By Paul Gable
New developments in the election filing controversy that won’t go away saw more candidates eliminated from Tuesday’s upcoming primary ballots and a potential for more candidate challenges after the voting.
The Florence Republican Party requested a clarification from the S.C. Supreme Court yesterday on whether candidates who were incumbents in one office, but running for a different office in this election cycle, were to be treated as new candidates with respect to filing a Statement of Economic Interests at the same time and with the same person that they filed their Statement of Intention of Candidacy.
The Supreme Court refused to provide a clarification. Some took this to mean that the Court felt it had already answered the question with its May 2, 2012 and June 5, 2012 rulings.
This led an already gun shy Florence party to make the decision that such candidates were to be treated as new candidates and were subject to state code Section 8-13-1356(B).
After literally getting their heads handed to them by the justices on Tuesday, there was no desire on the part of the Florence Republicans for another round of hearings at the Court. Therefore, any incumbent running for a new office in Florence County who did not file the SEI and SIC at the same time will not be certified for the Republican primary ballot in the upcoming Tuesday election.
While Tuesday’s ruling dealt specifically with Florence County, the Court put the remainder of the state on notice that county and state parties not certifying all candidates in strict compliance with the law did so at their own peril.
Horry County has three races with the same potential problems. Senate District 28 where incumbent Horry County Solicitor Greg Hembree filed to run for the seat being vacated by the retiring Dick Elliott would be affected if the Horry County Republican Party follows the same logic as the Florence County party. Hembree did not file an SEI until April 6, 2012.
Additionally, from information we have obtained, Greg Duckworth, a city councilman for North Myrtle Beach running for House District 104 filed an SIC on March 16, 2012 and an SEI on March 29, 2012. Likewise, Rod Smith, Surfside Beach town councilman and candidate for House District 106, filed an amended SEI as a candidate on March 27, 2012 and his SIC on March 28, 2012.
None of the three filed their SEI at the same time and with the same person that they filed their SIC.
It is up to the Horry County Republican Party to decide whether to continue to certify these three candidates for Tuesday’s primary ballot. However, nothing would prevent their being challenged by a competitor after the primary election or general election is held.
How such a challenge would be handled is anyone’s guess at this point, but the action by the Florence County Republican Party not certifying candidates in a similar situation could be viewed as a precedent.
Other county parties, both Republican and Democrat, throughout the state are struggling with similar decisions. The answers are still not crystal clear as to who is and who is not a certifiable candidate with respect to the many possible permutations of candidate eligibility in this election cycle.
This is another example of why we have predicted that the end of candidate challenges is not yet here and many more election commission and court challenges and decisions will be forthcoming.
In one other campaign development, Heather Ammons Crawford defeated Larry Richardson and Thomas Muse in a special primary election for the House District 68 seat vacated by Thad Viers earlier this year.
The election is noteworthy for several reasons. The special election was required by state law because of the timing of Viers’ resignation. It was held under district lines for the 2010 election cycle. The turnout was very low, under 800 voters total. The number of voters in the primary was less than the 5 percent of voters who would be required for a petition candidate in the district.
Crawford and Richardson will again square off in the regular Republican primary for House District 68 on June 12th. However, that election will be held in the new, reapportioned Districe 68. Muse is not eligible because he lives outside the new district lines. Is a different result possible?
Rather confused media reports after the special election could have led voters to conclude that Richardson was dropping out of contention for the June 12th primary.
That is not the case. Richardson e-mailed us to say he is continuing his walking tour of the new district, knocking on as many doors as possible before Tuesday and will be strongly contesting Crawford to represent the new District 56.