Voting spotty in county for Senate runoff

Published 12:49 pm Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Voter turnout in Warren County was heaviest this morning in the areas where the state’s hardest-fought, most expensive U.S. Senate race in decades is expected to be decided.

Republican poll workers at Sherman Avenue Elementary had given out 53 ballots in the first half hour after polls opened at 7 a.m. The school is home to Culkin precinct, the strongest of the county’s 22 precincts for the GOP.

Polls are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today for the statewide primary runoff between six-term incumbent Thad Cochran of Oxford and tea party-backed challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ellisville.

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The only voters banned from casting a Republican ballot Tuesday are those who voted in the Democratic primary June 3.

The precinct’s 1,500 or so voters will be shown to five machines instead of 10, reflective of there being no runoff on the Democratic side.

“We’ll only be accumulating on five machines this time,” Republican poll manager Bill Collins said. “Counting should be faster this time.”

Elks precinct on U.S. 61 South had 28 voters show up in the initial rush, Republican poll manager Diane Wilder said. “We hope to have more voters as the day goes on.”

Inside the city, where Cochran built up wins in the first primary June 4, it was decidedly slower. Four ballots were counted at the City Auditorium in the first hour of voting.

McDaniel finished 1,418 votes ahead of Cochran in the earlier three-person primary, but nobody received a majority necessary to win. In Warren County, Cochran won about 54 percent of the poll vote.

“Right now, somewhere in Washington, I’m starting to sense some trembling,” McDaniel, 41, told supporters at a rally Monday night in Flowood. “And by tomorrow evening, every one of those men and women will know that we’re tired of the backroom deals; we’re tired of the business as usual; we’re tired of the favoritism; we’re tired of the cronyism. We’ll remind them once and for all that this is our country and they work for us.”

Cochran, 76, has a more low-key campaign style, typically making short speeches that focus on his record of bringing billions of dollars to Mississippi for disaster relief, military bases, agriculture and research. He says he tries to work with all members of the state’s congressional delegation — one other Republican senator, and one Democrat and three Republicans in the House.

The Republican nominee for Senate advances to the general election to face the Democratic nominee, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara, who has run for dozens of offices the past two decades.

Kay Rodabouth, 73, of Madison, a retired saleswoman for technical equipment, is supporting McDaniel.

“We’re trying to change the direction of Washington, D.C., to let Washington know we’re talking about change — not the change that Obama talked about,” Rodabouth said last week in Madison at a McDaniel rally for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a 2008 Republican candidate for president.

“I’m tired of the lobbyists running Washington right now. That, and I’m tired of you-know-who,” Rodabouth said, meaning the president.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes, who’s backing Cochran, said the runoff is a referendum on what the longtime senator has done for the state.

“More importantly, it is about what he has still yet to do for Mississippi.” With each state having two senators, Hewes said, “Like it or not, seniority counts.”