Court backs Thurmond primary win


Republicans in Charleston and Dorchester counties weren’t wasting their time when they turned out Tuesday to vote in the S.C. Senate 41 runoff, the S.C. Supreme Court has ruled.

The court refused to reconsider a case on appeal from former Charleston County Democratic Chairman George Tempel seeking to have the special primary election set aside.

Former Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond won Tuesday’s GOP primary runoff against incumbent Sen. Walter Hundley.

Thurmond said Thursday he was proud the Supreme Court stuck to its guns “in the face of partisan threats and frivolous lawsuits by the Democratic Party.

“It is disheartening that the Democrats don’t want a campaign on the issues,” he added.

This summer, Tempel won part of his case, as a circuit judge ruled Thurmond ineligible for not filing proper ethics forms — the same violation that knocked more than 200 candidates off this year’s ballots. However, the judge also allowed Republicans to hold a new primary, since Thurmond had been certified as the June 12 primary winner.

Tempel said Thursday he was disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision, adding his lawsuit wasn’t to prevent voters from having a choice, “we just wanted them to have a choice in a moral and ethical manner. ... Because your name is Thurmond you don’t have to follow the law like everybody else does. Where else but in South Carolina?”

Thurmond is the son of the late Strom Thurmond, who represented South Carolina in the U.S. Senate for almost 50 years.

Thurmond is scheduled to run against Democrat and former Charleston City Councilman Paul Tinkler on Nov. 6 — if Thurmond survives his final remaining legal hurdle.

A voter represented by Dick Harpootlian, S.C. Democratic Party chairman and a Columbia lawyer, has filed a federal lawsuit arguing the special District 41 primary should have been precleared by the U.S. Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act.

A panel of three federal judges is scheduled to hear that case in Charleston on Oct. 16.

Thurmond called that lawsuit “frivolous,” adding, “It shocks me that they would accuse our Supreme Court of a racially motivated decision.” Both Thurmond and Tinkler are white.

Senate District 41 includes parts of James Island, West Ashley, North Charleston and Summerville.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.