By Emily Le Coz
JACKSON Miss. (Reuters) - The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear Tea Party-backed Senate candidate Chris McDaniel's legal challenge of his Republican primary defeat in a race he claims was stolen, a justice ordered Tuesday.
In an election once seen as a key test of Tea Party clout, McDaniel lost the Republican nomination to six-term incumbent U.S. Senator Thad Cochran by roughly 7,700 votes in a June 24 primary runoff.
But McDaniel refused to concede, claiming that Cochran encouraged voter fraud and that thousands of ballots had been improperly cast by Democrats – mostly African-American – or mishandled by county election officials.
McDaniel's 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.
The high court is set to hear oral arguments in the case on Oct. 2.
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.
Travis Childers, a former congressman, is the Democratic nominee for the Senate seat.
(Reporting by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Eric Walsh)