By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Special Judge Hollis McGehee has set 9 a.m. Sept. 15 as the start of the trial in which Chris McDaniel will challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s June 24 victory in the Republican primary runoff election.
McGehee, a retired chancery judge from Lucedale who handles cases when local judges step aside, also said “in no event shall the trial in this matter extend beyond … October 3.”
McGehee has indicated the trial will be held in the Jones County Courthouse in Laurel.
McGehee set the trial schedule Thursday as well as announcing his intention to appoint an expert in the field of elections and election laws to accompany parties to the lawsuit in examining election documents and provide assistance with other aspects of the trial.
McGehee cited several reasons for the need to appoint an expert.
• No prior instance of a legal challenge to a statewide election.
• The scope and volume of issues to be considered and resolved in a short period of time.
• The case “affects every citizen of the state of Mississippi and to a significant extent the citizens of the United States of America.”
But before the trial starts, McGehee scheduled 9:30 oral arguments Aug. 28 on motions presented by the Cochran campaign.
The motions will include the argument, that based on court precedent, McDaniel waited too long to file his appeal.
In motions filed Thursday, the Cochran campaign said McDaniel’s challenge should be dismissed and “is based primarily on allegations of isolated and episodic election irregularities, errors and violations that are legally insufficient to support an election challenge.”
McDaniel was defeated in the runoff by 7,667 votes out of the 392,197 cast statewide.
McDaniel claims that his campaign has found about 15,000 questionable ballots statewide.
Under state law, McDaniel could file the challenge in the circuit court of any county where the alleged irregularities occurred. He opted to file in his home county of Jones.
McGehee was appointed by the state Supreme Court to hear the challenge.
McGehee held a status hearing Wednesday on the legal challenge. McDaniel is asking that the judge declare him the winner or order a new election.
The general election is scheduled for Nov. 4. The Republican Party has declared Cochran its nominee while Travis Childers of Booneville is the Democratic nominee.