A decision is expected today on whether a judge will dismiss the election challenge filed by state Senator Chris McDaniel regarding his loss in the June Republican Senate runoff. Retired Chancery Court Judge Hollis McGehee says lawyers for both McDaniel and his opponent incumbent Senator Thad Cochran made compelling arguments.
"All rise. . ."
In a Jones County Circuit Courtroom, Judge Hollis McGehee heard arguments yesterday, from lawyers representing both Cochran and McDaniel as to whether a challenge to the results of the June G-O-P runoff should be thrown out of court. Cochran’s legal team, who argued in favor of dismissal, says a 1959 Mississippi Supreme Court decision known as Kellum v. Johnson contends that election challenges should be filed with 20 days of the election. Attorney Phil Abernethy argued the point on behalf of Cochran.
“To me the most striking thing about the motion is its simplicity,” says Abernathey. “The primary runoff election for the US Senate was held of June 24. 41 days later on August 4, the petitioner filed his election contest with the state party executive committee. The single legal issue before you is whether or not that filing was timely.”
McDaniel’s attorneys however, claimed that election laws passed in 1986 supersede the older laws the Kellum decision was based on. They also point to a 2003 election challenge filed by current Mississippi Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn 34 days after his election loss to Jep Barbour. McDaniel attorney Mitch Tyner says that case reestablishes precedence for challenges.
“Our Speaker Gunn had the same thing going on in 2003,” says Tyner. “He had a race against Jep Barbour, and in that case Speaker Gunn filed his challenge 34 days after the election. No one believed that it should be dismissed on the same bases that now Senator Cochran is trying to get this case kicked out on.’
Judge McGehee says both arguments were compelling.
“I almost at times as y’all have filed your various pleadings have felt like I was at a Tennis match,” McGehee says. “One of you would hit a really good shot and the other would return it. So, I’ve looked at that and it appears to me that Kellum should be good law and is good law, but then I have to stare in the face of Barbour v. Gunn. It is a sort of a Conundrum.”
McDaniel is challenging his loss to Cochran in the June GOP runoff by claiming voter fraud and other irregularities affected the outcome. He’s demanding a judge overturn the results or order a new election.