Democrats Meet Saturday With Senate Challenger Sidelined

The Mississippi Democratic Party Executive Committee meets Saturday and will decide if the party will field another candidate for the U.S. Senate. Party chairman Rickey Cole of Ovett said Thursday that Democrats are awaiting to hear from the State Election Commission on whether Steven Turney's withdrawal is valid. He expects the commission to approve Turney's withdrawal.

"Steve has a statement from his physician,'' Cole said.

Turney, of Bassfield, notified the secretary of state's office Tuesday that he was withdrawing as the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate because of poor health. The state Board of Election Commissioners will determine if Turney's request is for "legitimate nonpolitical reasons.''

Republican Sen. Thad Cochran and independent challenger Shawn O'Hara remain on the Nov. 5 ballot for the Senate seat. Turney won the Democratic Party primary in June by 2,700 votes, in an election tainted by failure of the race to show up on ballots in Yazoo County. James W. "Bootie'' Hunt of Starkville, who died in July, filed a lawsuit in federal court over the conduct of the election.

Cole said the executive committee was already scheduled to meet Saturday in Jackson and the Senate issue will come up.

"I will ask the executive committee to set up an orderly process whereby those who are interested can have access to be considered. The 100-member committee can make the decision to choose a nominee or not choose a nominee. We're not required to substitute a name,'' Cole said.

Asked whether he would expect someone to volunteer to challenge the popular four-term Cochran, Cole said: "Good heavens, who knows? I learned long ago not to try to predict these things.''