State Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Moak told the party’s executive committee members on Thursday that they would not consider a petition to disqualify U.S. Senate candidate Howard Sherman.
Jackson attorney Sam Begley, a longtime Democratic voter and operative, filed a petition on Thursday with the state Democratic Party, saying that Sherman is violating the state Democratic Party’s constitution and should be barred from the race. Six Democrats have filed for the party’s June 5 primary that will select a challenger to incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker.
“I double checked with the Mississippi Secretary of State to confirm that the candidate qualifying deadline was March 1, 2018,” Moak said in a text message to the executive committee members on Thursday afternoon. “Therefore the ten (10) day rule for a challenge passed on March 11, 2018, so the petition is out of time and will not be considered by the committee.”
Sherman, a venture capitalist from California who’s aiming to defeat Wicker in November, pushed back on the attempt to disqualify him from the race in a statement emailed to Mississippi Today.
In the statement, Sherman called the petition “a weak attempt by career politicians to stop our important cause.”
“I’m not stopping,” Sherman said in the statement. “We can’t stifle new thinking and new energy in our party — there’s too much at stake for the working families and children of Mississippi.”
Sherman, who has recently resided in California and is the husband of Mississippi actress Sela Ward, has never voted in Mississippi, according to voting records. Begley claims that Sherman does not currently reside in the state.
Federal campaign finance records show that Sherman gave the maximum individual donation to Wicker in 2017, as well as previous donations to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, both Republicans.
In the petition to the party’s executive committee, Begley writes that donating to an official of another party less than a year before his own candidacy directly violates the state Democratic Party’s constitution.
“I’m interested in the outcome of the two Senate races,” Begley told Mississippi Today. “We need to have a strong candidate in both races. I was just concerned about Mr. Sherman’s candidacy since he seems to be spending money.”
In his response, Sherman said he has owned a home in Meridian for 25 years and in 2000 founded Hope Village for Children, a facility for neglected and abused children in Meridian.
Sherman also said he donated to Wicker in the summer of 2017 because anti-establishment candidate Chris McDaniel was flirting with a challenge of Wicker.
“I gave to Senator Wicker for a very simple reason: faced, at the time, with a binary choice between Senator Wicker and Chris McDaniel, I knew I had to do whatever I could to stop the dangerous and backward politics of Chris McDaniel,” Sherman said.
Sherman continued: “But Mississippi has to do better than both: Senator Wicker isn’t getting the job done for the working families of Mississippi, and I am committed to fighting for better jobs, schools and opportunity in our state.”
One of Sherman’s Democratic challengers, David Baria, the minority leader of the state House of Representatives, slammed Sherman in a campaign email this week after The Clarion-Ledger reported that Sherman had donated to Wicker last year.
“This election is too important to send a Democratic nominee with with no chance of winning up against a sitting U.S. Senator with 25 years in the Washington Swamp,” Baria said of Sherman in a campaign email on Thursday. “I have served the people of this state as a Democrat for over a decade, voting as a Democrat and supporting other Democrats. I have also had the privilege of serving as the Chairman of the Democratic members of the House of Representatives and leading the charge for causes that we believe in as Democrats. That’s why I am the best candidate to take on Roger Wicker in November.”
Wicker, who’s facing a single Republican primary challenger with no political experience, has served in the seat since 2008.