COLUMBIA — A day after the primaries, the top vote-getter in the Democratic race for South Carolina’s new 7th Congressional District continued to claim victory, even as party leaders insist a runoff should decide the winner.
The state Democratic Party said Wednesday none of the five candidates on the ballot received the necessary majority of at least 50 percent plus one vote, requiring a runoff. The campaign of second-place finisher Preston Brittain said it will fight any other decision.
Not doing so would disenfranchise more than 2,300 voters, said the party and Brittain’s campaign.
At issue is whether to count votes for state Rep. Ted Vick, who withdrew May 25 following an arrest on drunken driving and weapons charges. But his name remained on the ballot.
The Election Commission said Tuesday night Vick’s votes wouldn’t count. That meant Gloria Tinubu won outright with 52 percent of the vote.
But on Wednesday, commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said the panel is seeking legal guidance from the state attorney general. The commission will make any runoff call Friday when it meets to certify the results.
“We’ve heard the arguments that the votes should be considered for determining majority,” Whitmire said. “The ultimate decision will be made on Friday.”
On the GOP side, former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice are headed for a runoff June 26.
Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said it’s inexcusable to wait until Friday, leaving just 11 days before a possible runoff, as candidates wonder whether to campaign or fight in the courts. He noted the party will not sue.
“This is more reminiscent of a Banana Republic election,” he said. “All I want to know is, what is the law? What we’ve gotten from the Election Commission is, ‘I don’t know’? It boggles the mind.”
Whitmire said the state meeting can’t occur before county election officials meet today to certify their results.
Party director Amanda Loveday said Brittain’s campaign wanted to provide signs at polling places informing voters that Vick withdrew, but in a June 10 email, the commission would not allow it, citing state law that campaigns can’t have signage within 200 feet. But the offered signs would have had no campaign message, Loveday said.