U.S. Senator Thad Cochran’s bid for a seventh term faces a renewed challenge after Mississippi State Senator Chris McDaniel, who lost the Republican primary, took his voter-fraud lawsuit to the state’s Supreme Court.
McDaniel, who filed a notice of appeal today in state court in Laurel, Mississippi, lost a June 24 runoff to Cochran by fewer than 8,000 votes out of more than 375,000 cast. McDaniel sued, alleging widespread voter fraud that included thousands of Democrats illegally casting ballots in the runoff after they participated in their own party’s June 3 primary.
The Cochran-McDaniel runoff came about after neither won more than 50 percent of the vote in a Republican primary. McDaniel, endorsed by Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, ran slightly ahead of Cochran in that race, in which a third candidate got 1.5 percent.
McDaniel, 42, sued on Aug. 4. Cochran argued that McDaniel missed the 20-day deadline for filing such claims. A state judge in Gulfport, Mississippi, agreed and threw out the suit. McDaniel says the deadline doesn’t apply to his case.
“We feel very strongly that we followed the statute on the timeliness issue and we expect the Mississippi Supreme Court to reverse and allow this case to go forward on the merits,” Mitch Tyner, McDaniel’s lawyer, said in a phone call.
Voter fraud resulted in McDaniel losing 30,000 to 40,000 votes, Tyner said.
The lawsuit is “baseless,” said Cochran’s spokesman, Jordan Russell, referring to the voter fraud claim.
Cochran “is the Republican nominee and we are moving forward,” Russell said in a phone call. “Whether he filed his challenge on time or not, and we don’t think he did, he has no case either way.”
Cochran, 76, faces Democrat Travis Childers, 56, in the November general election. The Washington-based nonpartisan Cook Political report rates Cochran the favorite, citing Mississippi’s Republican tilt.
McDaniel was also endorsed by Washington-based groups aligned with the limited-government movement, including the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and the Madison Project.
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