State Senator Chris McDaniel's legal challenge of his June 24th Republican Senate runoff loss to incumbent Senator Thad Cochran is now in the hands of a special judge. Retired Chancellor Hollis McGehee of Lucedale hopes to have the trial settled in time for the November general election.
During a preliminary hearing in the Jones County Courthouse in Laurel, yesterday, McGehee told lawyers for both McDaniel and Cochran the he wants to start the trial as early as September 15, but believes this could be a tall order due to the complexity of the case.
"None of us are aware of a statewide election contest that has been tried before, and we collectively are trying to get our hands and our minds wrapped around the process of trying to gather evidence from all of the counties that might be in question; potentially 82 counties." says McGehee. "To gather that and present it in a timely fashion that allows an election to go forward with the proper nominee."
McGehee also ordered an additional hearing be held Thursday, August 28, to entertain pre-trial motions not yet filed. One motion to be presented by Cochran’s legal team is for the case to be thrown out. Cochran attorney Mark Garriga says they’ll file the motion based on previous case law that says any legal election challenge should be filed within 20 days of the runoff.
"The court has asked us to address some threshold motions; lawyers call them dispositive motions." says Garriga. "There is a very significant motion that's going to be filed in this case and it has to do with the timeliness as raised by the Mississippi Republican Party. We think it's an important issue, and we hope that it'll be addressed very quickly."
Despite the motion, McDaniel’s lawyers feel confident they have gathered enough evidence to convince the judge that voter fraud and other irregularities turned the tide of the June runoff. Mitch Tyner is McDaniel’s lead attorney.
"When you start looking at the crossover votes, in addition to the bad absentee ballots, you have to throw out all of those."
Tyner says. "When you take a look at, and you've all seen the challenge, there are thousands and thousands that far exceed the margin of victory. Not just crossover when you add all of them together."
Tyner also asked the judge to place an injunction on the state, and order the ballots for the November general election not to be printed. McGehee declined to do that because the state is not a listed party in the lawsuit between McDaniel and Cochran. Those ballots are legally required to be printed on September 15th.