these allegations,” Russ Walker, FreedomWorks’ political director, said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon. “US Attorney General Eric Holder, the Southern District of Mississippi US Attorney Gregory K. Davis, and the Northern District of Mississippi US Attorney Felicia Adams, have a responsibility to look into these allegations and prosecute the guilty to the fullest extent of the law.”
Walker added that if these allegations are proven true, it’s a “federal crime” that “requires swift action by the Department of Justice and the FBI.”
“The faith the American people have in the electoral process is critical to the success of our representative democracy,” Walker said. “These are serious allegations that, if true, undermine the integrity of our electoral process.”