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Attorney: Democratic candidates should not have been disqualified from governor’s race

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Following the disqualification of two Democratic gubernatorial candidates over statements of economic interest, an attorney representing Bob Hickingbottom is arguing that the former candidate was unlawfully removed from the race.

In a letter sent to Tyree Irving, the chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, Jackson attorney John R. Reeves wrote that if his client is not reinstated as a candidate, he will file a petition for judicial review in the Circuit Court of Hinds County.

On Feb. 17, the Democratic Party removed Hickingbottom and fellow candidate Gregory Wash from the upcoming primary elections, saying the two did not file their SOEIs to the Mississippi Ethics Commission in the appropriate amount of time under state law. According to Reeves, the candidates technically had until March 17 to file.

“Stated simply, the SOEI could still be filed as of today and not be delinquent,” Reeves wrote on March 15. “In the case of Mr. Hickingbottom, he filed a SOEI with the Mississippi Ethics Commission over a week ago, well before he would have been deemed to be delinquent by the Ethics Commission.”

The attorney also used the letter to point out that Hickingbottom and Wash – both African Americans – being disqualified left Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, who is white, as the only candidate on the Democratic ticket. Presley filed his SOEI prior to the committee’s action to certify him as a candidate.

“For the Committee to have disqualified two candidates, both African Americans that were candidates for Governor, due to their not having filed at that time a SOEI, it does appear that the one candidate that the committee did certify as a candidate for Governor – a white individual – the party’s nominee without competition,” Reeves continued. “What appears to be interesting in this situation is that the same committee…on the same date chose to certify over 48 candidates for office that had not filed a SOEI at the time.”

According to Reeves, the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office has never used SOEIs as part of its process in qualifying candidates, a fact Secretary of State Michael Watson confirmed recently during an interview on The Gallo Show.

 “By statute, that is not a requirement to be qualified to run for office,” Watson said. “They can clearly file that and have some deadlines to meet that, but you don’t have to do that to be qualified to run for office.”

If the Mississippi Democratic Party does not reinstate Hickingbottom as a candidate for this year’s election by March 31, Reeves added that a petition will be filed immediately.

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