Wednesday, state Republican Party officials will hear the complaints of five candidates who were kicked out of the upcoming primary because of confusion in how to file the required election paperwork.
Matt Moore, executive director of the state party says, “Tomorrow’s hearings are meant to bring closure to this issue from the party’s perspective. The state executive committee of the Republican Party will give these individuals a chance to make their case, and then decide. These hearings will be fair and unbiased.”
A citizen’s lawsuit prompted the South Carolina Supreme Court to disqualify some candidates who incorrectly filed campaign paperwork.
Moore says, “These were cases where the facts were a little bit extraordinary. These were maybe unique cases where it warranted the full state committee hearing the cases.”
One of those appearing in front of the state committee is John Pettigrew, a local party veteran in Edgefield.
“I went in to file and did my intention of candidacy and pledge. I asked where the economic disclosures were to fill out and I was told by the party official, ‘No, There’s nothing else to fill out with me. You go online to the Ethics Commission website and do it within 10 days, ’” says Pettigrew. “I took him at his word, seven days later I filed my economic interest report.”
Because of his not filing the economic disclosures at the same time, Pettigrew was disqualified by the Supreme Court ruling. He now hopes to be re-certified by the state party.
Regardless, he says he is not giving up; “I’m going to appeal my decision and after that, I feel like I owe it to my supporters to look at all avenues including possible petition candidacy, possible legal action. I just have to evaluate all my options.”
SC GOP’s Moore says after the hearings, the state GOP committee will decide whether to petition the state or take legal measures to have the names added.
One of those who will not have a hearing with the state GOP Wednesday is John Steinberger in Charleston, who wanted to run for the seat vacated by Sen. Glenn McConnell, who had to take over as lieutenant governor this year.
“I can’t speak to dirty tricks, but it’s just profoundly disappointing when they do what they think is the right thing and then they are told they are off the ballot,” says Steinberger. “So, I’ve just decided to move on and look at a different race.”
Steinberger plans to challenge House Speaker Bobby Harrell as a petition candidate.
Candidate for Georgetown County Auditor, Rod Stalvey, says the day he signed up to run there was no computer available to file online as required. He filed a protest to the state party but has not been given a hearing.
“Of course there are some that are not happy and we’re talking to them continually. Of course the possibility for a lawsuit always exists, we live in a really litigious society,” says Moore. “But the bottom line is that the party used the Supreme Court’s ruling and applicable state law to certify as many candidates as we could certify under the law. And those that didn’t get certified didn’t meet the law’s criteria and we were not willing to go above and beyond what the law and the Supreme Court said.”
Moore says the party will make changes in how filings are done in the future and they are “firmly behind” state lawmakers clarifying filing laws. Last week, the Legislature was not able to move along a bill that tried to remedy the problem and return all candidates to the June 12 primary ballot.
He says he thinks the Legislature next year will quickly take up changes to campaign filing laws.