A new state Supreme Court ruling promises to scramble still more Lowcountry political contests and triggered fresh complaints about the judicial branch dramatically reducing South Carolina voters’ choices this year.
Republican leaders across the state held a conference call late Tuesday about the ruling’s effect but came away with more questions than answers, Charleston County GOP Chair Lin Bennett said.
“This is incredible, and there are players behind this, and I think the party is about ready to out some of these players now,” she said after the call. “Hang in there. It’s going to get exciting.”
Bennett had no list of Lowcountry GOP candidates affected but said she would review the list today in the wake of the court’s declaratory judgment Tuesday. That ruling found the Florence County GOP had not properly complied with the court’s earlier ruling that candidates are ineligible if they did not file their statement of economic interest forms at the same time they filed for office.
That earlier ruling, which came down last month, knocked almost 200 Republican and Democratic candidates off the ballot across the state.
Among the victims was Fair Tax advocate John Steinberger, who also was running as a Republican for former Sen. Glenn McConnell’s seat. Steinberger currently is collecting signatures to attempt to run as a petition, or independent candidate.
The June 12 primaries already had been whittled down to a fraction of what they appeared to be after filing for office closed March 30.
The new ruling means the voters could have even fewer choice next Tuesday, and some might not have any race to vote on.
“It seems like such judicial activism, doesn’t it?” Bennett asked. “I think we can say that now.”
Earlier Tuesday, state GOP Chairman Chad Connelly expressed similar frustrations, calling the ruling “extremely disappointing” and “a sad day for South Carolina voters.”
“The Supreme Court has injected itself into the political parties’ once exclusive right to choose their candidates,” he added. “Instead of seeing the law as the legislature intended, the court created a ‘Frankenstein’ — a set of hypertechnical rules that defy common sense and ignore the instructions of the state’s own Ethics Commission.”
Bennett said incumbent office holders are the only ones who appear safe, since they were required to have statements of economic interest on file previously.
During Tuesday’s conference call, Bennett said there was “a lot of questions and a lot of confusion and a lot of disappointment.”
Adding to the confusion is that some newly ineligible candidates already will appear on Tuesday’s primary ballots because it is too late to remove their names.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.