A former Charleston County Republican Party chairman is questioning whether the current chairman should keep his post while also running for mayor of Mount Pleasant.
Chairman Joe Bustos, who was elected a month ago and plans to run for mayor this fall, said it’s a case of sour grapes.
Former Charleston County GOP Chairman Mark Hartley said he will ask the county’s executive committee Monday if it wants to adopt a rule that would require a chairman to resign before seeking public office.
Currently, a chairman must resign only before running for a partisan office; Mount Pleasant’s elections are nonpartisan.
“Since the (county GOP) convention, a number of folks have said this just doesn’t seem right,” Hartley said. “It’s hard to run a race and be the party chairman.”
Bustos noted that Hartley has advised Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails, who has said he will seek a second term.
Bustos also noted that Hartley supported former Charleston County GOP Chairwoman Lin Bennett, who narrowly lost to Bustos last month.
“It goes without saying that you and the former chair are simply sore losers and are now attempting to be obstructionists,” Bustos said in an email to Hartley. “I also know that you and your group did not assist in Rep. (Mark) Sanford’s campaign and were not particularly happy about his election. This only goes to the heart of your selective motivation for party politics.”
Hartley denied that his proposal had anything to do with Swails, who he said “is indifferent. ... He’s not involved in any of this.”
Hartley said there is precedent for the change he seeks. Former County GOP Vice Chairman Warren Sloane resigned his party post to run for mayor of James Island, another nonpartisan race.
Hartley and Bustos also have disagreed over whether Republicans can field a credible candidate in the upcoming state Senate District 42 seat formerly held by Robert Ford.
Bustos said the party could, but Hartley noted that not even Tim Scott, now a U.S. senator, could win the seat as a Republican.
“If Tim Scott can’t win in that district, I can’t imagine we would come up with anybody who would,” Hartley said.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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