By Paul Gable
The special election campaign for Horry County Council District 3 took a negative turn this week with an attempt to smear Republican candidate Bubba Owens.
This was not unexpected as the campaign of Bob Kelly has been trying for weeks to get out what it thought was damaging information about Owens.
The information came from a search of the public index of court records on Owens.
After that search, Kelly’s campaign consultant, Jim Wiles, sent an email to GSD and other media, which, among other things, decried the “22 year criminal record (of Owens) in Horry County” including “two convictions for criminal domestic violence.”
The email went on to claim “15 criminal convictions” and called Owens a “violent felon with a 22 year history of domestic violence.”
A search of the SLED CATCH system, which is the Criminal Justice Information System of South Carolina, reveals only three entries.
Owens plead guilty to unlawful use of a telephone (a misdemeanor) in January 1997 and public disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor) in June 2004.
Owens was arrested for criminal domestic violence (a felony) in 2013, but the charges were dismissed because no probable cause for the arrest was found.
(The SLED CATCH documents are attached at the end of this story.)
Another attached document is a summons for Owens to serve as a federal district court jurist in December 2015. For those of you not familiar with the law, a convicted felon cannot serve on a jury in South Carolina, neither federal nor state.
So, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division records do not show Owens to be a felon. Neither do SC court system records.
One has to wonder, however, why the Kelly campaign, one which claims his career as a police officer as some kind of shining endorsement and touts the words “Zero Tolerance” as if it were a Bible verse, felt the need to stoop so low.
To make matters worse, Kelly is a retired police officer from New Jersey and Wiles is an ex-lawyer from Philadelphia. You would think, between the two of them, they could have figured out they were spreading false information about Owens.
Maybe they did.
Such tactics are not new to South Carolinians. One hundred fifty years ago, another group of people came down from the North using similar types of smear tactics on native Southerners. They were called “Carpetbaggers.”
As Owens stated in a written response to the media story, “It seems to me that a person who has nothing good to say about himself must resort to spreading what he believes are bad things about his opponents.”
The complete Owens response:
Statement from Bubba Owens
“After a month and a half of trying, an opponent of mine has finally gotten a news media outlet to bite on my public index history.
“I have been convicted of two misdemeanor charges, one ten years and the other twenty years old.
“Having been born and lived here all of my life, my skeletons are available on the local public index. I haven’t picked up and moved hundreds of miles away to run for elective office.
“I have been a businessman in District 3 my entire adult life. Like any businessman, there are good and bad periods and legal action is a part of being in business. If having suffered some setbacks in business is viewed as a disqualification for public office, then Donald Trump and several candidates in the current Myrtle Beach city election should be disqualified as well.
“I have tried to be above attacking my opponents in this election. It seems to me that a person who has nothing good to say about himself must resort to spreading what he believes are bad things about his opponents.”