First hearing in Senate challenge set Wednesday

McDANIEL

McDANIEL

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – A status hearing in Chris McDaniel’s legal challenge of his loss in the Republican U.S. Senate primary is scheduled for Wednesday morning in Jones County Circuit Court in Laurel.

Then, less than a week later on Tuesday, the state Elections Commission is scheduled to meet to approve the ballot for the November general election.

It is doubtful that McDaniel’s challenge of incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s June 24 runoff victory will be complete when the Election Commission meets. But Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who along with Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood make up the Election Commission, said the panel must proceed on the assumption that Cochran is the Republican nominee.

“We are going to proceed as we should with the nominee given to us by the party,” Hosemann said recently. “The only way to stop that process would be a court order.”

McDaniel, a state senator from Jones County, filed his court challenge last week, claiming about 15,000 questionable ballots. Cochran, a six-term incumbent, defeated McDaniel in the June 24 Republican primary runoff by 7,667 votes out of the 392,197 cast statewide.

Under state law, McDaniel had the option to file the appeal in any county where he believes irregularities occurred. But state law also mandates that the Supreme Court appoint a special judge to hear the case.

Chancellor Hollis McGehee of Lucedale, a retired judge who is on senior status, meaning he can be appointed to hear cases when local judges step aside, has been named to hear the election challenge.

McDaniel faces an uphill battle. There is no instance in recent history of a statewide election result being overturned. According to a statement, “a scheduling order for further proceedings is expected to be set” at the status hearing slated for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Jones County Courthouse

The McDaniel campaign has alleged numerous instances of lax ballot security and voter fraud. For weeks, the Cochran campaign has maintained McDaniel and his Tea Party advocates are claiming election irregularities and fraud with no evidence. The Cochran campaign has said it is focusing on the November general election against Democrat Travis Childers of Booneville.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com