Mississippi garnered unexpected national attention this summer as its system of open primary voting became a contributor to the wider debate of how best to fairly and legitimately select candidates and representatives. If you haven’t been paying attention, Mississippi’s long running Republican Senator, Thad Cochran, came very close to losing his seat to Tea Party Conservative Chris McDaniel in a rather ugly, tight primary race. In an effort to overcome his challenger in a runoff election, Cochran strategically capitalized on Mississippi’s use of open primary voting by asking traditionally Democratic voters to support him in the primary runoff against his far more conservative opponent. In a state where Democrats’ primary voters turned out in less than half the number of participants as the Republican primary, Cochran’s gambit to garner those as-yet uncast primary votes could be considered borderline tactical genius. McDaniel and his supporters are pretty sure, however, that it should be considered less than legal.
The state Supreme Court on Friday upheld the dismissal of Chris McDaniel’s lawsuit over his June GOP primary loss to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran. The court ruled four to two, upholding a lower court decision that McDaniel waited too long to file the challenge of his loss. Three justices did not participate. McDaniel in statement said, “Republicans are still left wanting justice” by the decision and said he hopes “conservatives in Mississippi will view this decision as a driving factor to get involved in Republican politics.”
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.”
Today, the Mississippi State Supreme Court heard arguments from the legal teams of state Sen. Chris McDaniel and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran regarding the 20-day deadline to file election challenges. A lower court previously ruled that McDaniel missed the deadline to file a challenge by 21 days, thus nullifying his attempts to prove that he is the rightful winner of the June Republican primary and therefore deserves to compete in the general election as the Republican nominee. Arguments from both campaigns raised serious questions about the current state of Mississippi’s election law and who gets to decide the state’s election process. Mitch Tyner, an attorney who is cited in McDaniel’s challenge as having cast an irregular vote and who argued on behalf of McDaniel, asked the judges to look solely at the statute in question. It is under this statute that a candidate is allowed to challenge the results of a statewide election. The statute itself, Tyner argues, is enforceable on its face without needing to draw upon rules from other statutes. No time frame or deadline is outlined in its language.
Mississippi: State Supreme Court sets schedule for Chris McDaniel appeal of election challenge | Associated Press
The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Oct. 2 as a candidate tries to revive a lawsuit that challenged his Republican primary loss to six-term Sen. Thad Cochran. The high court released on Tuesday a schedule for the appeal by state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Justices said they will handle the case quickly, as McDaniel requested. Justices gave McDaniel’s attorneys until Friday to file legal arguments in his appeal. They gave Cochran’s attorneys a Sept. 24 deadline to file arguments. The McDaniel camp must file a response to Cochran’s arguments by Sept. 26. Judge Hollis McGehee dismissed McDaniel’s lawsuit Aug. 29, saying McDaniel missed a 20-day deadline to challenge results of the June 24 runoff.
Mississippi: McDaniel’s camp files notice to appeal dimissal of lawsuit | Mississippi Business Journal
A tea party-supported candidate is taking the first step to try to revive his lawsuit that challenges his Republican primary loss to Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. Attorneys for state Sen. Chris McDaniel filed a notice of appeal Friday, saying they intend to ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s dismissal of the lawsuit. Judge Hollis McGehee ruled Aug. 29 that McDaniel missed a 20-day deadline to challenge results of the June 24 Republican primary runoff. A written order of dismissal was filed Thursday, starting a 30-day period for McDaniel to appeal to the state Supreme Court. The document filed Friday contained no legal arguments.
Special Judge Hollis McGehee delivered what could be the final blow to Chris McDaniel’s election challenge in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. McGehee sided with Thad Cochran in dismissing the court challenge, saying McDaniel missed a 20-day deadline to file his challenge with the Mississippi Republican Party. McDaniel has the option to appeal McGehee’s ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court, a decision McDaniel is expected to announce Tuesday. If McDaniel appeals, we are left with two scenarios:
1. The state’s high court could overturn McGehee’s ruling, in which case the challenge would be returned to the circuit clerk and move forward.
2. Justices could uphold McGehee’s ruling, and that would be the end of this long ordeal.
It is seemingly illogical that McDaniel would choose to throw the towel in at this stage. To not appeal would be conceding defeat, something he has absolutely refused to do to this point. It would be ending the fight for what he has deemed “the integrity of Mississippi’s electoral system” when there are still one more avenue to explore.
Mississippi: Chris McDaniel pushes back announcement on status of election lawsuit until Wednesday | Associated Press
Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel will take at least one extra day to decide whether to try to revive his lawsuit that challenged his Republican primary loss to six-term Sen. Thad Cochran. McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch said Monday that McDaniel will take until Wednesday to decide whether to ask the Mississippi Supreme Court to overturn the lawsuit’s dismissal. McDaniel’s camp originally said he would announce a decision Tuesday. Judge Hollis McGehee dismissed the lawsuit Friday, saying McDaniel waited too long to file it.
A Mississippi judge has tossed out state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s challenge to that state’s June 24 GOP primary runoff results, ending another chapter in one of the most bitterly contested U.S. Senate primaries in recent memory and bringing longtime Sen. Thad Cochran one step closer to another term in Washington. Special Judge Hollis McGehee ruled that McDaniel waited too long to file his challenge with state Republican Party. McDaniel filed the challenge 41 days after the election; McGehee said that under state law the challenge had to be filed within 20 days.
Mississippi judge said he will carefully consider whether to dismiss a lawsuit that seeks to overturn a Republican primary victory by Sen. Thad Cochran. Attorneys for challenger Chris McDaniel want all of the election records from 47-counties shipped to Jones County by Friday. Judge Hollis McGehee heard arguments for more than an hour Thursday at the Jones County Courthouse. He said he could rule on dismissal as soon as Friday. Attorneys for state Sen. Chris McDaniel said current state law does not set a timetable for a candidate such as McDaniel to challenge an election loss. However, attorneys for Cochran said the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled in 1959 that a challenge for a multicounty election should be filed no later than 20 days after election results are certified. Election results were certified July 7 and McDaniel started his challenge nearly a month later with the state Republican Party.
Chris McDaniel is taking the long holiday weekend to mull whether he’ll accept defeat from the June 24 GOP U.S. Senate primary, or continue his appeal to the state’s high court. “He wasn’t really ready to even accept (dismissal) was a possibility,” McDaniel attorney Mitch Tyner said Friday after a special circuit court dismissed his lawsuit challenging his primary runoff loss. “… This is a very costly litigation and so he wants to take the weekend to decide.” Attorneys for incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran said it’s time for McDaniel, a state senator from Ellisville, to give up. “This has been an ordeal for Sen. Cochran, for his staff, for the circuit clerks, for all the people whose votes have been challenged,” said Cochran attorney Mark Garriga. “… We hope this is the end. Not the beginning of the end, but the end. We urge Sen. McDaniel and his counsel to make that so.” A campaign spokesman said McDaniel will announce his decision at a press conference Tuesday. Judge Hollis McGehee on Friday approved Cochran’s motion to dismiss McDaniel’s lawsuit.
Incumbent Thad Cochran is on the November ballot as the GOP U.S. Senate candidate unless a court orders otherwise, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said, and voting will start in September. The Board of Election Commissioners – Hosemann, Gov. Phil Bryant and Attorney General Jim Hood – approved a ballot for Nov. 4 with no discussion of Chris McDaniel’s lawsuit challenging his primary loss to Cochran. The ballot includes Democrat Travis Childers, Reform Party Shawn O’Hara and Republican Cochran for Senate. A subordinate filled in for Hood at Tuesday’s meeting. McDaniel’s lawyers last week asked for an injunction preventing Hosemann from sending out general election ballots until McDaniel’s challenge is decided. The judge declined.
Mississippi: Despite election challenge, Mississippi ballot set with Thad Cochran as Senate nominee | Associated Press
Mississippi elections commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a November ballot that lists Republican Thad Cochran, Democrat Travis Childers and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara as nominees for U.S. Senate. Approval of the ballot came, as expected, while Chris McDaniel’s challenge of his Republican primary loss to Cochran is still awaiting trial. The judge overseeing McDaniel’s challenge said last week that he would not block preparations for the general election, including the setting of the ballot. State law says the ballot must be given to counties by Sept. 10, which is 55 days before the Nov. 4 general election. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Mississippi must make absentee ballots available to overseas military voters starting Sept. 20. “Unless we’re ordered to the contrary, we’re going to follow the process,” Hosemann said after Tuesday’s meeting.
Chris McDaniel’s legal team has filed its response to Thad Cochran’s motion to dismiss McDaniel’s lawsuit to overturn his GOP runoff loss to Cochran. Cochran lawyers last week filed a motion to dismiss McDaniel’s lawsuit, saying it was filed too late. They say a 1959 state Supreme Court ruling requires a candidate contesting a statewide primary file its complaint with the state Republican Party within 20 days of the election. McDaniel filed his challenge of the June 24th primary on Aug. 4. McDaniel’s team in its motion filed today argues that there is no deadline to file a challenge in a statewide primary, and that the 1959 decision applied to old election laws, which have since been updated.
Chris McDaniel’s first hurdle in his lawsuit to overturn his loss to Thad Cochran is a doozy: He may have waited too late to file it. As he worked for weeks building a case and campaigning that the election was stolen from him, McDaniel’s team said a 20-day deadline applies only to challenges of county and local elections, not a statewide U.S. Senate primary. Others, including the secretary of state, agreed with him. “Justice has no timetable,” McDaniel said numerous times when questioned why it was taking so long to file his challenge of the June 24 GOP runoff for U.S. Senate. But a 1959 state Supreme Court ruling appears also to apply the 20-day deadline to “state, congressional and judicial district” primaries. Citing this ruling, Cochran’s legal team has filed a motion to dismiss McDaniel’s lawsuit. McDaniel has until Tuesday to file a response, and a hearing on the motion is set for Thursday.
Mississippi: Thad Cochran’s attorneys want election challenge dismissed, arguing suit filed too late | gulflive.com
Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s attorneys say a lawsuit that seeks to overturn his Republican primary victory should be dismissed because it was filed too late. They also argue Cochran should not have been sued because he didn’t conduct the election. Cochran defeated state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the June 24 runoff, and the state GOP certified the results July 7. In court papers filed Thursday, Cochran’s attorneys cited a 1959 Mississippi Supreme Court decision that a challenge to a statewide election must be filed within 20 days of when results are certified. They said that means McDaniel had a July 27 deadline. McDaniel filed suit Aug. 14 in his home of Jones County, asking a judge to either declare him the winner of the June 24 runoff or order a new election.
The judge in Chris McDaniel’s lawsuit challenging his Republican primary loss to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran expressed doubts Wednesday that a trial can be finished before the Nov. 4 general election. Special Judge Hollis McGehee told lawyers for McDaniel and Cochran he feels compelled to quickly hold trial on McDaniel’s challenge of his June 24 GOP Senate runoff to Cochran, but the case is complicated and unprecedented. McGehee said Tuesday he’ll set a trial schedule by the end of the week. He said trial will likely begin Sept. 15 or Sept. 22. McGehee scheduled an Aug. 28 hearing on motions Cochran’s lawyers plan to file to have the case dismissed.
Mississippi: Tyner Explains Irregular Vote: McDaniel Lawyer Listed in Challenge | Jackson Free Press
Last week the Internet poked fun at state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s challenge to the election results of the U.S. Senate race due to one piece of evidence included in the amended filings: His campaign lawyer’s name was listed as an irregular vote. Political enthusiasts on both sides speculated about why his name was listed, but McDaniel lawyer Mitch Tyner has confirmed that he voted, or at least tried to vote, for the Tea Party candidate. “His banner’s on my building; of course, I voted for Chris McDaniel,” Tyner said. Comedic blogs used the seemingly hypocritical element of the challenge to mock the McDaniel campaign, but right-wing blogger Charles C. Johnson claims the addition was unfiltered data. On Wednesday he tweeted: “The entire Madison precinct is in question, and McDaniel volunteers reported the data without filtering it so it can be properly examined in the appropriate venue.” But Tyner told the Jackson Free Press that he was listed as an irregular vote because he was listed as voting twice. He said he knew his name was on the list all along.
A judge presiding over a lawsuit that challenges Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s victory in a Republican primary runoff said his intention is to have the case settled in time for the November general election. A hearing was held Wednesday before Special Judge Hollis McGehee, who was appointed to hear the lawsuit filed by Chris McDaniel. McGehee said it was a unique case because there has never been a statewide election challenge. McDaniel claims he lost to incumbent Thad Cochran because of thousands of fraudulent votes and voter irregularities. McDaniel wants to be declared the winner of the Republican primary runoff or have a new election. Certified results of the June 24 runoff show that Cochran, a six-term incumbent, defeated the tea party-backed McDaniel by 7,667 votes.
Mississippi: McDaniel files suit against Cochran over Republican senate run-off results | New Albany Gazette
Chris McDaniel, Tea Party candidate for the U. S. Senate, made good on his promise to take his runoff loss to Thad Cochran to the courts this past Thursday. If he is successful, it could have an impact on the election process in Union County as well as statewide. McDaniel filed suit against Cochran in McDaniel’s home county of Jones after the state Republican executive committee refused to consider his approximately 243-page challenge. Unlike his original complaint, which charged widespread voting irregularities and asked only that vote totals in those counties be thrown out to declare him winner, his suit in circuit court is potentially asking for a new Republican runoff as well. He wants the court to supersede the July 7 certification of Cochran as winner, and issue an injunction against the party’s further naming Cochran as winner. McDaniel also asks the court to issue an injunction preventing Cochran’s name to be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot and to order all circuit clerks in the state “to preserve and secure all the original documentation in any way relating to the June 3 and June 24” primary elections. This would interrupt the Nov. 4 general election process, of course, with results not yet determined.
Mississippi: Retired judge to hear McDaniel’s challenge of primary loss to Cochran | Mississippi Business Journal
A retired chancery judge who is now a Methodist minister will oversee a lawsuit that challenges Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran’s victory in a Republican primary runoff. The chief justice of the state Supreme Court appointed retired Chancellor Hollis McGehee of Lucedale to handle the case that state Sen. Chris McDaniel filed Thursday. McDaniel demands that a judge declare him the winner or order a new runoff between him and Cochran. Certified results of the June 24 runoff show that Cochran, a six-term incumbent and former Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, defeated the tea party-backed McDaniel by 7,667 votes. It would be unprecedented for a court to order a do-over of a statewide election, and part of McDaniel’s argument hinges on an unenforceable law. His lawsuit said Mississippi GOP officials violated the rights of real Republicans by allowing people to vote who didn’t intend to support the party’s nominee.
A spokesman says Chris McDaniel will file his legal challenge of the June 24 GOP primary he lost to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran today in Jones County Circuit Court. Today is the deadline to file. McDaniel on Tuesday said his legal team has told him he has a “rock-solid” case to overturn the primary. His case includes affidavits from many volunteers listing what they claim are thousands of illegal or irregular votes. But Cochran lawyers and some election officials dispute these claims. They say McDaniel volunteers have found irregularities where none exist and that the election, which Cochran won by 7,667 votes, was fair and had no more problems than the human error involved in all elections. McDaniel’s first step was to file his challenge with the state Republican Party. But the party refused to hear the challenge, saying it’s too big a case for it to sort and that it should go straight to the courts.
Chris McDaniel wants a court to exclude 25,000 Hinds County votes — plus those from several other counties — from the June 24 runoff results and declare him the winner of the U.S. Senate GOP primary.McDaniel filed a lawsuit against incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran in Jones County Circuit Court on Thursday, the legal deadline to file.If he’s not declared the winner, tea party-backed McDaniel asks the court to order the state Republican Party to hold a new statewide primary and require it to prevent “party raiding” by Democrats.In a written statement Thursday, McDaniel said his legal challenge details “rampant election integrity problems” including maintenance of ballot boxes, fraudulent votes, insecure ballot boxes and election records, wrongly accepted absentees, loosely documented security of voting machines and other problems.
The two-inch-thick “Election Integrity Challenge” binder, compiled and released by the U.S. Senate campaign of state Sen. Chris McDaniel, documents everything from alleged vote-buying schemes to illegal crossover voters to race-baiting tactics allegedly used by U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s campaign. Only thing, the presented evidence does not appear to add up to a pattern of election irregularities substantial enough to force a new election the McDaniel campaign hoped for. Not even the Mississippi Republican Party thinks the McDaniel camp’s claims warrant a hurried meeting of the state executive committee to review all the documents. On the night of Aug. 6, the state GOP punted and told McDaniel to take his issues to a state court instead. They have until Aug. 14 to seek judicial review. McDaniel’s campaign distributed its 250 pages of evidence to members of the news media as well as the Republican Party officials. However, the evidence the McDaniel campaign offers poses just as many questions as it purports to answer.
As Chris McDaniel’s team continues to scour voting records to add to an expected legal challenge of his loss to Thad Cochran, it has listed McDaniel’s lead lawyer in the challenge, and his wife, as irregular votes that should be tossed out. McDaniel lawyer Mitchell H. “Mitch” Tyner Sr. on Monday sent Cochran’s attorneys additional affidavits listing hundreds more alleged illegal or irregular votes from the June 24 runoff. Problem is, Tyner and his wife, Sloane Tyner, were flagged by a McDaniel volunteer as “CROSSOVER/IRREGULAR VOTING” in one of the new affidavits claiming problems with Madison County voting. The affidavit says that with Tyner and his wife’s votes, records showed “voted written in margin and on June 24.” It would appear, given McDaniel’s assertion that he really won the election by 25,000 votes and other claims, that the Tyners are alleged to have improperly voted for Cochran.
The Mississippi Republican Party has said they will not hear the challenge from Chris McDaniel because state law would not allow them sufficient time to consider the evidence. In a letter to McDaniel attorney Mitch Tyner, Mississippi Republican Party Chairman Joe Nosef said the candidate should move their challenge to the courts. Nosef, who is in Chicago for the Republican National Committee meeting, cited a law amended in 2012 that requires “a petition for judicial review must be filed within ten (10) days after any contest or complaint has been filed with an executive committee.” The 10-day deadline from Monday’s challenge would be Thursday, Aug. 14.
Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel officially announced the beginning of a legal effort to challenge the results of his primary fight against six-term incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran. The campaign formally filed a challenge with the Mississippi Republican Party’s executive committee, the official first step to mounting a legal challenge. On June 24, Cochran beat McDaniel by more than 7,600 votes and those results were certified unanimously by the party’s executive committee. McDaniel never conceded — instead he almost immediately began accusing his opponent of “stealing” the election because Cochran was able to woo Democrats, specifically African American voters in the Magnolia State, to support him in the run-off. This is legal, but not if the Democrats also voted in their primary three weeks earlier. Since then, McDaniel volunteers have been combing through voter rolls, and in a press conference Monday, McDaniel’s attorney Mitch Tyner said they have found 3,500 cross-over voters, 9,500 votes they believe have irregularities, and 2,275 absentee ballots they also believe were “improperly cast.” Tyner said they believe they have 15,000 votes “cast that should not have been.” “We are not asking for a new election, we are simply asking that the Republican Party actually recognize the person who won the run-off election,” Tyner said.
A press conference concluded a few minutes ago by the McDaniel campaign suggests that the campaign found far fewer illegal votes than the approximately 7,600 votes separating him from Sen. Thad Cochran in the MS Republican Senate primary. Instead, it sounds like the campaign has alleged only 3,500 votes cast by voters who also (presumably illegally) voted in the earlier Democratic primary. There are 9,500 other votes said to be “irregular,” and 2,500 allegedly improper absentee ballots. Those numbers alone suggest there will not be enough to get a new election, unless the “irregularities” are serious enough to call the result in question. But that would not be impossible, depending on what the evidence shows. But the reason I expect McDaniel will likely lose is that he is not asking for a new election. Instead, he is asking for a remedy of having him declared the winner. He would apparently rely upon polling to show that Democrats who voted in the primary did not intend to vote for the eventual Republican nominee in the fall. This relies upon a MS code provision saying that only those who will support the nominee in the general election can vote in the primary.
An attorney for the Mississippi Republican Party says state law does not prohibit people from crossing over to vote in party’s primary and another’s primary runoff, an issue in Chris McDaniel’s presumed challenge to his GOP runoff loss to Sen. Thad Cochran. “You heard me right,” said Michael Wallace, attorney for the state Republican Party. “There is an attorney general’s opinion on the subject, but that is all. The attorney general may be right. I wasn’t telling the judge that the attorney general wasn’t right. I was telling her that the issue has never gone to court. … The attorney general may be 100 percent right, but the issue has not been tested in court that I know of. It may have came up in a county court somewhere that hasn’t made it to reported cases. But to the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t been tested. All we have is an attorney general interpretation.”
Three-quarters of the money spent on behalf of Chris McDaniel’s failed bid for the Republican nomination for Senate in Mississippi came from outside political action committees (PACs). That money, from groups like the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, accounted for 36 percent of the funds spent by both sides combined. We’re obviously a few miles down the road from the days when candidates for elected office stood on wooden platforms. But we are perhaps further than you might think. In fact, there is nothing in federal law that would prevent a super PAC or group of PACs from picking out a candidate and taking care of his or her entire campaign. And we’re starting to get a glimpse of what such a campaign might look like. In order to win an election, you, first, need a candidate. You need to let people know about your candidate, so you need TV ads and radio ads and ads on Facebook. You need direct mail, and you need people to knock on doors and talk to voters. But, really, that’s it. With the right combination of those things, you can win pretty much any political race in the country.