A top official for state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-MS) was with the leader of a local tea party group when she got locked in the Hinds County courthouse where primary ballots were kept on Tuesday night.
The official was Scott Brewster (pictured, left), the coalitions director for McDaniel’s Senate campaign. The Hinds County Sheriff’s department is now investigating how Central Mississippi Tea Party President Janis Lane, Brewster, and Rob Chambers ended up in the locked courthouse.
The McDaniel campaign’s statement on the courthouse lock-in episode, via the Sun-Herald of Biloxi, Mississippi is: “Our campaign sent people to the Hinds courthouse to obtain the outstanding numbers and observe the count.”
“In doing so, they entered the courthouse through an open door after being directed by uniformed personnel. They were then locked inside the building,” the statement continued. “At this point they sat down and called the county Republican chairman, a close Cochran ally, to help them get out. Eventually a Sheriff’s officer showed up and opened the door to let them out.”
According to the sheriff’s office, Lane, Brewster, and Chambers were locked in the courthouse until 3:45 am, long after it became clear that McDaniel and Cochran, who McDaniel is challenging, would likely face each other in a runoff election in three weeks.
According to Connie Cochran, a sister-in law to Sen. Thad Cochran and one of the county’s election commissioners, all vote counters and observers had left at at 11:30 p.m. CT and she hadn’t witnessed Lane or the others at that time. Cochran won Hinds county nearly two-to-one, with final vote counts at 65.7 percent to 33.8 percent, separated by more than 5,000 votes.
Meanwhile, chairman of the Hinds County Republican Party, Pete Perry, told TPM on Wednesday that he got a call from Lane around 2 a.m. where she told him she was locked in the courthouse and asked him to help her get out. Perry said he reached out to the Hinds County sheriff’s office to get the keys to the courthouse at roughly 2:45 a.m. Lane called Perry after that to tell him she got out of the courthouse.
“There are conflicting stories from the three of them [Lane, Chambers, and Brewster], which began to raise the red flag, and we’re trying to get to the bottom of it,” Hinds County Sheriff spokesman Othor Cain told the Clarion-Ledger. “No official charges have been filed at this point, but we don’t know where the investigation will lead us.”
So far, the sheriff’s office hasn’t indicated that the trio had posed a threat to the ballots.
Brewster’s name has popped up in relation to the other big break-in story of the Mississippi Senate race, where a pro-McDaniel blogger named “Constitutional Clayton” Kelly went to the nursing home of the wife of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), who McDaniel is challenging, and took her photo for an anti-Cochran video.
Brewster initially said he was aware of the video (contrary to what other campaign officials said at the time) but had not made any calls to have them taken down. “I think people made some calls (to have it removed). I didn’t personally — nobody personally talked (to Kelly). I don’t know if anybody made phone calls about it. I’m not sure. Just, I remember all of a sudden it was gone,” he told the Clarion-Ledger.
But Joe Nosef, the chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party told TPM that he had received a text message from Brewster about the video and denying that his campaign was connected to it. Brewster “reached out to me and said they were trying to get something off of social media and they were doing their best to stop recent activity or something and my response was, it was by text message, and my response was ‘I don’t even really know what you’re talking about.'”
TPM reached out to Brewster who was not immediately available for comment.