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Commissioners delay decision on Dems' replacement candidates

JACKSON — State election commissioners have delayed a decision on whether to let Democrats replace their nominee in south Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District.

Commissioners will meet again to discuss the issue tomorrow, which also is the deadline for commissioners to give county elections officials the sample ballot for the Nov. 6 elections.

In March, Michael Herrington of Hattiesburg won the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo of Biloxi. But Herrington recently filed a sworn statement saying he’s leaving the race because his mother is ill.

State law says that if a nominee withdraws for a nonpolitical reason such as an illness or a family crisis, a party can put a different nominee on the ballot. Democrats say they intend to put the name of Matthew Moore of Biloxi, a community college student, on the ballot instead.

The two Republicans on the Election Commission, Gov. Phil Bryant and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, said they want to verify Herrington’s affidavit.

Herrington filed one affidavit last week and a more detailed one yesterday, saying he is the main caregiver for his mother, who is paraplegic. He said her medical condition has worsened since January, when he signed up to run for Congress.

Bryant said he received the detailed affidavit as he was in a Capitol hallway walking to the Board of Election Commissioners meeting. He said he wanted time to independently verify that the statement came from Herrington and not from someone else. Bryant said he had doubts after reading a blog that claimed Herrington was trying to stay in the congressional race.

“I want to be very careful,” Bryant said.

Michael Wallace, attorney for the state Republican Party, said it could set “a very treacherous precedent” for election commissioners to allow one party to replace a nominee late in the race without verifying that the original nominee was dropping out for nonpolitical reasons specified in state law.

Rickey Cole, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said he had spoken to Herrington earlier yesterday and Herrington confirmed he is leaving the race for the reasons listed in the sworn statement.

The three-member election commission yesterday approved the withdrawal of Democratic nominee Crystal Biggs of Florence from central Mississippi’s 3rd Congressional District race against Republican Rep. Gregg Harper of Pearl. Biggs’ sworn statement said she had become ill.

Democrats said last week that they intended to put Madison attorney Vicki Slater on the ballot to replace Biggs, but no Democrat was approved for the race yesterday. Cole said Slater had second thoughts during the weekend and decided not to run.

Harper was first elected to Congress in 2008, when the 3rd District seat was open. He faces one challenger in November — the Reform Party’s John Luke Pannell.

Palazzo unseated Democrat Gene Taylor in 2010. Also running in the 4th District race this year are Libertarian Ron Williams of Moss Point and Reform Party candidate Robert Claunch of Diamondhead.

 

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