No other Lowcountry election in recent memory has been as shaped by the courts as this year’s Senate District 41 race.
Paul ThurmondParty: RepublicanAge: 36Family: Wife, Katie; three childrenEducation: Bachelor’s degree, Vanderbilt University; J.D., University of South Carolina School of LawOccupation: Lawyer, North Charleston prosecutorPrevious elected office: Charleston County Council, 2007-10Why are you running? “To improve the quality of life for the citizens of South Carolina by improving roads and infrastructure, improving education, and reducing the government burden of taxes on individuals and businesses.”Toughest issue facing District 41: “The lack of good quality jobs and the high tax burden placed on individuals and businesses.”Contact info: PThurmond@tktylawfirm.com Paul TinklerParty: DemocraticAge: 59Family: Wife, Libby, two childrenOccupation: LawyerEducation: Bachelor’s degree in history, Erskine College, 1974; J.D., University of South Carolina School of Law, 1978Previous elected office: Charleston City Council, 1998-2007Why are you running? “After taking a five-year break from public service, I decided to run in order to bring a fresh perspective to the South Carolina Senate.”Toughest issue facing District 41? “Reform of ethics laws and the political culture of South Carolina. This is particularly important because my opponent sees nothing wrong with getting a $100,000 lobbying fee for pushing a land deal to County Council that many people have questioned. This occurred only six months after he was a member of County Council himself.”Contact info: 853-5203, firstname.lastname@example.org
It began in a Columbia courtroom earlier this year, when Ken Ard pled guilty to ethics violations shortly after he resigned as South Carolina’s lieutenant governor.
Ard’s move forced Sen. Glenn McConnell to resign the District 41 Senate seat and fill the vacancy — a big drop in power for a longtime Republican senator who had risen to the Senate president pro tem post.
The courts continued to shape the race with a ruling that knocked almost all Republican hopefuls from this fall’s ballot because they failed to file a paper copy of an ethics form when they filed for office.
Former Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond survived through the June 12 primary, but a judge later ruled he was ineligible for this reason. Thurmond argued that his part-time North Charleston prosecutor post made him a public official and exempt from that ruling.
The courts shaped the race by allowing Republicans to hold a new primary — the only instance where a party was allowed to reopen its filing process after a candidate was disqualified.
The courts could continue to reshape the race Tuesday, when a three-judge federal panel will consider whether South Carolina’s handling of that primary violated the Voting Rights Act.
Democrat and former Charleston city councilman Paul Tinkler said all the legal wrangling has been hard on him as well as on Thurmond.
“It’s not a normal campaign on either side,” he said. “It’s hard to run a campaign when you don’t know whether you’re going to have an opponent, and if so, who that opponent is.”
Thurmond has pointed to his legal persistence, determination and success in remaining on the ballot as proof he is qualified for the office.
Voters in the district — which includes parts of James Island, West Ashley, North Charleston and Summerville — have a choice Nov. 6, but they haven’t seen much of a campaign.
“I don’t think we’ve done a very good job of discussing the issues because we’ve been so tied up in litigation,” Thurmond said.
Tinkler said he learned a lot by serving nine years with Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. If elected, Tinkler said he would push for ethics reforms, including abolishing the House and Senate ethics committees.
He also would work to ensure the economic prosperity of the Charleston region and for repealing the 2006 property tax reform because it has destabilized school funding.
Thurmond said when he served on County Council, he helped cut the size of government by $19 million, increased transparency, and created the atmosphere for $1.3 billion in economic investment and more than 7,000 jobs.
Thurmond said he would work to lower taxes, ensure the port’s success, improve education and reduce the burden government can place on businesses.
As the campaign heated up, Tinkler’s supporters pointed to Thurmond’s lobbying his former County Council colleagues to speed through a land purchase of 400 undeveloped acres, a deal where Thurmond earned $100,000. The 2011 purchase price of more than $4 million was more than three times what the seller paid in 2003.
Thurmond said he not only complied with all ethics laws in the deal but he also supports strengthening those laws.
Thurmond’s camp has pointed to how Lachlan McIntosh, a paid consultant to Tinkler, not only encouraged former Charleston County Democratic Chairman George Tempel to sue Thurmond and try to run him off the ballot but also promised to pick up the legal tab in the case.
Tinkler said he was aware of McIntosh’s interest in such a lawsuit but did not encourage pursuing it.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.