By Paul Gable
Horry County Council Chairman candidate Mark Lazarus dropped his election protest appeal Tuesday acknowledging his second defeat by incumbent council chairman Johnny Gardner in as many elections.
This is the third election Lazarus lost for county chairman. In all three losses, Lazarus investigated protesting the results, which demonstrates Lazarus’ inability to accept the reality of defeat.
The Horry County Republican Party Executive Committee properly dismissed the Lazarus election protest last week because the initial protest notice was filed one day after the deadline mandated by state law. Lazarus appealed that decision to the South Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee, but apparently had a change of heart as the appeal hearing approached.
Lazarus never had a legal protest because it was filed one day after the deadline mandated in state law and confirmed by the S. C. Election Commission published election calendar. The initial protest was filed on Tuesday July 5 rather than the deadline of noon Monday July 4.
Apparently, someone finally convinced Lazarus and his attorney Butch Bowers that 4 does not mean 5, Monday does not mean Tuesday and there was no way to win the protest appeal. It was time to stop publicly embarrassing themselves.
In a prepared statement to the media, Lazarus continued to push his narrative that votes were not counted because of a mistake with the mailing of absentee ballots.
Setting the record straight, all votes cast in the election by the 7 p.m. deadline on election day were counted. Lazarus lost the runoff election by 260 votes. Trying to equate absentee ballots that were not returned to lost votes is a false narrative, the last of many uttered by Lazarus during the campaign.
Absolutely certain he was going to win this time around, the second loss to Gardner might come as a bigger shock to Lazarus than his first loss four years ago.
The Lazarus campaign was heavily funded by the Cabal. According to the latest campaign filing June 30, 2022, the Lazarus campaign spent just a few dollars shy of $235,000 directly. Of those expenditures, $170,000 went to Lexington County campaign consultant Walter Whetsell and his Starboard Communications.
An additional $28,200 was spent between May 4, 2022 and June 23, 2022 for campaign services from Victrix Enterprises, LLC, a company organized on April 11, 2022. The company was organized by former state Rep. Thad Viers, who resigned his S.C. House seat after being arrested for harassment of an ex-girlfriend. Not long thereafter, Viers was indicted, convicted and disbarred as an attorney in a money laundering scheme with a former law client.
The expenditures with those two companies means the Lazarus campaign spent 85% of its money outside of the county he wanted to represent.
The Lazarus campaign was aided further by the S.C. Association of Realtors PAC which made two donations directly to the campaign and paid for five mailers supporting his election. The Grand Strand Business Alliance, through its Citizens for Conservative Values LLC, also funded mailers as well as many of its members donating directly to the Lazarus campaign.
As previously stated, the Cabal members spent heavily in the election for Lazarus.
Maybe the most interesting expenditures during the campaign were on television ads attacking Gardner for paying a fine for a minor ethics violation. According to the PB-18 forms filed with television stations, the ads were ordered by Invictus Strategies LLC for the Our American Century PAC.
According to its filing with the Federal Election Commission, Our American Century is a “single candidate Super PAC in support of Donald Trump. Its filing history shows big ad buys attacking Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election.
More recently, Our American Century was active with ad buys attacking Kathy Barnette and supporting Mehmet Oz in the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate Primary, attacking Nancy Mace and supporting Katie Arrington in the SC 1st Congressional District race and even one ad supporting Russell Fry in the SC 7th Congressional District. Oz, Arrington and Fry were all endorsed by Trump.
Then, we get to the Horry County Council Chairman Republican Primary where this national Super PAC saw fit to run ads against Gardner, thereby supporting Lazarus’ election even though Lazarus endorsed Trump impeacher Tom Rice in the SC 7th Congressional District primary.
According to its first quarter 2022 filing with the SEC, Our American Century received one donation for the quarter. The donation was $350,000 from Las Vegas Casino mogul Steve Wynn.
It is well known members of the Cabal, over the last decade at least, have been investigating ways to have one or two land based casinos allowed in Horry County. Is this the connection that brought a national Super PAC to spend money in the local county chairman race?
There are reasons the Cabal spent so heavily to get Mark Lazarus back into the county chairman seat.
Those reasons are, as yet, unclear, but maybe the mists are beginning to clear a bit.
It was ultimately incompetence in the missed deadline for filing an election protest, a protest that had nothing to do with lost ballots, that put an end to the Cabal’s efforts to get Lazarus in the county chairman’s seat.