Attorneys for state Senator Chris McDaniel are demanding election records from more than half of Mississippi's counties for a lawsuit that seeks to overturn his Republican primary loss to Senator Thad Cochran. This comes ahead of a hearing scheduled for today that will determine whether the case will move forward.
Lawyers for incumbent Senator Thad Cochran are hoping retired Chancery Judge Hollis McGehee will throw out a lawsuit that calls into question the validity of the results of the June 24th G-O-P runoff. According to a motion made by Cochran's legal team last week, a 1959 Mississippi Supreme Court decision states that an election challenge must be initiated within 20 days of the election.
McDaniel filed his challenge in Jones County Circuit Court on August 13, fifty days after the runoff.
Kenneth Townsend is a Professor of Political Science at Millsaps College in Jackson.
"There's this 1959 case that seems to suggest that there's a 20-day limit." says Townsend. "But then there's the statutes that are also on the books that make it unclear whether there is a 20-day limit, a 10-day limit or whether you just have to file forthwith. The complication here is that there is just a little bit of lack of clarity regarding what should dictate the timeline of filing an appeal in cases like this."
The Cochran campaign declined to comment on the ongoing nature of the suit. But McDaniel's lawyers have continually argued that motion to dismiss was based on outdated Mississippi election laws. Noel Fritsch is a spokesman for the McDaniel camp.
"They point to a case in 1959 that seems to indicate that there might be a 20-day time-limit on filing. The statute on which that case was decided, the statutes were repealed in 1986. There is one other note, the Secretary of State's office said just about a month ago that there is no deadline to file the challenge."
Despite the outcome of today's hearing, Millsaps Political Science Professor Kenneth Townsend says the Mississippi Republican Party will have a tough time healing itself.
"I think that the outcome regardless is going to be a fractured Republican Party." says Townsend. "Whether the judge does grant the motion to dismiss now, or whether he rules against the McDaniel camp at a later point in time after hearing some of the pre-trial arguments that are actually going to trial, I think you're going to see a fractured Republican Party.
If the judge does decide the suit was filed in a timely manner, then it will move on to trial which will begin September 16.