A three-judge federal panel has ruled in favor of District 41 Republican candidate Paul Thurmond, bringing to an end the most protracted and twisted legal drama behind South Carolina’s election year debacle.
Thurmond, a former Charleston County Councilman and son of longtime U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, is now clear to focus on his Nov. 6 election race against Democrat and former Charleston City Councilman Paul Tinkler.
Today’s ruling, signed by U.S. Circuit Judge Henry Floyd and U.S. District Judges Richard Gergel and David Norton, refused to block Thurmond as a candidate and dismissed the case against him.
The case, brought by District 41 voter Reginald Williams, claimed that an early S.C. Supreme Court ruling caused a change that South Carolina did not get approved properly under Section V of the Voting Rights Act. The section was written to protect minority voting rights. Williams is African American.
Republicans described the suit, litigated by S.C. Democratic Chair Dick Harpootlian, as a ploy to kick Thurmond off the ballot and paving the way for Tinkler to win the seat formerly held by Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell.
Democrats, including Harpootlian, have argued that Thurmond got special treatment because he was the only one of more than 200 candidates kicked off this year’s ballot to get back on.
Thurmond claimed his position as a part-time prosecutor meant that he was a public official exempt from the S.C. Supreme Court ruling requiring candidates to file both paper and electronic copies of an ethics form.
That court ultimately disagreed with Thurmond — but only after he had cleared the June 12 primary and was certified as his party’s nominee. The Supreme Court allowed a special GOP primary to occur to fill the void left by kicking Thurmond off the ballot, and Thurmond ultimately won that Oct. 2.
Read more in tomorrow’s Post and Courier.