JACKSON — Attorneys for tea party-backed Chris McDaniel were facing a midnight Thursday deadline to file legal arguments with the Mississippi Supreme Court. They’re trying to persuade justices to revive a lawsuit that seeks to overturn McDaniel’s Republican primary loss to six-term U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.
A judge ruled last month that McDaniel waited too long to challenge results of the June 24 GOP runoff.
McDaniel attorney Mitch Tyner said he expects to file written arguments of appeal late Thursday.
Cochran’s attorneys have until Sept. 24 to file their rebuttal, and justices are scheduled to hear oral arguments Oct. 2.
Mississippi election officials already 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 Sept. 10, which was 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 Judge Hollis 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, a state senator from Ellisville, received significant financial support from out-of-state groups trying to unseat longtime Republican senators they consider insufficiently conservative. McDaniel led a three-person Republican primary on June 3. Turnout jumped significantly when Cochran won the runoff three weeks later, including in predominantly African-American precincts where Cochran fared well.
Certified results show Cochran won by 7,667 votes.
McDaniel 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 has called McDaniel’s lawsuit “baseless.”