Circuit judge rules Thurmond ineligible, but decision allows quick GOP primary
Circuit Judge Ernest Kinard ruled that former Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond filed improperly for the District 41 Senate seat, but he opened the door for the Republican Party to find a new candidate. And Thurmond could get back on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Kinard heard Thurmond’s case Monday morning, just two days before political parties are supposed to certify their candidates to state and local election offices for this fall’s general election.
Kinard found that Thurmond was not an eligible candidate, but his decision allowed the GOP to conduct an expedited primary to replace him, according to parties on both sides who heard Kinard’s late afternoon ruling.
Thurmond said late Monday he is glad to hear Republicans would have a chance to settle on a candidate.
“All I can do is ask for this nonsense to cease and for our party to have a nominee,” he said. “With this ruling, fortunately District 41 will have a Republican nominee.”
Former Charleston County Democratic Chairman George Tempel filed suit against Thurmond before Thurmond won the June 12 GOP primary. The suit alleged Thurmond was not a public official and should have filed a paper copy of this ethics form.
Late Monday, Tempel called Kinard’s ruling “convoluted” and said he was not sure if he had won.
“It’s not at all clear,” he added.
The timing of any special District 41 primary was unclear late Monday.
In May, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled that all candidates must file a paper copy of their Statement of Economic Interest ethics form, even if they already had filed one online. The ruling since has knocked almost 250 candidates off this year’s ballots.
In a related case, Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson is expected to hear arguments this morning about whether Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon should remain an eligible candidate for re-election because she was tardy in updating her ethics forms. Other legal challenges remain in the state Senate 38 race as well as the Charleston County auditor’s race.
Had Thurmond been tossed off the ballot with no chance of getting back on, then Republicans would not have fielded a candidate for the seat once held by the most powerful Republican in the Statehouse. Former District 41 Sen. Glenn McConnell resigned to become lieutenant governor this spring.
Five Republicans originally sought the District 41 seat, which had been held by McConnell for three decades. Charleston lawyer and GOP candidate Walter Hundley narrowly beat Tinkler in a special election, but he didn’t file for the Nov. 6 race.
After Thurmond was hit by a lawsuit, Hundley tried to get on the Nov. 6 ballot as a petition candidate, but the State Election Commission has not ruled if he collected enough valid signatures.
Another Republican, Charleston businessman Wally Burbage, also tried to run as an independent candidate, but the state found his petition was invalid.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.