Judge dismisses challenge to Sen. Thad Cochran's runoff victory

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Chris McDaniel


Last Updated Aug 29, 2014 4:30 PM EDT

JACKSON, Miss. - Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel will not be allowed to move ahead with a lawsuit challenging Sen. Thad Cochran's victory in a Republican primary runoff.

On Friday, Judge Hollis McGehee dismissed the lawsuit from McDaniel, who lost to Cochran, saying that he had failed to file his challenge on time. Still, McDaniel could appeal the ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

It took just one day of arguments on the timing of the lawsuit for McGehee to issue a ruling. Cochran's attorneys cited a 1959 Mississippi Supreme Court ruling that said an election challenge must begin within 20 days of the election. More than a month has passed since the June 24 runoff in which Cochran was declared the winner by 7,667 votes.

McDaniel will announce Tuesday whether he will appeal the ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court.

McDaniel filed his legal challenge on August 14, alleging that thousands of votes cast for Cochran were illegal because the voters had also cast ballots in the Democratic primary, which is not allowed under state law. His lawyers said they had a "rock-solid" case to make, relying on affidavits from volunteers flagging thousands of illegal or irregular votes.

Cochran's team said race was decided fairly, and with no more irregularities than any other election.

McDaniel first took his complaints about the runoff election to the Mississippi Republican Party, which promptly volleyed the challenge to the courts, saying it was simply too big an issue for the state party to resolve in a timely manner.

In an embarrassing twist, observers noted that McDaniels' attorney, Mitchell H. Tyner, and his wife, Sloane, were on the list of alleged invalid votes Tyner had circulated.

Both were described as having "voted written in margin and on June 24," implying that they voted in the June 3 Democratic primary before crossing over to vote for Cochran in the June 24 GOP runoff.

That led Cochran adviser Austin Barbour to say it was "another example" of how "absurd" McDaniel's case is, according to the Clarion-Ledger.