Fishing in Democratic Waters

Hinds County Republican Party Chairman Pete Perry is down on the Coast this week, looking for voter irregularities in a Democratic Senate district.

District 46 Democratic challenger David Baria beat out Senate incumbent Scottie Cuevas in the Aug. 7 primary, after nabbing an endorsement from the Mississippi AFL-CIO and other progressive organizations. Baria slipped by with only a 36-vote lead, however, so Perry is conducting an examination of the ballot boxes to check for any abnormalities that could get a ballot box thrown out and force him to contest the election results.

"There's no provision for a recount under our state statutes, so what Perry's asked for is an examination of the ballot boxes, supposedly to put some rumors to rest. The actuality is that Perry is down here conducting a fishing expedition trying to find anything he can for Scottie to base an election dispute on," Baria said Tuesday.

If Perry's examination results in a tossed box—or even a tossed election—the Republican Party would be free to focus its resources on protecting Cuevas, one of the many Senate Democrats who vote in line with Gov. Haley Barbour.

"The governor's office felt beholden to Scottie for voting the way Gov. Barbour wanted him to on certain issues, and this is payback for that. Otherwise, there's no logical reason why my Democratic opponent has this Hinds County Republican Party chairman conducting this fishing expedition for him," Baria said.

Perry said his presence on the Coast, sifting through names, is "just business."

"It's not for the Republican Party," said Perry, who works at Paradigm Government Relations in Jackson and is the father of Jim Perry, who works for Bar-bour. "You just take your clients where you find them. This is business, not personal. This is just a day job that I get paid for."

Opponents of Cuevas disagree.

"Pete is the hatchet-man for the governor. You can quote me on that," said Sierra Club Regional Representative Louie Miller. "His son works for the governor; he's one of his staff people. Scottie has sold out his Democratic credentials, because you don't see any Democrats down there contesting the election."

Cuevas is one of the few Democrats endorsed by the Business & Industry Political Action Committee, which fought hard during the last session to kill the statewide minimum wage increase and a proposed increase in state unemployment benefits.


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