By Paul Gable
A total of 15 Horry County Republican candidates for state or local office could be left off the ballot in June because of a failure to file the required Statement of Economic Interests with the S.C. Ethics Commission on time.
South Carolina Code of Laws Section 8-13-1356 (B) states, “A candidate must file a statement of economic interests for the preceding calendar year at the same time and with the same official with whom the candidate files a declaration of candidacy or petition for nomination.”
Filing for candidates closed at noon March 30, 2012. The Statement of Economic Interests form needed to be filed electronically with the Ethics Commission by the closing deadline for all candidates except incumbents.
Incumbents fall under South Carolina Code of Laws Section 8-13-1356 (A) which states, “This section does not apply to a public official who has a current disclosure statement on file with the appropriate supervisory office pursuant to Sections 8‑13‑1110 or 8‑13‑1140.”
According to a search of candidates on the S.C. Ethics Commission website completed at 6 p.m. Wednesday April 18, 2012, the following candidates did not electronically file a Statement of Economic Interests by noon March 30, 2012:
House District 105: Liz Gilland, Kevin Hardee, Mike Conteff, Bill Weigand
House District 58: Michael Ryhal
House District 68: Thomas Muse
House District 104: Gary Stephens
Horry County Council District Three: Lex Gardner, Keith Van Winkle
Horry County Council District Four: Chris Burroughs
Horry County Council District Six: Marvin Heyd
Horry County Council District Nine: Patrick Boulter
Horry County School Board District Five: Camille Noonan
Horry County School Board District Eleven: Levon Martin, Jeffrey Garland
Some of the above candidates filed late, some didn’t file at all, but all, according to state law, seem to be ineligible to be placed on the ballot.
All Democratic candidates in Horry County filed the form by March 30, 2012.
This is not a problem unique to Horry County. It is repeated throughout the state and threats of lawsuits abound.
This is the first general election cycle for which the new requirements for electronic filing apply. The current regulations were signed into law in May 2010.
One potential problem may be that the issue cannot be settled in a state court. The 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee due process and equal application of the law. There certainly is a question here of equal application when incumbents are excluded from Section 8-13-1356 by paragraph (A) and only those candidates not in public office are subjected to the March 30th deadline by paragraph (B).
One could view the current requirements of the law as protecting incumbents. Missed deadlines rest exclusively with challengers in Horry County and throughout the state.
Much will be heard about this law in the coming weeks. However, with only eight weeks remaining until the June 12th primary and ballots needing to be printed in advance, a quick resolution is called for.