Hester Jackson-McCray

Hester Jackson-McCray (D-Horn Lake) is shown in the Mississippi House of Representatives chambers after being sworn into office on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Ashley Henley (R-Southaven), who lost her seat in the House to Jackson-McCray in the November general election, has challenged the result. Jackson-McCray has now filed a petition with the House to have the challenge dismissed.  

The elected winner for the Mississippi House District 40 seat in the state Legislature has moved to have the House dismiss the challenge from the loser of that election. 

Hester Jackson-McCray (D-Horn Lake) Thursday, Jan. 9 presented a motion to the House to have the challenge presented by Ashley Henley (R-Southaven) dismissed. Jackson-McCray through her attorney Samuel Begley of Jackson claimed in the motion that the petition by Henley was not served to Hester-McCray, which makes the challenge void.

Another petition was filed with the House late in the day Thursday asking that Henley’s challenge be withdrawn on grounds that Henley failed to file a sworn petition.

The certified vote totals by the DeSoto County Election Commission had Jackson-McCray outpolling the incumbent Henley by a 1,553-1,539 margin in the November general election.

In her first motion, Jackson-McCray stated she has never been served by Henley’s representatives with the petition to contest the election, as stated in the rules of the House. The second motion claims the Henley petition was never a sworn document and because of that, it doesn’t satisfy House requirements.

The rules also state that challenge must be filed with the Clerk of the House within 30 days of a general election.

Henley has appealed to the House that voter irregularities caused her to lose the election. She was voted to the state Legislature four years ago by a 68-32 percent margin over Jackson-McCray. In the 2015 election cycle, Henley also defeated incumbent Pat Nelson in the Republican primary to advance to the general election.

In one of the first actions of the current legislative session, Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn appointed a committee to review the 2019 District 40 results with Rep. Rob Roberson (R-Starkville) chairing that committee.

A spokeswoman for Jackson-McCray said in an email that they are awaiting word from the committee if their points of order would cause Henley’s challenge to be dismissed or they would continue their investigation.

The committee was expected to come back with a recommendation for the House to consider within the next 3-4 weeks, according to reporting of the matter from Mississippi Today.

Jackson-McCray was sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 7, but neither Jackson-McCray or Henley were currently listed on the House of Representatives roster, as found on the official state Legislature website, as the issue is being sorted out.

(UPDATE: A third motion was filed by Hester-McCray's representatives on Monday, Jan. 13 with the House asking for an expedited consideration of her previous motions to dismiss Henley's challenges and that she receive copies of documents produced by Henley and the County Circuit Clerk concerning this issue.)

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.