Facing calls to concede from Ann Coulter and his opponent, State Sen. Chris McDaniel is moving full speed ahead with his challenge of the Mississippi GOP primary runoff election results and now has enough questionable ballots to cast the entire election result into question–adding that many of those ballots were cast ineligibly by Democrats who voted in the previous June 3 Democratic primary.
“We have found over 8,300 questionable ballots cast, many of which were unquestionably cast by voters ineligible to participate in the June 24th runoff election,” McDaniel said in a Friday statement.
McDaniel’s decision to move forward with the challenge comes as one key player who has emerged–the Rev. Stevie Fielder, a self-proclaimed pastor in Meridian, MS, has partially recanted an explosive allegation against the Cochran campaign. Fielder previously said he delivered $15 cash on the Cochran campaign’s behalf to voters in the black community to pay them to vote for Cochran–something the Cochran campaign vigorously denied, though one of those Fielder alleged to have been involved campaign manager Kirk Sims was replaced sometime in the past week.
In an interview with the Jackson Clarion-Ledger published on Friday, Fielder walked back part of that allegation–saying that while he didn’t personally pay for votes on Cochran’s campaign’s behalf, he was asked to do so and turned it down. Fielder also now says he is “aware” that others did engage in the behavior but declined to name any names.
Citing a Washington Post article aggregating that Clarion-Ledger piece, the Cochran campaign on Friday issued a press release calling on McDaniel to concede the election. “Another day, another article showing the writing on the wall for Chris McDaniel,” the Cochran campaign said. “It is time for Senator McDaniel to concede so Republicans can unite and ensure victory in November.”
State GOP chairman Joe Nosef, who has publicly stated he is a neutral party in this primary but has long been suspected by conservatives of secretly supporting Cochran, is touting the new Jackson Clarion-Ledger interview with Fielder.
“Defamation and the impacts of it are very serious things,” Nosef said. “That’s why I forwarded you that article. These are young people who have their whole lives ahead of them and once they are accused of something they can’t easily clear that up.”
But when asked if he can categorically guarantee, as state party chairman responsible for running the primaries, that no vote-buying occurred regardless of Fielder’s various statements, Nosef declined to answer in the affirmative.
Despite Fielder’s new account, McDaniel’s team says it has evidence it needs to move forward with a challenge, although none of the claimed ballot irregularities have been independently reviewed.
In addition, McDaniel is now calling on Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann to order county election officials in Mississippi’s 82 counties statewide to cooperate with the investigate from McDaniel’s campaign.
“As a result of the misleading information coming from the Secretary of State’s office, many Clerks were confused about proper disclosure of election materials to the candidates,” McDaniel said. “This has forced the Clerks and my team to needlessly expend resources on mandamus requests for materials that the statutes clearly say I am entitled to review. Thankfully most of the Clerks understood that our request was not a public document request, but was a request made by a candidate or designee. The records were therefore not subject to redaction, and access should have been granted.”
McDaniel is referring to a lengthy email sent on July 7 by Hosemann’s attorney Kim Turner to the state’s circuit clerks, in which she gave specific instructions to them on what information could be shared and what information couldn’t and with whom. In the email, which has been obtained by Breitbart News, Turner made several statements about access to poll books and the details about candidates and designees to review election records. McDaniel said in his statement that Turner’s email, on Hosemann’s behalf, constitutes Hosemann having “disseminated inaccurate information which apparently confused some the Clerks with respect to the ability of candidates and designees to view election records.”
McDaniel specifically says his team has not been allowed access to un-redacted poll books in the vast majority of Mississippi’s counties. “Sadly, however, our volunteers have been unable to gain complete access to unredacted poll books in approximately 58 counties, and also have not been granted access to absentee records in approximately 24 counties,” McDaniel said. “Unfortunately we have had to pursue further legal remedies in order to gain access to election records,” McDaniel said. “In addition, even though we’ve been granted access to poll books in many counties, we have often not been allowed to view Democratic and Republican books at the same time, cross referencing next to impossible.”
In response, Cochran’s allies in Washington–like National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) spokesman Brad Dayspring–attacked McDaniel for questioning Hosemann’s role in this matter. “Now Chris McDaniel is attacking the Mississippi Sec of State,” Dayspring Tweeted. “Next he’ll blame cats in the state for his loss.”
But Hosemann, Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show, received multiple payments from Cochran’s campaign PAC Citizens For Cochran. For instance, on March 25, the FEC documents show that Cochran’s campaign paid Hosemann personally two separate payments worth a total of $5,000 for in-kind campaign materials. That same day, the FEC records show, Hosemann’s campaign “Friends of Delbert Hosemann” received another $2,500 from Cochran’s campaign.
McDaniel plans to hold a press conference in Mississippi next Thursday to discuss more developments as well.