New lawsuit targets 2 more GOP hopefuls


A new lawsuit is seeking to remove the Republicans’ last few candidates for the Senate District 41 seat that the party has held for three decades.

The suit, which will be heard Monday in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas, seeks to decertify former County Councilman Paul Thurmond from Tuesday’s primary, and to decertify Walter Hundley from the July 17 special Senate 41 election.

It cites the same legal reasoning that already has claimed more than 200 South Carolina candidates who did not file their statements of economic interests as required under the law — and interpreted by two recent S.C. Supreme Court rulings.

At stake is more than which party controls a Charleston area Senate seat. The winner of the Senate 41 race could flip the balance of power on the Charleston County legislative delegation from Republican to Democratic, potentially affecting scores of appointments and other local decisions.

Thurmond has said he expected a legal challenge because he did not hand in a paper copy of his statement.

Thurmond also said he believes he is exempt because he works as a public official, specifically as a part-time prosecutor for the city of North Charleston.

The lawsuit said Thurmond never filed a statement of economic interest for that position, said lawyer and state Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, who brought the action on behalf of George Tempel, a resident of the Senate district and the former Charleston County Democratic chairman.

“Fundamentally, we’re just seeking the rule of law,” Smith said. “The statute is very clear. This should be a surprise to no one.”

Three other GOP candidates already have been decertified for similar reasons from the race to succeed Glenn McConnell, who resigned the seat to become lieutenant governor.

The three are Fair Tax advocate John Steinberger, Charleston businessman Wally Burbage and Citadel educator Sean Pike.

Burbage said he thinks what has happened is unfortunate and un-American. “Today, I think Third World countries woke up and looked at South Carolina politics and just laughed,” he said. “That’s how bad it is.”

The suit also targets Hundley, a Charleston lawyer who won the May 29 GOP primary. He is set to run against Democrat and former Charleston City Councilman Paul Tinkler and Green Party candidate Sue Edward to fill the remaining few months of McConnell’s current term.

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Thurmond is running against Tinkler for the new four-year Senate term. Thurmond faces Pike and Burbage in Tuesday’s primary, but voters will see a notice that Pike and Burbage have been decertified.

Depending on the outcome of Tempel’s lawsuit, that note could mention Thurmond too.

Smith said the case is set to be heard at 11 a.m. Monday before Circuit Judge Deadra Jefferson.

The Supreme Court’s initial May 3 ruling struck almost 200 candidates off the ballot statewide, and a Tuesday ruling that further clarified its stance has claimed about three dozen more.

Tempel, whose wife Carol was decertified as a Democratic candidate for House District 115 after Tuesday’s ruling, said he brought this new legal action because “it was clear from the Supreme Court decision what candidates who did not file properly should have done.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.