JACKSON — State Sen. Chris McDaniel and his supporters are urging continued defiance as McDaniel prepares to challenge his Republican primary runoff loss to incumbent U.S. Sen Thad Cochran.
Tea party supporters gathered Saturday at the Mississippi state capitol for a rally where supporters were asked to donate money and volunteer time for McDaniel’s effort.
The Ellisville Republican took the stage briefly, telling about 100 supporters that he was continuing his efforts to expose “lies” and “distortions” that the Cochran campaign used to drive black voters to the polls to vote for Cochran.
“There’s no way we will abandon this cause,” McDaniel said. “We will not leave our friends on the field of battle. Because when we’re done with this, the people of Mississippi will have their justice. They’ll have their honor. And the people of this country will finally have some answers.”
McDaniel served papers Thursday saying he intends to challenge the election, alleging improper crossover voting. His campaign says it believes it has found thousands of examples of people marked as voting in the June 3 Democratic primary and the June 24 Republican runoff. Mississippi does not register voters by party, but state law bans a person from voting in one party’s primary and another party’s runoff in the same cycle.
An election challenge will be filed with the state Republican Party executive committee, as required by law. If the committee rejects a request for a new election, McDaniel could file an appeal with a state circuit court in a county where the campaign believes it has found voting irregularities, said state Sen. Michael Watson, an Republican from Pascagoula who is one of McDaniel’s key supporters.
The Cochran campaign calls the challenge “baseless,” dismissing claims of many of the voting irregularities that McDaniel supporters claim they have found. Cochran received nearly 6,800 more votes than McDaniel on June 24.
Cochran campaign adviser Austin Barbour said Wednesday that the McDaniel campaign needs to “put up or shut up” — either produce documents to support its claims or accept the loss.
Though the legal grounds for overturning the election rest on the question of crossover votes, McDaniel and his supporters have focused much of their outrage on what they say were “race-baiting” appeals by Cochran to black voters.
“They put advertising on the radio and flyers that said if I were elected, people would lose the right to vote,” McDaniel said Saturday. “They said if I were elected, welfare benefits would be cut off.”