- Associated Press - Saturday, November 1, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A committee that oversees state judicial elections is criticizing a candidate for circuit judge in Hinds County, saying he’s improperly being linked to the Democratic Party and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Travis Childers, and that he’s misleading people into believing he’s the incumbent.

The Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention released two statements Friday criticizing Ali ShamsidDeen. The lawyer and Jackson municipal judge is trying to unseat incumbent Hinds County Circuit Judge Jeff Weill Sr. in a district in eastern Hinds County. Weill beat ShamsidDeen four years ago.

The panel said ShamsidDeen’s advertising is misleading voters into believing he’s already a circuit judge.

ShamsidDeen said he had reprinted his brochures to show he was a Jackson municipal judge, not a circuit judge, and is making his current position clear in campaigning.

“We heard and we responded to that,” he said in a phone interview Saturday.

The committee also criticized a leaflet urging voters to support ShamsidDeen and Childers. It was put out by South Forward IE PAC, an independent group that spends money to help Democrats in the South.

“The committee finds that the materials in question improperly align a candidate for circuit court judge with a candidate for another political office and violate the intention that judicial campaigns for circuit court judge shall be nonpartisan,” the committee stated.

ShamsidDeen said he had not solicited South Forward’s support.

“I have no connection with them whatsoever,” he said. “I don’t even know who they are.”

Jay Parmley, the executive director of South Forward of Columbia, South Carolina, says the criticism is off base because his group is independent and can’t coordinate with ShamsidDeen or Childers. He said that the First Amendment and U.S. Supreme Court decisions mean that his group has a right to say what it wants about candidates.

“The candidate did not link himself to the Democratic Party,” Parmley said Saturday. “The candidate did not link himself to another candidate. We are not an entity of the Democratic Party.”

If a candidate refused to comply, someone could file a complaint with the state Commission on Judicial Performance, or the commission could take the matter up itself. Proceedings are secret unless the commission recommends to the state Supreme Court that a judge be disciplined or retired.

Parmley said South Forward has spent $50,000 to $80,000 in Mississippi this year to help Childers, including door-to-door leafleting, phone banks and mailers. He said that South Forward looks for local candidates to support, saying ShamsidDeen is “the right kind of judge” to line up with the group’s philosophy.

South Forward’s leaders include former Mississippi state Senator Gloria Williamson, who is also a former chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party.

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Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy

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