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.”
Monday’s announcement marks a somewhat shocking conclusion to a race that even the state Democratic Party seemed to have written off as recently as August — before Harrell was indicted by a Richland County grand jury on 9 counts related to misuse of campaign funds and lying to state officials. The former Speaker resigned his House seat last week after pleading guilty to six of those charges.
Harrell’s resignation created questions about whether or not Republicans could replace him just days before the November 4 election. State law allows for parties to hold a new primary if their nominee resigns for a “legitimate non-political” reason. Charleston County GOP chairman John Steinberger said he believes Harrell’s guilty plea would fall under that category.
“People in Charleston and Dorchester County… deserve a competitive race,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “They should have the right to vote for a Republican candidate. Nobody should be able to win an election by default.”
However, another wrinkle in state law allows for a special election after Election Day, but only if a replacement candidate is certified within two weeks of Election Day. Since the seat only opened on Friday, there does not appear to be enough time for GOP voters to hold a new primary before November 4.
Steinberger said the GOP will submit an affidavit signed by Harrell saying he resigned for nonpolitical reasons, in hopes that could prompt a special election.
Other than potential embarrassment for the South Carolina GOP, the results of the race will not make a significant difference statewide. Republicans are still expected to keep a healthy majority in the Statehouse regardless of who wins House District 114.