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Trial set for September in McDaniel’s challenge in Mississippi Senate runoff

Attorneys for U.S. Senator Thad Cochran want judge to dismiss McDaniel’s suit because it was filed too late

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

mississippi mugJACKSON, Mississippi (CFP) — State Senator Chris McDaniel’s legal challenge to results of his June 24 GOP U.S. Senate primary runoff loss in Mississippi will begin September 15, a state judge has ruled.

State Senator Chris McDaniel

State Senator Chris McDaniel

In an August 21 order, Hollis McGehee, the retired judge appointed to hear McDaniel’s challenge, said the trial must be completed by October 3 — three weeks after the state’s deadline for printing ballots for the November election. The trial will be held in Jones County, where McDaniel lives and where his suit was filed.

McDaniel went to court to overturn the results of the runoff, asking McGehee to either declare him the U.S. Senate nominee instead of incumbent U.S. Senator Thad Cochran or order another vote. Certified results from the runoff show Cochran beating McDaniel by 7,667 votes.

But attorneys for Cochran are asking McGehee to dismiss the case, saying that McDaniel missed a 20-day deadline to go to court to overturn the election. The judge has set a hearing on Cochran’s motion for August 28.

McDaniel led Cochran in the first round of voting on June 3. But after making direct appeals to Democratic and independent voters to cross over and vote in the runoff, Cochran erased McDaniel’s lead and won by 7,667 votes — a move that enraged McDaniel’s supporters.

About 67,000 more people voted in the runoff than in the primary, and in Hinds County — which includes the predominantly black city of Jackson — Cochran’s margin of victory was 11,000 votes, nearly double what it was in the first round.

State law only allows voters to cross over to vote in the Republican runoff if they didn’t vote in the Democratic primary in the first round. McDaniel’s attorney, Mitch Tyner, has said there were at least 3,500 crossover votes that should not have been allowed.

Tyner also maintains another 9,500 votes were “irregular,” and 2,275 absentee ballots were improperly cast. Those votes, together, are more than Cochran’s margin of victory.

McDaniel went to court after the executive committee of the Mississippi Republican Party declined his request to overturn the results of the runoff and declare him the winner.

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

U.S. Senator Thad Cochran

The bitter Senate race in Mississippi pitted Cochran and the state’s Republican establishment against Tea Party activists and outside conservative groups — such as the Senate Conservatives FundFreedomWorks and the Club for Growth — that strongly backed McDaniel.

Cochran was one of five Southern Republican senators targeted in primaries this year. All five survived.

If Cochran survives the legal challenge, he will face former Democratic U.S. Rep. Travis Childers in November.

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