Lawyers for MS U.S. Senate candidate say fight for seat far from over
SPEAKING OUT: State Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, is one of the attorneys for the Chris McDaniel campaign.
By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog
State Sen. Chris McDaniel intimates he’s not concerned about his political fate as he continues to fight the results of the June 24 GOP primary runoff.
McDaniel, a two-term state senator, didn’t show up for a Wednesday news conference, though a pair of his lawyers did.
They spoke for him.
The attorneys, Mitch Tyner and state Sen. Michael Watson, R-Pascagoula, said a challenge to the Mississippi U.S. Senate race could come in 10 days.
“The conventional wisdom is out there,” Tyner said. “Everyone knows he’s a popular candidate. Everybody knows he could’ve conceded and written his ticket for any office next year. But Chris McDaniel said, ‘No, I want to root out this process. If it destroys my political career, so be it.’”
The campaign is still in the process of uncovering voting irregularities, which Tyner characterized as numbering in the thousands.
The campaign, though, failed to reveal specific numbers or evidence of wrongdoing.
“The $1 million question is what did we find?” Tyner said. “We found a lot. Votes being bought, ballot boxes being stuffed. We’re committed to finding it and rooting it out.”
CHALLENGER: State senator Chris McDaniel is challenging Thad Cochran for one of Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seats.
Tyner said the campaign was working on a report cataloging the voting irregularities — such as voters who broke the law by casting a ballot in the GOP runoff after voting in the June 3 Democratic primary — and promised it would be released shortly to the media, the U.S. Attorney, state Attorney General Jim Hood and the Federal Election Commission, if and when a challenge is filed.
The McDaniel campaign has filed suit in several counties to compel circuit clerks to open up poll books without inspection. The deadline to file a challenge — originally this coming Friday — was pushed back thanks to some court decisions that would allow McDaniel representatives time to examine poll books and other election records.
“We’re doing a full examination of election material,” Watson said. “It’s a look under the hood at the election process in Mississippi. You can’t get to a challenge without a full examination of the election materials. If Chris doesn’t find enough evidence to support this challenge, he won’t do it.”
The campaign says it has examined more than 400,000 votes from the runoff and more than 100,000 from the June 3 GOP primary.
Six-term U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran won the runoff by 7,667 votes in results certified by the secretary of state. In a news release, the Cochran campaign said — in a survey of ballots in 78 counties by its staff — it’s found 909 votes that could be questionable out of the more than 382,000 cast in the runoff.
“Our opponent has not provided any statements or facts or statements from circuit clerks,” Cochran adviser Austin Barbour said at a news conference later Wednesday. “With their lack of evidence, they’ve filled that void with rhetoric, grandstanding and fundraising appeals. That rhetoric has gotten worse over the past few days.”
The McDaniel campaign called on Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus to investigate the Cochran campaign and political action committees for what Watson characterized as race baiting tactics such as robocalls and radio ads aimed at African-American voters.
“Race baiting in politics is gross and hurtful,” Watson said. “To see the Barbour machine and PACs in action is a spit in the face to the progress we’ve made as a state.”
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