The Mississippi Democratic Party must allow Bob Hickingbottom to challenge Brandon Presley for the party’s nomination for governor in the August primaries, a state judge ruled on May 26.
The party, which cited Hickingbottom’s failure to file a statement of economic interest when its executive committee declined to certify his candidacy in February, is appealing the ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The state’s high court issued an order Monday requiring the party to file its appeal by 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Mississippi Ethics Commission Executive Director Tom Hood told the Mississippi Free Press in February that state law does not require candidates to be disqualified for failing to submit a statement of economic interest, though they can face a financial penalty for not doing so.
In his ruling, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Forrest A. Johnson noted that Hickingbottom “is thirty years of age or older, has been a citizen of the United States for more than twenty years, and has resided in the State of Mississippi for more than five years,” meaning he meets the requirements to run under the Mississippi Constitution.
“There is a difference between qualifications for governor as set out in Article 5 of the Mississippi Constitution and penalties for failure to file an economic statement of interest in Section 23-15-811 of the Mississippi Code,” he wrote. “Qualifications are the core, personal eligibility requirements set out by the Mississippi Constitution. Either you are or you are not. The penalties of Section 23-15-811 are punishment for failure to take action required by law, which include being guilty of a misdemeanor crime, being barred from certification if nominated, and no salary if elected to office.
“The court concludes that a candidate can’t be disqualified from candidacy due to violations of Section 23-15-811, only subjected to enforcement of the penalties if he or she wins,” the judge continued, writing that Hickingbottom’s disqualification “was invalid on its face because it did not call into question any ‘qualifications’ of Article 5 of the Mississippi Constitution.”
‘Deficient In Due Process’
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