By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The state Election Commission on Tuesday approved the candidates to appear on the general election ballot for the U.S. Senate election with no debate despite the controversy that surrounds the race.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel currently is challenging in Jones County Circuit Court his loss in the Republican primary on June 24 to incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran.
But on Tuesday, the three-member commission approved Cochran, Democrat Travis Childers of Booneville and perennial candidate Shawn O’Hara, who is running on the Reform Party ticket, for the Nov. 4 U.S. Senate ballot.
Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who oversees state elections and serves on the Election Commission, said Cochran and Childers were the nominees of their respective parties and will appear on the ballot “unless ordered to the contrary by the judiciary.”
Hosemann said the commission, which also includes Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood, had to act on the ballot in time to have the individual ballots out to the counties by Sept. 10. Absentee voting for military personnel and overseas residents can begin Sept. 20.
Hosemann said he is not sure what the process would be if the special judge hearing the McDaniel challenge found significant problems with the Republican primary.
“If there is a judicial change, I assume the courts would instruct us on what to do,” Hosemann said after the meeting concluded in the governor’s Sillers Building office.
Special Judge Hollis McGehee of Lucedale, appointed by the Supreme Court to hear the case, has set Sept. 16 to start the election challenge. He has said it must be completed by Oct. 6.
McDaniel was defeated in the June 24 runoff by 7,667 votes out of the 392,197 cast statewide.
McDaniel claims his campaign has found about 15,000 questionable ballots statewide. Cochran said any irregularities in the primary runoff were minor and did not impact the outcome.
McGehee has scheduled a hearing Thursday at the Jones County Courthouse in Laurel on claims by the Cochran campaign that the McDaniel challenge should be dismissed for a number of reasons, including their contention that it was filed too late. McDaniel disputes that claim, and his attorneys will argue against it Thursday.
McGehee has said he can find no past instances of a statewide election challenge.
The only controversy at Tuesday’s Election Commission meeting centered around the residency of Monique Montgomery, who has qualified to run for Circuit Court in District 16, Place 3.
She is challenging incumbent Lee S. Coleman. It was argued that she did not live in Clay County, but instead in Columbus, meaning she would not be eligible to run in Place 3 in District 16.
But the three-member Election Commission cited a lease she had on a home in West Point and voter registration in Clay County as proof that she did have legal residency.