February 8, 2016

Incumbent declared GOP nominee, despite losing his primary

An incumbent South Carolina state legislator was declared the GOP nominee a month after he actually lost his re-election bid– the latest chapter in what has been a bizarre election cycle for the Palmetto State.

State Rep. B.R. Skelton (Courtesy: Legislative Printing, Information, and Technology Systems)

A month after many thought his political career was over, Rep. B.R. Skelton (R-Pickens) will get another chance to keep his seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Skelton, a retired Clemson economics professor, lost to businessman challenger Ed Harris by just 73 votes on June 12.

However, Skelton filed a complaint with the state Republican Party claiming that Harris had not properly filed his financial paperwork. In other words, the same issue that kicked hundreds of candidates off their party’s ballots.

The state GOP’s executive committee voted last month to block his request, but then Skelton’s attorney James Smith (another state legislator himself) filed a complaint with the South Carolina Supreme Court. This past weekend, state Republican Party Chairman Chad Connelly reversed the committee’s decision and declared Skelton the winner, acknowledging that Harris had not filed his statement of economic interest correctly.

Connelly said the decision “made me physically ill.” Smith withdrew his Supreme Court filing Monday, according to the Anderson Independent-Mail.

Harris pledged to fight his removal. “I think Mr. Skelton has the right to do what he feels like he needs to do,” he told Greenville’s WORD radio station, “But I think the fact that I was certified and that the vote was carried and he lost the election… I don’t know if that has any weight in a civil suit or not.”

Harris’s attorney said Tuesday that Connelly lacks the authority to disqualify Harris as the party nominee for a House seat. Attorney Stephen Brown says Harris will sue unless the party’s executive committee overturns Connelly’s actions.

Harris’s only option now is to collect hundreds of signatures needed to become a petition candidate so he can appear on the ballot against Skelton in November.

Skelton has represented House District 3 for ten years. The district covers western Pickens County and includes Clemson.

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