By Paul Gable
Despite winning the party primary for House District 3, Ed Harris will not be the Republican candidate in the November general election.
Instead, that spot on the ballot will go to incumbent Rep. B.R. Skelton who lost the primary to Harris by 73 votes.
After Harris’ victory, Skelton challenged Harris’ legitimacy as a candidate on the basis of his filing of the Statement of Economic Interests. Harris’ victory in the primary election was upheld in an election challenge hearing before the SCGOP Executive Committee June 21, 2012.
Pickens County party chairman Phillip Bowers testified, under oath, at the June 21st hearing that Harris had provided both the SEI and the Statement of Intention of Candidacy along with the party pledge and check for the filing fee on March 20, 2012 when he filed for office.
The Executive Committee accepted Bowers sworn testimony as proof that Harris had filed properly. However, after Skelton appealed the June 21st Executive Committee decision to the S.C. Supreme Court, SCGOP Chairman Chad Connelly overruled the executive committee and declared Harris ineligible.
After two hours behind closed doors Tuesday night, the Executive Committee voted to uphold Connelly’s decision.
Harris filed papers with the S.C. Election Commission Monday to be placed on the November ballot as a petition candidate. However, according to his attorney Stephen Brown, there are legal avenues remaining open to Harris to become the GOP candidate. It is up to Harris to determine if he chooses to pursue those avenues.
Since the candidate filing controversy reared its head shortly after the filing period ended March 30, 2012, it has been one problem after another for both the Republicans and Democrats. Neither party has looked good in this mess, nor should they.
We will make one prediction. Regardless of what Harris decides to do, there is more legal action with respect to candidate eligibility to come. We fully expect this controversy to continue well after the general election in November.
The issue of timely filing of SEI forms by incumbent candidates has yet to be explored. For the approximately one-third of the members of the General Assembly who did not file an SEI until after the April 15, 2012 filing deadline, there remains a large cloud over their candidacies.
Did they have a “current” SEI on file, as required by state law, to be certified as candidates? We believe this question will be explored in court before the issue ends.