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SC Republican Party should be forced to hold 2020 presidential primary, suit says

  • Updated

For the second time this month, Republicans are putting legal pressure on the S.C. Republican Party to reverse its decision and hold a 2020 presidential primary.

On Tuesday, the legal team representing former congressman Bob Inglis and Mount Pleasant voter Frank Heindel requested a preliminary injunction that would force the vote to go forward.

In court documents, they want a state judge to require the S.C. GOP to hold a 2020 primary in February and to withdraw any delegate allocation plan the party may have submitted to the Republican National Convention.

It is likely the issue will land in front of a South Carolina judge no later than 10 days after the filing, which would be Friday, Oct. 18.

The filing comes a week after the initial Oct. 1 state lawsuit was filed in state court in Richland County where the state party is headquartered. It's also where the party's Executive Committee in September decided against holding a 2020 Republican presidential preference primary.

The suit contends the party scrapped its 2020 election contest illegally and violated party rules and state election law.

S.C. GOP Chairman Drew McKissick, who is named in the suit, has cited the public cost of the primary as a top reason for nixing the vote. The State Election Commission estimated it would cost $1.2 million to hold a Republican presidential preference primary.

Reached for comment Wednesday, S.C. Republican Party spokesman Joe Jackson reiterated the organization does not comment on pending legal matters.

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Inglis and Heindel are being represented by Protect Democracy, a nonpartisan Washington-based nonprofit, and Sowell & DuRant, a Columbia firm that specializes in federal and state election, constitutional and statutory issues.

"If the South Carolina GOP Executive Committee's decision stands, they will have deprived Republican voters of their voice and forfeited South Carolina's First in the South role to Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Texas, which are all scheduled to hold primaries on March 3, 2020," said Soren Dayton, spokesperson for Protect Democracy.

The filing is the latest development in a larger political debate over whether state Republican parties should hold primary election contests in the coming year as President Donald Trump faces three formal GOP challengers and a House impeachment inquiry.

The three Republican candidates challenging Trump for the GOP nomination — former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh, and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld — have criticized state Republican parties who have decided not to hold a primary.

So far, six state Republican parties have decided to cancel their presidential primary or caucus contests in 2020: Alaska, Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, South Carolina and Virginia.

State Republican parties were required to submit their delegate allocation plans to the Republican National Committee by Oct.1. The plans outline how they will choose and bind delegates who attend the 2020 convention in Charlotte as their representatives.

With South Carolina scrapping its Republican 2020 presidential primary election, which has been heralded as the "First in the South" primary, the first Southern states to vote on the Republican 2020 contest will come on Super Tuesday, March 3.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

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