By Paul Gable
Two Dorchester County Republican candidates were cleared to be on the November general election ballot Monday when a lawsuit challenging their certification was dismissed by Circuit Judge Howard King.
Ed Carter, Republican nominee for House District 97 and Carroll Duncan nominee for Dorchester County Council District 5 will be on the November ballot. GOP candidate Sean Bennett, who defeated incumbent GOP Sen. Mike Rose in the June primary for Senate District 38, still awaits a ruling from King on his status.
This case has been bizarre from the beginning. After the June 12th primary balloting, the Dorchester County Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against the county and state GOP and the county and state election commission claiming Republican non-incumbent candidates had not filed candidacy paperwork properly.
Judge Diane Goodstein issued a court order June 29th ordering the Dorchester County Republican Party and S.C. Republican Party to decertify all non-incumbent nominees in the general election. On July 7th, Duncan, who is also the Dorchester County GOP chairman sent a letter to the S.C. Election Commission stating she was no longer a candidate in the county council race, there was no Republican candidate for House District 97 and Rose was the nominee for Senate District 38.
There was a problem, however, with Duncan’s letter. As county chair, she has no control over the certification of statehouse nominees. Additionally, no certification takes place until the August 15th deadline set by state law. Therefore, the Duncan letter meant nothing.
Judge Goodstein’s court order expired and a hearing on the lawsuit was held before Judge King Monday. Carter and Duncan were dismissed out of the suit by King when the attorney for the Democrats presented no evidence to demonstrate either had filed improperly and did not object to a motion to dismiss them out of the suit.
This whole process was about attempting to get Bennett, who whipped Rose by 20 percent in the June primary, off the ballot. Bennett was the target from the beginning and a lawsuit by the Democratic Party was just an attempt to muddy the waters.
In order to gain standing for the Democrats, Carter had to be included because he is the only one facing a Democratic opponent in November. Duncan decertified herself because she is a non-incumbent.
Bennett faces a small hurdle with his paperwork. His Statement of Economic Interests for 2012 was filed as a 2011 document. It will be up to King to determine if this discrepancy in proper filing procedure is enough to disqualify a candidate who outpolled his incumbent opponent by a 20 percent margin in June.
Carter said he is happy to get the lawsuit behind him.
“I knew my paperwork was filed properly and this was really about Republicans fighting Republicans,” Carter said. “However, you whole campaign is put on hold when a cloud like this hangs over it. Now it is full steam ahead to a victory in November.”