JACKSON — Mississippi elections commissioners yesterday unanimously approved a November ballot that lists Republican Thad Cochran, Democrat Travis Childers and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara as nominees for U.S. Senate.
Approval of the ballot came, as expected, while Chris McDaniel’s challenge of his Republican primary loss to Cochran is still awaiting trial. The judge overseeing McDaniel’s challenge said last week that he would not block preparations for the general election, including the setting of the ballot.
State law says the ballot must be given to counties by Sept. 10, which is 55 days before the Nov. 4 general election. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Mississippi must make absentee ballots available to overseas military voters starting Sept. 20.
“Unless we’re ordered to the contrary, we’re going to follow the process,” Hosemann said after yesterday’s meeting.
Certified results show Cochran, a six-term incumbent, defeated the tea party-backed state senator by 7,667 votes in the June 24 Republican primary runoff. McDaniel says the runoff was shoddily run and is asking the judge to declare him the winner over Cochran or order a new runoff.
Judge Hollis McGehee has set a Sept. 16 starting date for the trial, and has said it must be finished by Oct. 6. McGehee is scheduled to hear pretrial arguments Thursday in Jones County.
Cochran attorneys are asking McGehee to dismiss the lawsuit, saying McDaniel waited too long to file a challenge. In court papers yesterday, McDaniel disagreed and said the Cochran argument relies on a 1959 state Supreme Court ruling in a case involving a state election law that has since be rewritten.
McDaniel went a few miles into Tennessee on Monday night to talk about the Mississippi contest. WMC-TV reported that McDaniel spoke during a meeting at a Memphis deli to about 100 people, many of them from DeSoto County. He said he will not concede to Cochran without a court considering his election challenge.
“I want to see what the court has to say,” McDaniel told the TV station. “We’ll respect the court’s decision and we’ll move forward. But until I hear his decision, I can’t make those calls right now.”
Cochran has made several campaign stops in Mississippi while the Senate has been on its August break. Childers, a former congressman from north Mississippi, is also campaigning.
Mississippi law says a new primary could be ordered even after someone wins the general election. If that were to happen, a new general election also would have to be held.
The state Board of Election Commissioners is made up of Gov. Phil Bryant, Hosemann and Attorney General Jim Hood. A special assistant attorney general, Phil Carter, took Hood’s place in the meeting Tuesday.