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Voting reported light across county for primaries

Published 10:47 am Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Voting in Warren County began easily for poll managers this morning in the midterm congressional primaries as pundits watched a pitched battle among Republicans in the race for U.S. Senate.

The flow at Sherman Avenue Elementary, home to the Culkin voting precinct, was “steady” as the gymnasium doors opened at 7 a.m., poll manager Bill Collins said. GOP poll workers gave out 32 ballot cards in the first 15 minutes, while three were handed out at the Democratic table. Culkin, with about 1,500 voters overall, is the strongest for Republicans of the county’s 22 precincts.

In the Republican Senate race, Mississippi’s GOP establishment supports six-term incumbent Thad Cochran. His major challenge comes from tea party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Marked by a barrage of negative advertising on TV and online, the campaign’s tone has taken its toll on Culkin voter Deborah McRunnels.

“I didn’t like all the mudslinging,” she said after casting a Republican primary ballot. “I just wanted the best man to win.”

A third Republican candidate in the race, Thomas Carey, has spent little on his campaign. Former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers is one of four candidates in the Democrat Senate primary. Another is Bill Marcy, who has twice run unsuccessfully for the U.S. House as a tea party Republican.

Today’s slate of primaries is the first election held since Mississippi’s voter ID law went into effect. People must show a driver’s license or other form of government-issued photo identification at the polls.

At Elks Club precinct on U.S. 61 South, turnout was lighter. Poll manager Carolyn Dedmon said about 15 voters had voted by 7:45 a.m. She said there had been no problems with voter ID.

“I’m surprised, because I thought there might be,” she said.

The same held true at Culkin, where voters who show up early scurry in and out on their way to work.

Voters walk into Culkin precinct at Sherman Avenue Elementary this morning. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)
Voters walk into Culkin precinct at Sherman Avenue Elementary this morning. (Justin Sellers/The Vicksburg Post)

“They had ID right off,” said Joan Brogdon, a Democratic poll worker. “I’m so glad they passed that.”

“Nobody’s complained,” said Carla Jones, poll manager at the City Auditorium precinct. “They’ve come in with their IDs and they’ve got to get used to bringing it.”

Supplies were short to start the day at Plumbers and Pipefitters precinct, poll manager Henry Hunter said.

“I don’t know who’s responsible for putting all the stuff we need in the packet, but we don’t have enough envelopes for the affidavit ballots,” Hunter said. “Still, we’re going to make it work.”

GOP ballots requested and cast by 8 a.m. outnumbered Democratic 20 to 3, Hunter said.

Three congressmen have primary opponents. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, whose Delta- and Jackson-based district includes Warren County, has token opposition from Damon Fairconetue, a laborer from Clinton.

In south Mississippi’s 4th District, Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo faces four primary challengers, including the man he unseated in 2010, former Democrat Gene Taylor, who switched parties to run.

Runoffs, if needed, will be June 24.

The Republican Senate primary appears to be a tight race that will depend on whose supporters are more motivated to vote Tuesday, said political scientist Marty Wiseman, retired director of Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government. Mississippi has a history of keeping U.S. senators in office for decades, and 1942 was the last time voters turned an incumbent senator out of office.

Cochran, 76, was elected to the Senate in 1978 after six years in the House. He is a former Senate Appropriations Committee chairman who reminds voters that he has delivered billions of federal dollars to one of the poorest states in the nation, for Hurricane Katrina recovery, university research, military bases and agriculture projects. Top Mississippi Republicans, including Gov. Phil Bryant and U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper, campaigned for Cochran on Monday.

McDaniel, 41, was elected to the state Senate in 2007 and is receiving significant financial backing from Club for Growth and other tea party-friendly groups. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum have campaigned for McDaniel in Mississippi in the past week.

“One thing that Palin and Santorum have done is given some additional momentum to Chris McDaniel,” Wiseman said Monday. “Right now, you’ve got to say that McDaniel’s base is the most enthusiastic.”

The Mississippi Senate race took a bizarre turn in mid-May when four McDaniel supporters were charged in what police called a conspiracy to photograph Cochran’s wife on Easter Sunday in the nursing home where she has lived for the past 13 years with dementia. Rose Cochran’s image was used in an anti-Cochran video that was posted briefly online April 26.

Police in Madison said the four men conspired to use the images to advance allegations Cochran was having an inappropriate relationship, which the senator denies. McDaniel and others have raised questions about Cochran bringing a female Senate aide on numerous official trips overseas. Cochran’s adult children say he remains devoted to his wife. McDaniel says he had no part in the photography incident, calling it reprehensible.

Warren County’s voter rolls total 29,991 people, about 7 percent less than were registered for the 2012 general election for president. Mississippi has just less than 1.9 million voters overall.

Staff writers Josh Edwards, John Surratt, Matt Stuart and The Associated Press contributed to this report.