Lawyers, candidates scramble anew as election officials work to set Nov. 6 ballot
State GOP Chairman Chad Connelly blasted the State Election Commission for trying to block a last-minute Republican primary for the District 41 Senate seat previously held by Glenn McConnell.
“It’s ticked me off no end,” he said Wednesday. “(State election officials) are supposed to be a non-biased, innocent bystander and just make sure the elections are held.”
Meanwhile, Charleston County Auditor Peggy Moseley lost her bid to remove GOP primary winner Paul Gawrych from this fall’s ballot, and the same judge will hear a similar case Friday in which Berkeley County Councilman Bob Call is seeking to have GOP primary winner Ken Gunn declared ineligible to run.
Wednesday was yet another day of scrambling among lawyers and candidates as election officials tried to set the Nov. 6 ballot.
The burst of activity stems from several lawsuits and two controversial S.C. Supreme Court rulings that have knocked almost 250 candidates off the ballot across the state because they did not file a paper copy and an online copy of their ethics form.
Connelly’s criticism came shortly after Liz Crum, an attorney for the State Election Commission, appealed part of Circuit Judge Ernest Kinard’s ruling that allowed the party to hold a quick primary to replace Paul Thurmond.
Kinard ruled Monday that Thurmond was ineligible to run because he wasn’t a public official and didn’t file a paper copy of his ethics form, but Kinard let the party reopen its primary process, giving Thurmond another chance to run.
Thurmond traveled to Columbia on Wednesday to ask election commissioners not to appeal Kinard’s decision, and was dissappointed when they did.
“I’m having a difficult time understanding why their concern about the integrity of the process would be affected by giving people more choice,” he said. “That, to me, doesn’t make any sense.”
Connelly previously cut a radio ad that aired in Charleston at least twice Wednesday and blasted District 41 Democratic candidate Paul Tinkler for trying to keep Thurmond off the ballot.
Tinkler said he had no role in the appeal and did not encourage the lawsuit against Thurmond, but he did not criticize the appeal either.
“That (special primary) would appear to me to be making up a special rule for Paul Thurmond, and that’s the whole point here. We’re not supposed to have special rules. The rule of law must be respected,” Tinkler said.
The appeal may prevent any Republican’s name appearing on the Nov. 6 ballot for the District 41 Senate seat once held by South Carolina’s most powerful Republican. McConnell resigned to become lieutenant governor after Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned because of ethics violations.
Charleston businessman Wally Burbage and Charleston lawyer Walter Hundley, both Republicans, tried to collect enough signatures to get their names on the Nov. 6 ballot, but both fell short.
Meanwhile, Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson ruled Wednesday that Gawrych, a former Mount Pleasant councilman, was a public official who had the proper ethics forms on file when he declared his intention to run for auditor.
Gawrych handily beat Moseley and another candidate in the Republican primary and now will face Democrat Peter Tecklenburg on Nov. 6.
In Berkeley County, Call filed a recent lawsuit questioning the eligibility of Gunn, who beat Call by a 58-42 ratio on June 12. Nicholson is set to hear that case Friday morning.
Berkeley County GOP Chair Tim Callanan said Thursday he is confident that Gunn’s candidacy will be upheld.
“It appears to me to be completely frivolous,” Callanan said. “It’s somewhat sad to see adults act this way, not just Mr. Call, but there are two or three other local officials who lost overwhelmingly and are trying to circumvent the will of the voters in some last-ditch effort.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.