WASHINGTON – The Republican who lost a primary runoff election to Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran said Friday he plans to challenge the results.
Chris McDaniel said his campaign found at least 5,000 irregularities in voting and that he will mount a legal challenge “any day now.”
In an interview with CNN, McDaniel said what matters is that fraud be uncovered where it exists and that many Mississippi residents “are very angry” because they think their votes in the June 24 primary were nullified by fraud. Cochran received about 6,800 more votes than McDaniel.
Most of what McDaniel is describing as irregularities involved people who apparently voted in both the June 3 Democratic primary and the 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.
McDaniel said he’s pressing the challenge because, “it’s our responsibility … if the corruption is out there, to end it once and for all.” He did say that if the courts side against him, he would accept the outcome. But he would not say whether he would ultimately endorse Cochran for Senate in the general election.
Asked if he had any regrets about the divisive primary campaign and aftermath, McDaniel said he regretted the last two and a half weeks of the campaign when “they called me a racist, they race-baited.” He said Cochran’s campaign engaged in “scare” tactics by saying that if McDaniel were to become the next senator, “welfare would be cut off.”
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 attorney who is working with the McDaniel campaign.
Also this week, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said his office is correctly handling its part in the election and he should be dismissed from a federal lawsuit filed by people seeking access to poll books from the June 24 Republican primary runoff for Senate.
Thirteen Mississippi residents and a Texas group, True the Vote, filed suit Tuesday over access to poll books from the Republican primary runoff.
Plaintiffs say they want to look for people marked as voting in the June 3 Democratic primary and the June 24 Republican runoff. State law prohibits such crossover voting, and McDaniel’s campaign said a challenge would be based on allegations that such voting occurred.
The lawsuit seeks to force Hosemann and the state GOP to release poll books without redacting voters’ birthdates. However, Hosemann and the state GOP say they don’t possess the poll books. Primaries are conducted by local political parties, and poll books are kept at county courthouses.
Mississippi Republican Party chairman Joe Nosef said this week that the party has done nothing wrong and should be dismissed from the lawsuit.