Oklahoma Democrats won't file lawsuit over 5th District election that included dead candidate

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma Democratic Party leaders decided Monday not to file a lawsuit over Republican U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin's victory over the Democratic nominee who died two days before the general election.

Although party Chairman Wallace Collins said he believes a legal challenge would have been successful, he said a majority of party officers voted not to pursue legal action.

"In reading state law, it's very plain and explicit that the governor shall call a special election, and our lawyers felt like were on solid legal ground to pursue that," Collins said. "But I think the majority of the reasoning was that there's no guarantee.

"I also think financial considerations had to come into effect."

Mullin won a second term in office with 70 percent of the vote over Democrat Earl Everett and an independent. But the 81-year-old Everett was critically injured in a car accident and died Nov. 2, two days before Election Day.

The Oklahoma Election Board voted last month to certify the results of the Nov. 4 election based on a recommendation from Republican Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office.

Democrats have argued that state law calls for a special election in the case of a candidate's death before the election.

But Pruitt's office, whose attorneys provide legal advice to the election board, said federal law trumps state law in this case, citing a section of federal law that says Oklahoma must hold an election for U.S. representative on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Democrats had selected outgoing state Sen. Jerry Ellis of Valliant as the party's substitute candidate.

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