Losing at the state high court may not end Chris McDaniel’s months-long challenge of his election loss to Sen. Thad Cochran, his lead attorney said after arguing before the Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday. McDaniel attorney Mitch Tyner said the erstwhile candidate could still file a challenge of his loss in federal court, on First Amendment grounds. He said McDaniel still hasn’t had a trial to prove the election was stolen from him and “the merits have never been heard on this case.” The state Supreme Court heard nearly two hours of arguments Thursday in McDaniel’s appeal of a circuit court’s dismissal of his election lawsuit. The court gave no indication when it might rule. Cochran attorney Mark Garriga said McDaniel’s challenge needs to end. “They blamed everybody in the world for losing the election,” Garriga said. “They blamed the trial court for losing the lawsuit, and if they lose today they want to blame other people. This has been a long ordeal for the Cochran campaign, for the circuit clerks and for all the people who have been accused of wrongdoing.”
The lower court in August dismissed McDaniel’s lawsuit. That court ruled, based on a 1959 state Supreme Court decision, that McDaniel waited too late to challenge his June 24 GOP primary runoff loss to Cochran. Although state law doesn’t spell it out for statewide elections, the 1959 “Kellum” ruling said there is a 20-day deadline to file a challenge, based on a deadline in law for county elections. McDaniel filed his 41 days after.
McDaniel’s lawyers argue that the Kellum ruling was based on old election laws that have been changed, notably with an overhaul by the Legislature in 1986.
Cochran’s attorneys argue the changes, particularly regarding deadlines, were not substantial and the old court ruling still holds. They say election laws should be looked at as a whole – as lawmakers did when they passed them as a single act – and that the deadline for local elections applies to statewide ones.
Both sides say the Legislature’s failure to clarify a deadline for statewide elections after the 1959 ruling proves their case.
Full Article: High court mulls McDaniel appeal.