Dorchester County Democrats won a temporary restraining order Friday preventing any non-incumbent Republicans, such as Senate District 38 primary winner Sean Bennett and House District 97 candidate Ed Carter, from appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot.
A court hearing could be held as early as next week to determine if they are eligible to run this fall.
Columbia lawyer and Rep. James Smith filed the legal action on behalf of the Dorchester County Democratic Party, and Circuit Judge DeAndrea Benjamin signed the order.
The issue is the same one that has eliminated more than 200 Republican and Democratic candidates from the ballot across South Carolina: Two state Supreme Court rulings said candidates who didn’t properly file statements of economic interests are ineligible to run.
Bennett was one of the Lowcounty’s big winners on June 12 when he beat Republican incumbent Mike Rose for the Summerville area Senate seat.
Bennett said Friday he is confident that he filed properly but is still disappointed to learn about the legal challenge.
“It’s unfortunate that we’ve gotten to the point where elections are decided in the courtroom, not at the ballot box,” Bennett said. “That’s a shame.”
Smith said election officials may certify candidates at any point between the primary and the general election, and the temporary restraining order simply prevents that from happening until a hearing.
“It’s important that the status quo be maintained,” he said. “This is the law, and it should be complied with and those who fail to do so do so at their own peril.”
Smith said he had no list of affected GOP candidates, but Carter, Bennett and County Council candidate Carroll Duncan are the only non-incumbents to survive the June 12 primary.
Duncan, who also heads the Dorchester County GOP, relased a statement Friday saying she has done everything in her power to ensure the party has complied with the court rulings.
“If a court decides any candidates were wrongly certified, we will immediately correct the certifications,” she added.
Smith, a Columbia Democrat, also is representing Charleston Democrat George Tempel in his recent lawsuit questioning Republican Senate 41 candidate Paul Thurmond’s eligibility to run on Nov. 6.
Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson is expected to rule in that case soon.