New reporting suggests the Democratic nominee to be South Carolina’s next education superintendent could be ineligible to hold the post if he upsets the favored Republican incumbent next month.
An investigation by the Anderson Independent-Mail found Israel Romero has a 2008 felony conviction. That could put him in violation of the state constitution’s ban on running for state office within 15 years of a conviction.
Romero is challenging incumbent Education Superintendent Molly Spearman, who has acted as the state’s schools chief since her 2014 election. The former teacher is seen as an extremely long-shot candidate against Spearman. Spearman, a former Democratic legislator, has been able to gather bipartisan support during her time in office.
The newspaper tracked down Romero’s 2008 conviction for falsely presenting himself as an attorney in a federal immigration case. He was sentenced to three months in jail and ordered to pay $3,000 restitution. The paper found two other instances from Romero’s time living in New York where state officials cited him for improperly presenting himself as an attorney to individuals going through a divorce.
Romero did not respond to calls seeking his response to the report.
The state constitution says a political party “must not certify any candidate who does not… meet the qualifications for the office for which the candidate has filed, and such candidate’s name shall not be placed on a primary ballot.” The Democratic Party was apparently unaware of Romero’s criminal history when he won the party primary in June.
Romero does not have a campaign website and has not reported raising or spending any money with the state Ethics Commission. His campaign positions are posted on his LinkedIn page.
Republicans mocked their opponents for Romero’s situation. “You would think that state Democrats would have more respect for South Carolina voters than to nominate candidates with the kind of criminal history that clearly calls into question their judgment,” South Carolina GOP Chairman Drew McKissick said in an email.
“I’m not sure what it takes to pass the test to be a Democratic nominee, but apparently it’s a low bar,” McKissick continued, noting the SC Democratic Party’s nominee for Attorney General, Charleston law professor Constantine Anastopoulo, also had two DUI convictions in 1985 and 1987.
South Carolina voters are being asked in an Election Day referendum if they want to continue electing the state education superintendent or change the constitution so the job is appointed by the governor.