The Florence County Republican Party is accused of ignoring a South Carolina Supreme Court ruling by certifying several candidates who should have been removed from the primary ballot, according to a lawsuit filed this week.
Florence County Democratic Party chairwoman Sheila Gallagher filed the lawsuit on Monday, listing the state and county elections commissions as additional defendants. Republican ethics lawyers Kevin Hall and Butch Bowers will be representing the Florence GOP.
After the state Supreme Court ruled that candidates who improperly filed a statement of economic interest should be removed from the June primary ballot, SCNow’s John Sweeny reports how Florence County Republican Party chairman Bill Pickle worried that several candidates wouldn’t qualify:
The morning of May 4, just hours before the filing, Pickle discussed the controversy on his local talk radio show with Rep. Phillip Lowe, R-Florence. Pickle said at the time that four local Republicans were in danger of being removed from the ballot: Florence County Council District 9 candidates Susan Minck and Warren Snell, Florence City Council At-Large candidate Ron Moore and S.C. House District 62 candidate Carl D. “Chippy” Johnson.
But the party certified all Florence County candidates anyway, with Pickle explaining the party’s rationale in a press release posted on Facebook:
The FCGOP acted in good faith based on the information we received from the SCGOP to accept candidate filings and to qualify candidates by viewing evidence online that the Statement of Economic Interests had been duly filed with the SC Ethics Commission. As a result, the FCGOP Officers believe that all of our candidates are qualified and each candidate’s name should appear on the June 12th primary ballot.
As we pointed out on Monday, the court’s ruling instructed political parties to remove all disqualified candidates from the ballot — regardless of whose fault it was or whether they agree with the ruling. PPR went to a public meeting of the state Republican Party’s executive committee on Saturday in order to find out how the party was responding to the ballot crisis, but SCGOP Chairman Chad Connelly took the meeting into executive session in order to remove this reporter.
Florence isn’t the only county where political parties are accused of defying the court’s ruling, and there are almost certainly other local parties certifying candidates who should have been disqualified. Adding to the confusion, a federal judge could wade into the ballot crisis this afternoon on behalf of a candidate who’s suing to get back onto the ballot.
Look for updates to this developing story as they become available.