Know the Story: Cochran vs. McDaniel

by Hannah Saulters
news editor

On Friday, Aug. 29, Judge Hollis McGehee dismissed Senate candidate Chris McDaniel’s case contending the results of the June 24 runoff election. Judge McGehee’s decision approved a motion by Sen. Thad Cochran’s lawyers to dismiss the case on the grounds that it was filed after a 20-day deadline.

Following his loss of the June 24 runoff election against incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran, Chris McDaniel filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Jones County challenging the election results. Geoff Pender of The Clarion-Ledger wrote McDaniel filed the case “claim[ing] the election was ‘stolen’ from him through illegal and improper voting and black Democrats ‘raiding’ a GOP primary.”

In his speech following the release of results on June 24, McDaniel failed to concede the race to his opponent, declaring to his supporters, “There is something a bit strange… about a Republican primary that is won by liberal Democrats.” Pursuing this idea, McDaniel filed his official complaint of “party raiding,” Aug. 15.

Court proceedings began Aug. 20. The next day, Aug. 21, the Cochran campaign’s lawyers filed a motion to have the case dismissed based on a ruling by the Mississippi State Supreme Court in 1959.

Both campaigns released statements following Judge McGehee’s decision, exhibiting starkly different interpretations of the definitiveness of the ruling. Butler Snow Law Firm, the attorneys representing the Cochran campaign, stated, “We are pleased the court agreed with our motion to dismiss the case. Clearly, the law states a challenge must be filed within the twenty-day window. We also want to continue to re-emphasize that regardless of the timeliness of the challenge, a careful review of Chris McDaniel’s filing shows this case to be baseless. The voters made their decision on June 24 that Thad Cochran is the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate.”

Meanwhile, the McDaniel campaign released this statement: “While we absolutely respect the legal process which provides guidance for this challenge, we strongly disagree with Judge McGehee on this point of law, so Chris will take the weekend to take stock in the legal options on the table and will make an announcement early next week.”

A statement on whether or not McDaniel will pursue an appeal is expected early next week. If the case continues, it will go directly to the State Supreme Court.