November 28, 2014

Election for Harrell’s old House seat delayed, Democratic chair plans appeal

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts last week

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts last week

South Carolina elections officials have ordered a delay in voting for the state House seat formerly held by Bobby Harrell.

In a controversial decision, the State Election Commission voted unanimously Thursday to give Republicans enough time to pick a replacement candidate. The commission rejected an affidavit filed by Harrell seeking to withdraw from the ballot, saying a guilty plea deal with prosecutors had already disqualified him.

Harrell’s ineligibility had meant the reliably-Republican district in Charleston and Dorchester counties suddenly had only Democratic nominee Mary Tinkler and Green Party candidate Sue Edward on the ballot. While Harrell’s name would appear, votes for him could not be counted.

But the South Carolina Democratic Party and an attorney representing Tinkler at Thursday’s hearing maintained it was “unprecedented” to order a new election after absentee voting had already begun. State party chairman Jaime Harrison said the move by a Republican-appointed board (although one commissioner is required to be Democratic) at the advice of staffers from a Republican state attorney general “reeked of politics.”

“We will be taking this to the highest court here in South Carolina,” he told reporters immediately after the commission’s decision. “Because we need to stand up for the voters in this state and the voters in that district.”

[Read more…]

DUI charge dismissed against Chesterfield legislator

Vick can be seen briefly struggling with a BPS officer in dashcam video from his 2013 arrest (Courtesy: SCDPS)

Vick can be seen briefly struggling with a BPS officer in dashcam video from his 2013 arrest (Courtesy: SCDPS)

A 2013 DUI charge against State Representative Ted Vick, D-Chesterfield, was dismissed Wednesday on a technicality.

Vick’s attorney Todd Rutherford successfully argued that the officers failed to use proper procedure in reading Vick his Miranda rights. Rutherford outlined Wednesday’s court proceedings in an interview with South Carolina Radio Network.

“I made a motion to dismiss the case based on the fact that the officer never read Mr. Vick’s Miranda warnings on video,” Rutherford said. “Despite Mr. Vick sitting in the police car for over 30 minutes, his Miranda warnings were never read on video.”

A judge had rejected an earlier request for dismissal from Rutherford, a legislator who is also the leader of the House Democratic Caucus, because a prosecutor provided an affidavit saying Vick’s rights were read off camera.

In May 2013, a Bureau of Protective Services officer said he stopped Vick after seeing the legislator drive his vehicle over a traffic cone while exiting the Statehouse parking garage. The same officer said he had earlier seen Vick stumbling while walking to his pickup. Vick said he was walking funny because he had a pebble in his shoe. He was arrested after refusing to take a field sobriety test, but admitted to having a glass of wine at a nearby restaurant on Main Street in Columbia.

Rutherford said some would point out that his client got off on a technicality, however, Rutherford added, the law is clear in the way it is written.

“I would suggest that the law is not a technicality; no different than DUIs are technicalities,” he said. “The law mandated that Miranda be read on video. It was not done,
the state knew that it was not done, and they held this case out for over a year-and-a-half knowing that and tried to proceed yesterday as if that didn’t matter.”

“But it did matter,” Rutherford added. “The judge read the law and he made the state abide by the law.”

Vick is in the last few months of his term after announcing earlier this year that he would not seek reelection. He still faces other drunken driving and weapons possession charges stemming from a separate 2012 arrest in Columbia.


Lt. Governor’s candidates spar on experience, vision, in only debate before election

GOP candidate Henry McMaster (Image: SCETV)

GOP candidate Henry McMaster (Image: SCETV)

The two candidates for lieutenant governor of South Carolina met in their only debate Monday just eight days before next week’s election.

The Republican candidate former state attorney general Henry McMaster and Democratic nominee Bamberg County State Rep. Bakari Sellers dwelt on seniors, Medicaid expansion, and experience during the hourlong debate televised by ETV.

This year will be the last time that voters directly choose the governor’s successor. Starting in 2018, candidates for governor will choose the position as their running mate prior to the election. The lieutenant governor is responsible for presiding over the Senate (that responsibility will also shift in 2018) and overseeing the state Office on Aging.

Sellers, who trailed the Republican by approximately 22 percentage points in a recent Charleston Post & Courier/Sinclair Broadcasting poll, used the debate to hit McMaster on his repeated runs for office (besides attorney general, McMaster has also unsuccessfully run for Senate, governor, and the lieutenant governor’s office before) and for his lack of experience in job creation. [Read more…]

Harrell will stay on ballot, but votes for him won’t count

Democratic Party nominee Mary Tinkler is now considered the favorite in the House District 114 race (Image: Mary Tinkler for SC House)

Democratic Party nominee Mary Tinkler is now considered the favorite in the House District 114 race (Image: Mary Tinkler for SC House)

The South Carolina Election Commission said Monday that it will not delay the election for resigned State Rep. Bobby Harrell’s House District 114 seat.

The Election Commission said in a release Monday that Harrell’s name will still appear on the ballot, but he is no longer eligible to win in the Lowcountry district. Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said that, even if the Republican gets more votes on November 4, then the second-place finisher would win.

“Essentially, Harrell would not be considered in determining the winner,” he told South Carolina Radio Network in an email.

The announcement means the solidly-red district will almost certainly turn blue after Election Day. The only other candidates on the ballot are Democratic nominee Mary Tinkler, a Charleston realtor, and Green Party candidate Sue Edward, a software company employee.

“The rule of law has prevailed and finally the voters of House District 114 have clarity on the choice before them as they head to the polls on November 4th,” SC Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison said in a statement. “South Carolina’s voters are ready to return honesty and integrity to our state’s leadership after years of unethical, corrupt and even criminal actions by Republican Speaker Bobby Harrell and Governor Nikki Haley.”

[Read more…]

Harrell makes it official, resigns from House in letter

Harrell served as House Speaker for 9 years (File)

Harrell served as House Speaker for 9 years (File)

Former South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell has now officially resigned from the House of Representatives.

Harrell submitted a brief resignation letter to the House Clerk dated Thursday, saying he would also withdraw from the House election in two weeks.

“Pursuant with the court agreement, I am informing you that am withdrawing from the 2014 election and resigning my office in the South Carolina House of Representatives at 5:00 pm (Thursday),” he wrote.

Harrell had been suspended from the Speaker’s position ever since his indictment on nine counts last month related to misuse of campaign funds and lying about it to state ethics officials. Harrell pleaded guilty to six of the misuse counts on Thursday. As part of the deal, Harrell was required to give up his House seat for at least three years. He had represented House District 114 since 1993 and was elected Speaker in 2005.

Prosecutors said Harrell used campaign money to pay for nonexistent flights on his private plane. The Charleston Republican said he disagreed with the charges but pleaded guilty because he and his family did not want to fight them any longer.

Speaker pro tempore Jay Lucas has served as acting House Speaker since Harrell’s suspension. Most observers believe he will be elected to the position for good once lawmakers return after Election Day.