By Paul Gable
A new hearing on the never ending candidate filing controversy is scheduled for the S.C. Supreme Court on June 4, 2012.
A very clear ruling on the requirements of state law pertaining to candidate filing requirements, specifically Section 8-13-1356(B), was issued by the S.C. Supreme Court on May 2, 2012. Irrespective of that decision, it appears some candidates got onto the June 12th primary ballots anyway.
The new hearing resulted from an affidavit the Florence County Republican Party submitted to the Supreme Court in which it acknowledged only one of the 15 candidates it certified for the June 12th primary ballot actually filed the proper paperwork on time.
According to the affidavit, seven of the candidates were incumbents making them exempt from the requirement to file a Statement of Economic Interests at the same time and with the same official as their Statement of Intention of Candidacy. This exemption supposedly lies in Section 8-13-1356(A) of state law. We’ll deal with the supposedly later.
Only one of the non-incumbents filed the paperwork properly. The remaining seven candidates are a problem for the county party, but some twisted logic was used to justify their being placed on the ballot.
According to the party, these other seven, although not officeholders, had announced their candidacy, which automatically made them public officials. Being public officials, they were exempt from the provisions of Section 8-13-1356(B) of state code because of Section 8-13-1356(A).
This twisted logic does not conform to the decision handed down by the Supreme Court and those seven candidates should have never been certified.
However, this logic was not only used in Florence County. In fact, it appears to have originated at state Republican headquarters in Columbia.
Blake Hewitt was one of six candidates who filed an SIC with the Horry County Republican Party for House District 105. After the Supreme Court decision was handed down, none of the six candidates for House District 105 were certified by the county party.
However, Hewitt was later certified by the state party and is the only one of six individuals who filed an SIC with the county party to make it to the June 12th ballot. The other five were eliminated from the primary due to not filing their SIC and SEI as prescribed by state law and ordered by the Supreme Court.
Below is a direct quote from a letter signed by Matt Moore, Executive Director South Carolina Republican Party concerning a protest of the certification of Blake Hewitt as a candidate for House District 105.
“Mr. Hewitt was an “exempt” candidate under SC Code 8-13-1356(A) because he satisfied the definition of “public official” as set forth in Chapter 13 of Title 8.”
“After reviewing the facts, Mr. Hewitt filed a Statement of Economic Interests (SEI) (timestamp 3/29/2012 5:49 PM) online before he filed his Statement of Intention of Candidacy (SIC) timestamp 3/30/2010 9:50 AM). Accordingly, because he was a “candidate” and therefore a “public official” for purposes of 8-13-1356(A), the facts show that Mr. Hewitt had a current SEI on file and was therefore exempt from the paper copy filing requirement.”
Unbelievable? Not really, here it is connettresponse
Got that? According to Moore’s tortured logic, Hewitt was a “public official” because he had announced as a “candidate.” As a “public official” Hewitt was exempt from the requirement of filing an SEI at the same time and with the same official as his Statement of Intention of Candidacy.
How you can be a candidate and, therefore, a public official before you file to become a candidate is unclear except, possibly, in Moore’s mind. Nevertheless the state party certified Hewitt’s candidacy.
Now, the Florence County party has admitted to using the same logic, which we see came directly from state party headquarters.
What is very troubling is that it appears the state party is trying to directly influence the election process by using different logic for different (selected?) candidates.
Despite the very strict ruling handed down by the Supreme Court on May 2, 2012 and reaffirmed on May 3, 2012, the state Republican Party chose to certify certain candidates based on its own set of rules.
Why did the state party not apply the above logic in a blanket manner to everyone who filed something by noon March 30th?
Is this the in crowd vs. the out crowd in Republican circles? Shouldn’t the same rules, or convoluted explanations apply to all?
Are those rumblings for the removal of Chad Connelly and Matt Moore getting louder?
One other issue that, in our opinion, still has to raise its ugly head in this overall election filing controversy deals with incumbent officeholders. Section 8-13-1356(A) of state code exempts incumbents from the filing requirements of the remainder of the section if the incumbent has a “current” disclosure form on file with the S.C. Ethics Commission.
The term “current” is not clear and has not been addressed by the Court. Public officials, which includes incumbent elected officeholders, are required by state law to file an SEI with the Ethics Commission by April 15th of each year covering information for the preceding calendar year.
Many incumbents did not meet this requirement, yet their names remain on the upcoming primary ballots.
Before this whole controversy is over, the Court will also have to rule on what current means. If the ruling is as strict as the May rulings were, there could be scores of incumbents statewide who lose election challenges after the primary and/or general election due to non-timely filing of their SEI’s.
Atlantic Beach is known for its questionable candidates and elections of which many are subject to repeated challenges and/or being thrown out. It is becoming apparent that Atlantic Beach is merely a microcosm of the South Carolina election process as a whole.