Mississippi tea party members will likely sit out U.S. Senate race


BITTER TEA: Mississippi tea party members said they’ll likely sit out the general election in November rather than vote for Thad Cochran.

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

Barring a challenge by Chris McDaniel, tea party members in Mississippi will likely sit out the general election rather than vote for incumbent U.S. senator Thad Cochran.

CHALLENGER: State senator Chris McDaniel is challenging Thad Cochran for one of Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seats.

McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch said the campaign is still considering its options on a challenge and is examining ballots in counties to determine whether any irregularities took place. True The Vote, a free and fair elections advocacy group, has called on state GOP chairman Joe Nosef to release absentee balloting information before certifying the election results.

Cochran won the GOP runoff Tuesday by 6,700 votes, according to unofficial totals. McDaniel, a two-term state senator, forced a runoff in the primary with a narrow win on June 3 that didn’t cross the 50-percent threshold. Despite winning the rematch with 5,346 additional votes, Cochran’s unofficial total accounted for only 50.8 percent of the vote as unofficial turnout increased 12.8 percent over the June 3 primary.

Former Democratic congressman Travis Childers awaits in the general election in November.

The rancor in the divisive race was stoked by Cochran’s open courting of Democratic voters to cross over and vote in the runoff.

An ad played on radio stations geared toward African-Americans and robocalls to Democratic households both accused McDaniel of wanting to take away food stamps and federal aid to historically black universities in the state. The robocall was first revealed by the Washington Examiner on Wednesday. The radio ad was found by freelance journalist Charles C. Johnson.

“I will not vote for Thad Cochran,” said tea party member Joy Dixon Payne. “To do so would be the equivalent of approval for the horrendous actions of the campaign in the final three weeks. No pass and no forgiveness for painting me as a racist.”

Only voters who cast their ballot in the June 3 Democratic primary were ineligible to vote in the GOP runoff. Under state law, voters are eligible to participate in a primary only if they plan to support the party’s candidates in the general election. Proving intent is nearly impossible.

PHOTO BY: U.S. Senate photo

INCUMBENT: U.S. Senator Thad Cochran openly courted Democratic voters in his runoff with state senator Chris McDaniel.

Mississippi tea party member Clay Vaughn said he was dissatisfied by the GOP establishment and said he’s still trying to decide on whether to sit home in November or cast a ballot for Childers.

“They betrayed us,” Vaughn said. “They’d rather go and bargain with the other side which has no intentions of helping them in the end than to concede to us fairly. The GOP traditionalist hierarchy consisting of (former Gov.) Haley Barbour, (Lt. Gov.) Tate Reeves, Thad Cochran, (U.S. Sen.) Roger Wicker, (Gov.) Phil Bryant and the newly acquired (Rep.) Gregg Harper are dead to me.”

If a McDaniel challenge fails, calls for a write-in campaign will not put McDaniel in the U.S. Senate. According to state law, write-in votes are only allowed in the “event of the death, resignation, withdrawal or removal” of a candidate.

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