Some incumbents face smooth sailing after state nixes 14 local candidates
Fourteen Lowcountry candidates — including all three hopefuls for a newly drawn state House 15 seat — learned Friday they’re among almost 200 candidates whose names won’t appear on this year’s ballots because they didn’t file an ethics form on time.
The following Republican and Democratic candidates had filed for office by the March 30 deadline but are now off the ballot because they did not file a Statement of Election Interests on the same day they entered the race.
Charlie Davis (House 15)
Samuel Rivers (House 15)
Chris Cannon (House 119)
John Steinberger (Senate 41)
John J. Mondo Sr. (House 102)
Mirian Redish (House 15)
Larry Carter Center (House 114)
Fritz Fielding (Senate 42)
Master Bines (Senate 42)
Barbara McGowin (Senate 44)
Melva Zinaich (Charleston County Auditor)
Mark Whisenant (Charleston County Sheriff)
John Polk (Charleston County Council District 3)
Miriam Birdsong (Dorchester County Council District 6)
As a result, at least four Lowcountry incumbents no longer face a challenge in either their June 12 primary or the Nov. 6 general election.
The local incumbents who now have no opposition include Sen. Robert Ford, D-Charleston; Sen. Paul Campbell, R-Goose Creek; Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon; and Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey.
John Steinberger, a Republican seeking Glenn McConnell’s former Senate 41 seat, was among those removed.
Steinberger said Charleston County GOP Chairwoman Lin Bennett told him he only needed to file his Statement of Economic Interests form by the close of filing March 30, and he met that deadline. However, he filed to run on March 24, and the law said that ethics form had to be filed on that same day.
Bennett said Friday Steinberger wasn’t the only one in that boat, and she was disappointed because she doesn’t think the lawmakers designed the current rule to kick anyone off the ballot like this.
“I think the intention of the law should always be considered, and I don’t think it was considered here,” she said. “But the bottom line is the decision of the S.C. Supreme Court so we have to live with their decision and get it fixed.”
“It’s a technicality,” Steinberger said. “I’m profoundly disappointed I’m off the ballot. I’ll just try to sort things out.”
Mark Whisenant, a Democratic candidate for Charleston County sheriff, found out he was struck from the ballot just a day before he was scheduled to get married. He said he thought he was following all protocols properly.
“It felt like I got kicked in the teeth. It’s very unfortunate, very disheartening,” he said Friday. “But I’m going to get back on that ballot.”
Ford, who lost both his primary opponents because of the ruling, said he would prefer to see Frederick Fielding and Master Bines still in the race. Ford said he is not rejoicing because he has a clear path to a new term.
“The good old boy system is working like it always did, and I don’t like it,” Ford said. “We’re the best example of democracy in the history of mankind, and this is not a good example of democracy.”
Larry Carter Center, who had filed to challenge Speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said he felt “intensely betrayed.”
“This is an extreme violation of civil rights,” he said, adding that he had no notice to make his case before the court. He said he would wait and see what other candidates to do challenge the ruling.
The State Election Commission released a list Friday of candidates affected by a S.C. Supreme Court ruling earlier this week.
State Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, said this paperwork technicality should not keep candidates off the ballots, telling The Associated Press, “We’ve got an obligation to fix this.”
Martin is yet another incumbent who lost his primary challenger in the change, but he said, “My opponent has worked very, very hard. He deserves an opportunity to be on the ballot.”
Several candidates affected vowed to fight to get back on the ballot, and some could attempt to run as petition or independent candidates. Democrat Melva Zinaich, who was removed as a Charleston County auditor candidate, said she is looking at collecting signatures to get on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Matt Moore, executive director of the South Carolina GOP, said he was sad about this week’s rulings “but am committed to following the S.C. Supreme Court’s instructions.”
The decision also chaffed groups, such as the state’s Republican Liberty Caucus, which already had decided to support some GOP challengers now knocked off the ballot.
“Frustrating doesn’t begin to express our feelings over this,” said Daniel Encarnacion of Charleston, a group spokesman. “It’s taking the right of the people to vote, taking their vote away. What bigger civil liberty issue is there than that?”
In the Lowcountry, more Democrats were stricken from the ballot (nine) than Republicans (five).
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.