Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel has filed his official challenge of the June 24 GOP primary runoff results against incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in state court, he and his lead attorney Mitch Tyner announced Thursday.
“Republicans did not elect the nominee on June 24,” McDaniel said in a statement, adding that “we are excited for the opportunity for Republicans to reclaim their primary process.”
“This challenge is not about the candidates,” McDaniel said. “It is about the integrity of Mississippi’s election process, and we are committed to ensuring that process is accurate and fair for future Republican candidates.”
Tyner, McDaniel’s attorney, said Mississippi Republicans’ First Amendment rights to associate were “clearly infringed upon” during the runoff.
“The party should have arranged for the primary to limit Democratic participation, but the Cochran campaign elicited the exact opposite,” Tyner said. “Since the Republican Party’s leadership clearly doesn’t trust the Executive Committee to hear this challenge, we have no choice but to file for judicial review.”
McDaniel’s decision to file in state court, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger wrote, means the state Supreme Court will appoint “a senior-status judge from outside Jones County,” the county in which he filed the challenge.
“It’s obvious that the fix is in with the Mississippi Republican Party executive committee,” which refused to review any of the evidence McDaniel put forward in his challenge, said Billy Bova, a Gulf Coast-based Mississippi political operative who works with grassroots-focused candidates from both parties, to Breitbart News. “It’s made up of a bunch of people who had to pay a fee to join their county committee, and on that executive committee they’re extremely used to pay to play; obviously–they’re controlled by the Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Haley-and-Henry Barbour cabal.” Bova went on to say:
I think McDaniel and his legal team–Mitch Tyner and [state Sen.] Michael Watson–if they get an impartial, professional judge, a professional circuit court judge here in Mississippi, and they’re all attorneys and well-qualified, and once they lay out the factual proof that crossover voting happened, and that people voted in the Democratic primary on June 3, then the Republican primary runoff on June 24, and show a considerable number of those people did that, and they can prove through testimony and evidence submitted that absentee ballots were not handled properly, and they were in fact destroyed, and they weren’t counted correctly and weren’t counted at all, whatever, I think that that preponderance of evidence will show it was a tainted election. It was a tainted electoral process and there was just way, way too much shenanigans going with the handling of absentee ballots and the handling of the poll books and the way people were allowed to vote in the Republican runoff who were allowed to previously vote in the Democratic primary.
McDaniel’s evidence doesn’t have any single smoking guns, but it is a hodgepodge of thousands of examples of what the campaign says are ineligible crossover votes, ineligible absentee and affidavit ballots, voting irregularities, and a lack of proper chain of custody of election materials in counties statewide.
It’s not impossible to get an election overturned in Mississippi. It happened just last year, actually, in the Hattiesburg mayoral election. But it is definitely an uphill climb for McDaniel from here.
Cochran’s campaign responded to the challenge by saying, “After many weeks of posturing and press conferences, and political stunts, we have finally reached the point where this matter will be settled by the courts. As we said last week, we look forward to holding the McDaniel campaign to the burden of proof that the law requires and defending the votes of the majority of Mississippians who elected Senator Cochran as the Republican nominee.”