JACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Oct. 2 as a candidate tries to revive a lawsuit that challenged his Republican primary loss to six-term Sen. Thad Cochran.
The high court yesterday released a schedule for the appeal by state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Justices said they will handle the case quickly, as McDaniel requested.
Justices gave McDaniel’s attorneys until Friday to file legal arguments in his appeal. They gave Cochran’s attorneys a Sept. 24 deadline to file arguments. The McDaniel camp must file a response to Cochran’s arguments by Sept. 26.
Judge Hollis McGehee dismissed McDaniel’s lawsuit Aug. 29, saying McDaniel missed a 20-day deadline to challenge results of the June 24 runoff.
Certified results show Cochran won by 7,667 votes. McDaniel, who is supported by tea party groups, claims the runoff was spoiled by voting irregularities.
State election officials have prepared a Nov. 4 general election ballot that lists Cochran as the Republican nominee, former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers as the Democratic nominee and Shawn O’Hara as the Reform Party candidate.
State law says the ballot must be given to counties by Wednesday, which is 55 days before the general election. Absentee ballots must be ready weeks in advance to send to overseas military voters.
No judge has ordered a do-over of a statewide election in Mississippi. If the Supreme Court overturns McGehee’s ruling and sends McDaniel’s lawsuit to trial, McDaniel would have to prove that the election was so sloppily run that its outcome could not be known. McDaniel’s lawsuit asked the judge to declare him the winner of the Republican nomination or to order a new runoff.
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.
McDaniel led a three-person Republican primary on June 3. Turnout jumped significantly for the runoff three weeks later, including in predominantly African-American precincts where Cochran fared well.
McDaniel had called the runoff a “sham” and criticized Cochran for appealing to voters who traditionally support Democrats. His lawsuit said Mississippi GOP officials violated the rights of Republicans by allowing people to vote who didn’t intend to support the party’s nominee.
Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell said McDaniel’s lawsuit was “baseless.”