Local Democrats likely helped boost numbers for Cochran
NATCHEZ — Adams County political party representatives attribute the 425 additional votes incumbent Thad Cochran received in the county in Tuesday’s runoff election to an increase in Democrats voting for the Republican senator.
Those residents didn’t cross party lines between elections, which is against Mississippi voting law, but instead were likely those who didn’t vote at all in the June 3 primary and came out Tuesday to vote for Cochran, local Republican Party member Johnny Junkin said.
“It’s very seldom you’re going to find that, and I think this was one of those rare times when you saw it in action,” Junkin said. “That can kind of be a two-edged sword sometimes because it can play both ways when it happens, but you also can’t be completely sure that’s what happened. That’s the beauty of the secret vote.”
Cochran carried the county with 56.32 percent of the vote Tuesday; State Sen. Chris McDaniel received 43.63 percent.
In certain areas, such as the Northside precinct, the votes for Cochran nearly doubled between elections going from 64 votes in the primary to 126 in the runoff.
The Duncan Park precinct also saw a large gain with 193 votes cast for Cochran in the runoff compared to 144 in the party primary.
Junkin said some of those numbers could also be attributed to an increase in black voters.
The Concord precinct, Junkin said, is a predominantly black precinct where residents nearly tripled their votes for Cochran going from seven votes in the June 3 election to 24 in the runoff.
Natchez Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis made a public plea in The Natchez Democrat earlier this month asking residents who did not vote in the June 3 primary to go out Tuesday and vote for Cochran.
Mathis, a Democratic Party member, said she urged residents to look at the candidates running on the ballot instead of the party.
“I was telling everyone to contemplate what Sen. Cochran has done for Adams County and the City of Natchez and vote on the person, not the label,” Mathis said. “I vote straight Democratic tickets most of the time, but in this election we knew we would have a Democratic candidate emerging, and the fight to me (Tuesday) was not in that race.
“The fight (Tuesday) was ensuring an individual who has made so many important contributions to not only the State of Mississippi, but to Adams County came out on top.”
But not all Democrats saw the election the same was as Arceneaux-Mathis.
Frances Bailey, who is on the Adams County Democratic Executive Committee, said she disagreed with the school of thought that Democrats should vote for a Republican candidate in any election.
“We are a Democratic board, so we would not endorse anyone else from a different party,” Bailey said. “You needed to be voting Democrat.”
Bailey said she believed some confusion came from voters not knowing that there was also a runoff for Rep. Gregg Harper’s seat in the Third Congressional District.
“We were trying to let everyone know that there was a runoff in the Democratic House seat as well, and that they needed to come out and vote Democratic on that race,” Bailey said. “We as Democrats needed to help our party gain control in whatever way possible.
“When it came to the runoff, those who didn’t vote in the first election were able to vote in either party, and so most of them were able to vote Republican.”
On Tuesday, McDaniel complained that a number of Democrats — most of whom are black in Mississippi— apparently cast ballots in the GOP runoff and boosted Cochran’s numbers. McDaniel refused to concede the race and said he would probe “irregularities” in Tuesday’s voting.
“We must be absolutely certain that our Republican primary was won by Republican voters,” McDaniel said. “In the coming days, our team will look into the irregularities to determine whether a challenge is warranted.”
His insistence that Democrats voting in his party’s primary was a bad thing made some mainstream Republicans cringe — and express relief that Cochran, a six-term senator and former appropriations committee chairman, is now the heavy favorite to win re-election over Democrat Travis Childers this fall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.