A state Senate candidate kicked off the June primary ballot for incorrectly filing an ethics document has been recertified by the South Carolina Republican Party thanks to a last-minute plea by Gov. Nikki Haley.
The surprise decision raises the question whether a political party can refute the explicit ruling of the state Supreme Court, which removed Lexington tea party activist Katrina Shealy from the ballot in the first place earlier this month. Either way, it’s clear Gov. Haley pulled out all the stops to get Shealy back on the primary ballot against Republican Sen. Jake Knotts.
Shealy was represented during the SCGOP hearing by Lexington attorney Tommy Cofield, whom Haley appointed to the University of South Carolina Board of Trustees last year after removing wealthy USC donor Darla Moore in a move which angered many. While several candidates had requests before the committee Wednesday evening, Shealy’s was the only one attended by the governor.
“Do what’s right,” Haley told the committee before it deliberated Shealy’s request. “Did the law say they couldn’t run? Yes. But we can change the law — we do it every day.”
Cofield argued during the SCGOP hearing Wednesday evening that Knotts supporters had been conspiring to remove Shealy from the ballot all along. “You know who it is that’s been causing the division in this party that brings us here today,” Cofield told the committee, accusing Knotts and his supporters of bullying Shealy.
The alleged “bullies” include Lexington Co. GOP chairwoman Mickey Lindler, who accepted Shealy’s filing packet without the crucial statement of economic interest form — and told Cofield she is a longtime friend of Knotts.
Shealy said she unsuccessfully tried to file her SEI form online with the State Ethics Commission, and Lindler didn’t tell her she needed to file one in person as well. Cofield argued that the party violated the law by accepting Shealy’s candidate filing without the SEI form, essentially saying it was the party’s fault she didn’t file correctly.
After the ruling, Shealy campaign consultant Michael Mulé accused Knotts of orchestrating the “ballot shenanigans” in order to disqualify his competition. “This campaign is about giving the voters a choice between a conservative, common sense, proven business woman and an out-of-touch politician who says he is a conservative, but votes like a liberal,” Mulé said in a statement.
Mulé denies leaking a video clip on Tuesday of Knotts calling Haley a “raghead” during the 2010 gubernatorial race. As Palmetto Public Record exclusively reported, however, there’s a good deal of circumstantial evidence saying otherwise.
But even though the SCGOP voted to put Shealy back on the ballot, it’s still unclear whether that will actually happen. The State Elections Commission is the agency which actually prints the ballot, and they required parties to give them a final list of certified candidates last week — a list which didn’t include Shealy. Additionally, the SCGOP ruling goes directly against the state Supreme Court’s ruling that any candidate who didn’t file a SEI should be disqualified — regardless of the reason.
“If the SC Democratic Party Executive Committee voted in favor of gay marriage, does that make it law?” Democratic operative Tyler Jones hypothetically asked in reaction to the ruling. “No. Shealy is not on the ballot.”
We won’t know until tomorrow whether the Elections Commission will actually allow Shealy back onto the ballot, and Knotts is almost certain to fight the SCGOP’s decision either way — so this definitely isn’t over. In the meantime, you should probably watch the clip of Knotts calling Haley a raghead again, because it simply doesn’t get old: