The Mississippi Supreme Court on Friday rejected former U.S. Senate candidate Chris McDaniel’s election challenge in which he alleged incumbent U.S. Senator Thad Cochran stole the Republican primary vote.
In a split decision, justices affirmed a lower court ruling dismissing McDaniel’s case, saying he filed it after the statutory deadline.
Mississippi law allows a candidate 20 days after a statewide primary election to contest the results. McDaniel, a Tea Party-backed candidate who ran a fierce campaign, filed his challenge 41 days afterward.
McDaniel argued the deadline no longer mattered because the courts had already considered a 2004 election challenge filed 34 days after a primary, but the justices disagreed.
“We are not persuaded by his argument,” Justice Leslie D. King wrote in the 30-page order. He was joined in his opinion by three other justices.
Two justices dissented, including Josiah Dennis Coleman, who called McDaniel’s charges “too substantial and material” to be constrained by the deadline and said he would have reversed the lower court’s decision.
McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch said the campaign planned to release a statement later Friday. Cochran representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.
The decision comes four months after the June 24 primary runoff that McDaniel lost to Cochran by roughly 7,700 votes.
McDaniel refused to concede, claiming that Cochran encouraged voter fraud and that thousands of ballots had been improperly cast by Democrats, mostly African-Americans, or mishandled by county election officials.
His campaign appealed to the state’s high court after a circuit court judge, determining his lawyers had taken too long to file an initial complaint with the state Republican Party, dismissed the claim last month.
Cochran’s campaign has maintained that McDaniel’s challenge is without merit and has said that Cochran is focused on the Nov. 4 general election.
(Reporting by Emily Le Coz; Editing by David Adams and Eric Beech)