By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Joe Nosef, chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, has informed Chris McDaniel that the courts, not the executive committee of the state Party, is the proper venue for his challenge to the June primary where he lost to incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.
McDaniel, a second-term state senator from Ellisville, had announced Monday he was challenging the outcome of the June 24 party primary runoff and had requested a public hearing before the state Republican Party’s executive committee.
But Wednesday, Nosef said in a statement, the 52-member Executive Committee was not the proper venue to hear the challenge.
“It is neither prudent nor possible in a single day for any political committee to process and review the significant amount of complex evidence necessary to make such a decision, and attempting to do so would be prejudicial to both candidates,” Nosef said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon.
“Under these circumstances, the only way to ensure that the integrity of the Mississippi Republican Party and our election process remains intact is to have a proper, public review of this matter through the judicial system in a court of law. Both candidates have said they look forward to such a review, and now is the time.”
Nosef sent his response to Jackson attorney Mitch Tyner, who is representing McDaniel in the issue.
In a statement, Tyner said McDaniel was disappointed with the decision of the Party.
“The Party was the perfect venue in which to hear the challenge since it was responsible for the election, but we will move forward with a judicial review…,” Tyner said.
After receiving the most votes in the June 3 party primary, but not the majority needed to avoid the runoff, McDaniel lost the runoff to Cochran by 7,667 votes out of the 392,197 cast statewide.
The McDaniel campaign has made numerous allegations, ranging from people who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary ineligibly voting in the Republican runoff, to vote-buying, to racially charged attack ads being directed at the McDaniel campaign.
The Cochran campaign has denied any wrongdoing and says it is focusing on the general election and Democratic challenger Travis Childers of Booneville.
McDaniel has the option to file a challenge in circuit court in any county where he believes voter irregularities occurred. Most likely, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court would appoint a special judge to hear the challenge.
At Monday’s news conference announcing the challenge, the McDaniel campaign presented a report in a three-inch binder that it said documented more than 15,000 questionable ballots. Tyner proclaimed then that he believes the evidence is strong enough not only to order a new election, but also to award the party nomination to McDaniel.
Mark Garriga, an attorney representing the six-term incumbent Cochran, called the allegations “baseless.”