Three federal judges spent all day Tuesday hearing a case about whether Republican District 41 Senate candidate Paul Thurmond should remain on the Nov. 6 ballot.
While they did not rule, or indicate when they might, their questions suggested a healthy skepticism about whether the long string of events in the race to fill Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell’s old Senate seat ran afoul of federal law.
S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian, a Columbia lawyer, filed a lawsuit on behalf of a District 41 voter and West Ashley debt collector Reginald Williams. They challenged whether the state violated the Voting Rights Act during the S.C. Supreme Court ruling and special primary that restored Thurmond to his previous position as the GOP nominee.
Thurmond, son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, was declared ineligible earlier this summer because he failed to file a paper copy of an ethics form — the same problem that led to more than 200 state and local candidates getting thrown off the ballot this year. However, that ruling came after the June 12 primary, and the courts let the GOP reopen filing for the seat. Thurmond filed anew and won the GOP primary runoff on Oct. 2. He will face Democrat and former Charleston City Councilman Paul Tinkler next month, barring a court ruling.
Even if Harpootlian loses, the case kept Thurmond in court and away from ringing doorbells or speaking to civic clubs for a day. He darted from the courtroom as soon as the hearing ended, commenting only, “A lot of stuff going on.”
Thurmond found a lot of support in court, as lawyers for the state Republican Party, the Charleston and Dorchester election boards, the State Election Commission and current Sen. Walter Hundley, R-Charleston, all argued that Thurmond should remain a candidate.
U.S. Judges David Norton and Richard Gergel and 4th Circuit Judge Henry Floyd heard the case.