S.C. Election Filing Mess – Part II

April 24, 2012 6:24 AMViews: 577

By Paul Gable

Every time we look at the mess created during election filing time by candidates who did not comply with state law, something else jumps out to further complicate the upcoming S.C. Supreme Court decision on two lawsuits filed to challenge discrepancies in the filings.

Yesterday we reported on the absolute mess in Horry County that, under strict adherence to state law, would disqualify enough candidates and incumbents to leave two county council, one state house, one state senate, sheriff, coroner, clerk of court, auditor and treasurer with no qualified candidates from either party  to appear on the ballot.

That could mean all those seats are determined by write-in campaigns in November.

But, the mess does not end there. It seems the state legislators who passed the law could not be bothered to follow its provisions either.

State Republican Party Political Director Alex Stroman sent to all county chairmen and state executive committeemen a memo dated February 6, 2012 outlining the requirements for candidate filing. Stroman’s memo read in part:

“All candidates for public office (except federal offices) must file an SEI form at the time they file for office. This includes incumbent candidates who may have already filed a quarterly statement. Party officials accepting the SIC, Party Pledge, and Filing Fee should ensure these forms have been filed online at the time the candidate files for office.”

In just a random check of high profile state legislators, Grand Strand Daily found the following information on the S.C. Ethics Commission website:

Rep. Bobby Harrell, Speaker of the House, did not file an SEI until April 20, 2012. Rep. Jim Merrill filed an SEI as an elected official April 4, 2012, but did not file as a candidate. Sen. Hugh Leatherman filed an SEI as an elected official March 13, 2012, but did not file one as a candidate. Sen. William B. White filed an SEI as an elected official and as a candidate April 19, 2012. House Minority Leader, Rep. Harry Ott filed an SEI as a candidate and public official April 15, 2012 (a rare Democratic mistake in this mess).

None of the above mentioned incumbent state legislators followed state law Section 8-13-1356 (B) or the instructions in Stroman’s memo and these guys passed the law in the first place.

Is this a statement that state legislators do not believe the law applies to them? Or does it mean that they really don’t know what they are voting on? Either way, it is not a good reflection on the General Assembly.

Another problem for the Supreme Court seems to lie in a lawsuit filed by Amanda Sommers, a candidate for S.C. Senate District 5. After filing closed, incumbent Sen. Phil Shoopman decided not to run for re-election and withdrew his candidacy.

State law provides that an office that has two or less candidates, may have filing reopened if one of the

candidates dies or withdraws from the race. In this case, with the senate seat crossing two counties, the state party executive committee would have had to meet and vote to reopen filing.

The executive committee did not meet, according to Sommers court filing. But, filing for the seat did reopen with another candidate coming forward at the urging of the party heirarchy. (Wow!! Doesn’t that have overtones of the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany in the 1930’s?)

Why was it necessary to have Sommers challenged? She legally filed and would have been the only candidate remaining in the race, therefore, the presumptive senator-elect. Certainly, Sommers would not have been the only state legislative candidate in South Carolina to go unchallenged.

It appears the Republican Party establishment did not want her to be the next senator from District 5. This, however, is not a valid reason to reopen filing and could lead to a conclusion of unequal application of the law, and maybe several other unconstitutional issues, by the Court.

The state Republican Party seems to be taking a casual approach to all these problems. Several candidates affected by the filing controversy have told Grand Strand Daily they called state Republican headquarters inquiring about the problem of late filing of SEI’s and were told not to worry about it, “the party has it under control.” (Id. on the editorial comment three paragraphs up)

Does this mean the party is all powerful and the fix is in at the Supreme Court? It wouldn’t be the first time!

Would the Supreme Court be tempted to rule one way if this was just an issue affecting a handful of low profile candidates across the state, but now rule another way because we are literally talking about hundreds of candidates across the state, some of whom are extremely high profile? The law is the same regardless of who and how many it affects.

However, as one commenter to a story about this problem replied to another commenter, “Let me get this straight, you are saying we should give a mulligan to the very people that wrote the law that they then failed to follow? Wow, why even have an election, just hand out the offices to the landed gentry that the powers that be want to have them. The law was legally passed by our General Assembly. It was duly signed by the Governor. It has been on the books for TWO YEARS. Now you are saying just ignore it? So much for the saying ‘we are a government of laws, not men’. Just go ahead and piss on the Constitution while you are at it and make it a complete day!”

That says it all! If the people who pass the laws don’t abide by them, why should anyone?

Is this a government of laws or of men?  It seems it can’t even include women in Senate District 5!

We’ll wait to see how the court rules. It could be a record setting fall for write-in campaigns!

Of course the S.C. Supreme Court ruling may not be the end. Depending on how the ruling comes down, there could be further litigation in federal court.

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  • Larry Richardson

    Paul,

    As you may know I was elected as the State Executive Committeeman for Horry County in 2011. My campaign to be elected into that office was… if there are rules, let’s follow them, if they are bad rules, let’s change them, but follow them until they are changed.

    I was successful in getting a few bylaws changes made on the County level, but others are still pending, having failed to make it over the hurdle of the cries and screams of the old guard members in the County Party, and the new Chairman does not have the desire to fight anymore in this regard.

    At the State level of the GOP, I was put on the rules committee, but was told to keep quiet and wait a couple of years before I had anything to say.. or more exactly, this is the wording as I best remembered, “sit down, shut up and when you have been here a couple of years, then we will listen.” I reported this situation to both my County Chairman, who now claims she never heard me say it, and I know I told her multiple (more than 4) times,and to the State Chairman, who shrugged it off.

    I have since had to resign from my State Exec position because I am running for the House in Dist 68.

    The SC GOP rules committee meeting has held only one meeting, the one I was so graciously admonished to keep quiet, since the election of our new Chairman, and we did not discuss any rule changes. Strangely I was informed by a party official just this past weekend that there were going to be rules changes brought up at the upcoming State Convention, strange that there have been no committee meetings on this (I did confirm that though I am no longer the Horry County EC, I am still on the rules committee).

    As you alluded to in your Part II report, there seems to be a pervasive attitude of “We are in charge, and we are the movers and shakers, we get to do what we want!”

    One of the major messages of my campaign for the House is that there are too many instances where the legislature and the various government agencies in the State simply ignore laws, and do what they please.

    By the way, I am that guy in the black cowboy hat that is running for office without asking for or accepting any campaign donations. I am not going to have any radio or tv ads, and will not have any “yard signs”, I am knocking on doors (so far over 4,500) and leaving a one page trifold brochure with the citizens of my district. I chose to run this way because I think the country and this state are in such a mess that this election cycle will be the one where such a campaign can overpower the ‘money’ campaigns. The motto of my campaign is “We will never get the money out of politics until the politicians stop taking the money.”, and I am demonstrating it can be done from day one of my campaign.

    I applaud you for your willingness to expose what is happening with the current filing snafu.

    If you have any questions, or would just like to talk with me, please call: 843-957-8180

  • John E Bonsignor

    After reading the pomposity of the above message, wherein the Black hat Cowboy candidate lauds his purity as a candidate for the House 68 seat; and continues to asserts his opinions on his service as a freshman member of the State Executive Committee, which was such a brutish one. I wonder after reading his grandiose puffery, why did he allow himself to be buffaloed by a member of equal standing of the State E C? If The Black hat was looking for change as he stated in his discourse above, and campaigned on the issue of “we need change”. A position, again he vehmently posed. I would have expected he would fight hard for change, and to totally ignore the rudeness of the other member… after all E.C. members have a right to speak out, and give their opinions, should there be an objection, fight harder to convince the objector to understand your positions. If the Black Hat can be berated by an impertinet E.C. member, and show no leadership abilities what can we expect from the Black Hat if he is elected as a freshman member to the House?… Regarding Mr Paul Gable article, now here is a true crusader, a fearless person who reports the news and then gives some pure nonbiased opinion.. The filing of some highly respected and powerful legislators is a real problem.. If the court rules against all of the late or non filers this will present a monumental problem for both the Republican and Democratic Parties.. The Party who will be sitting in the cat bird seat will be the Libertarian party. I can see a scramble to try to win the leadership of this party being inundated with both members of the Republican and Democratic parties wanting to run on their line. What a holy mess… jeb

  • The Wise Old Owl

    Mr. Bonsignor, how can you discuss bias while bashing the competitor of your candidate? Mr. Richardson’s idea of taking money out of politics is no different than Mrs. Crawford’s pledge of “no work, no pay.” However, you bash Mr. Richardson in an effort to belittle the competition. It is obvious. The Wise Old Owl has spoken.

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