I spent most of last week in Jackson Mississippi looking into the irregularities — and potential illegalities -- in the Republican Senatorial runoff election between Thad Cochran and Chris McDaniel. Here's a quick rundown on why that election even took place.
Thad Cochran is 76 years old. He has represented Mississippi in the United States Senate for 36 years. He is the third most senior member of that body. Most people did not expect him to run for a seventh term this year. But when a 42 year old Mississippi State Senator named Chris McDaniel announced his candidacy for the seat, and quickly picked up Tea Party and other non-establishment support, the Mississippi Republican establishment headed by former Republican National Committee Chairman and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and other members of his family felt threatened. They urged Cochran to run again, and it is widely speculated that Cochran was expected to step down shortly after his reelection, opening the way for the current governor of Mississippi, Phil Bryant, to appoint a replacement. How cozy. Keep the seat within the party establishment. Make sure it goes to a loyal party sycophant, not some upstart that they couldn't control, like Chris McDaniel. And in the process, of course, they'd shut the voters of the state entirely out of the process of selecting someone to replace their superannuated Senator.
This should already be offensive to the readers of PATownhall.com, but it gets worse. On June 3rd, the primary election was held after a brutal, nasty and ugly primary campaign. Chris McDaniel beat Thad Cochran by a little over 1,400 votes. In most states, he would have won, but not in Mississippi. Because there was a third candidate who got nearly 5,000 votes, McDaniel's vote total was 49.5% of the total — and in Mississippi, there's a 50% plus one threshold. If no candidate crests 50%, a runoff is scheduled for three weeks later between the top two candidates. Because Travis Childers easily won the Democratic Party primary, the runoff election was on the Republican side only. In Mississippi, anyone can vote in the runoff who didn't vote in the other party's primary, so any Democrat or independent who didn't vote in the Democratic primary could vote in the Republican runoff.
So what did the political machine run by the former head of the Republican National Committee do? Why, he appealed to Democrats. And trashed a fellow Republican in this all-out war to retain power. But, as they say on those sleazy direct response TV commercials, wait, there's more. They used well-known black pastors to record radio commercials and play them on radio stations whose audiences are primarily black in what one Republican state leader called "racially divisive ads and robocalls." They are some of the vilest and most malicious, even racist, political ads I've ever heard. One of them identified McDaniel as a representative of the tea party and said, "If the tea party with their racist ideas win, we will be set back to the '50s and '60s." Another warned that black Democrats 'could lose food stamps, housing assistance, student loans, early breakfast and lunch programs and disaster assistance' if McDaniel were to become the Republican U.S. Senate nominee. One radio station manager was reported on The Daily Mail website as having said that they were "some of the worst race-baiting ads I've ever seen in this business. Really bad stuff." One black pastor recorded two nearly identical spots -- one for one of the outside groups and another for the Cochran campaign — about as clear a case of illegal coordination with the Cochran campaign as one could imagine. It doesn't require any additional testimony or proof — it is flat-out illegal on its face.
The McDaniel campaign is trying to get the Mississippi courts to declare the runoff results invalid. That's a long shot, especially when many of the judges in the state court system owe their appointment to the Barbour machine. But the thought that the Barbours could not only escape accountability for such scurrilous tactics but might actually be rewarded with the power to suggest someone to be appointed to replace Cochran should absolutely sicken any patriotic American, regardless of party or ideology.
(Colin Hanna is President of Let Freedom Ring, USA.)