The Charleston County Democratic Party chief says Maurice Washington should run for the state Senate District 42 seat as a Republican, not a Democrat.
Washington, a former Charleston councilman, objects to what he sees as an attempt to intimidate him against pursuing his legal right to run under the party of his choice.
And Tuesday’s new U.S. Supreme Court ruling apparently makes their dispute moot: Political parties in South Carolina no longer have any say in who files for office under their banner.
Gov. Nikki Haley recently signed a law overhauling the state’s election process in the wake of more than 200 state and local candidates getting kicked off the ballot last year.
That new law, which transfers filing from parties to county election offices, was not expected to get precleared by the U.S. Justice Department until after the state Senate 42 filing closes on July 1.
However, Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling voiding the pre-clearance rule means the new law will take effect at once, said Joe Debney, director of the Charleston County Board of Elections and Voter Registration.
Still, the recent ruckus between Washington and Charleston County Democratic Chairman Richard Hricik adds a new twist to the special election to fill the Senate seat formerly held by Robert Ford.
Washington tried to file as a Democrat on Monday, but Hricik told him as soon as he did, Hricik would release documents showing Washington’s extensive record supporting and working for Republicans.
Hricik said he was not blocking Washington from filing as a Democrat but said the GOP would be a better fit for him.
“If Mr. Washington is afraid of being called a Republican, then he should run in the Republican primary where he belongs,” Hricik said.
Washington declined to file Monday and instead opted to talk things over with his wife. He said Tuesday he plans to file as a Democrat today.
“Any discrimination or act of intimidation or any attempt to try to instill fear into candidates or citizens running, I find that to be inappropriate,” he said.
Washington, who has run for office before as a Republican, Democrat and independent, said he is not interested in partisan politics.
“Yes, I’ve contributed to Republican candidates, but I’ve also contributed financially to Democratic candidates,” he said.
Washington said some of Hricik’s information, such as Washington’s service on Republican Gov. Mark Sanford’s transition team, is factual but incomplete. Washington noted Sanford posted the best record of any governor in hiring minorities.
Ford, who resigned last month after his colleagues found he violated multiple campaign finance laws, is supporting Washington and blasted Hricik.
“He’s trying to force his philosophy on the party, and that’s against the law,” Ford said. “He can get in trouble for that.”
Hricik said Ford can back whoever he wants in the Aug. 13 Democratic primary, “but what he is trying to do is undermine the Democratic Party by supporting someone who he has described as a loyal Republican.”
Washington said Tuesday he welcomes Ford’s support, despite the ethical lapses surrounding his stepping down.
“I’m not going to shun his good work over many years in the community,” Washington said of Ford. “He’s been steadfast. He’s been a warrior for people of all races, especially the disadvantaged.”
Other Democrats already in the race include Charleston lawyers Marlon Kimpson and Emmanuel Ferguson and businesswoman Margaret Rush.
Other possible Democratic candidates include Herbert S. Fielding and state Rep. Seth Whipper of North Charleston. Real estate agent Billy Shuman has filed for the seat as a Republican.
The district’s voters are 63 percent black, and the district is considered Democratic turf. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., suffered his only political loss when he ran as a Republican against Ford.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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