After hearing a passionate speech by Gov. Nikki Haley about trying to change the state’s political culture, S.C. GOP leaders voted Wednesday to certify Katrina Shealy to run in the June 12 Republican primary against veteran state Sen. Jake Knotts of Lexington, a longtime Haley foe.
Haley, a Shealy supporter, told the GOP executive committee that she was not trying to influence its decision over Shealy’s protest. Instead, she said she was sickened by the partisan bickering she had heard during Shealy’s hour-long appeals hearing in Columbia, adding that she was tired of Palmetto State politics being called a blood sport.
“I want to have fresh faces, fresh voices in that building over there,” Haley said, referring to the State House. “If you want to fix it, you can. When I go out of that door, I want to be proud of my state.”
The S.C. Supreme Court ruled that Shealy and more than 180 other candidates statewide could not stay on the primary ballot because they failed to submit a written statement of economic interest on time.
Shealy testified Wednesday that she had completed a written form but was not asked to submit it when she filed for Senate District 25 at the West Columbia Shoney’s on March 16. Shealy said she filed the form online that same day and thought she had submitted it. State election officials say they have no record of her computer filing, according to testimony at the hearing.
Party workers who took Shealy’s forms said she did not submit by hand the economic-interest form.
The Lexington County GOP filing chairwoman who took Shealy’s candidate forms, Mickey Lindler, was a friend of Knotts. Shealy lost a hotly contested race against Knotts, a 17-year veteran of the Legislature, in 2008.
Asked by Shealy’s attorney, Tommy Cofield, if she sabotaged Shealy’s filing, Lindler said, “No, sir.”
Lindler and Cofield sparred over whether party officials asked Shealy for all the appropriate filing documents. Later, Cofield — whom Haley appointed to the USC board of trustees — said “snakes in the grass” were working against Shealy.
Carla Hardee, who was working with Lindler the day that Shealy came to file, said after the hearing that Shealy gave party officials various forms when she filed, but not her statement of economic interest.
“Katrina is not telling the truth,” said Hardee, who added she is not a Knotts supporter.
Despite rejecting claims by other two candidates who missed the state deadline to file their statements of economic interest because of misinformation given to them by county party officials, the S.C. GOP executive committee voted to certify Shealy. The decision came down to her statement that she had brought the form when she filed for office. “It came down to credibility,” said Edward Cousar, the state party’s second vice chairman.
Haley’s speech had no influence on the committee’s decision, Cousar said. “We have a lot of respect for the governor and the party has worked hard for her. But we based this on the evidence.”
“All I know is that you had 200 good people who wanted to run and they can’t,” Haley told the committee. “I’m asking you, ‘What are you willing to right for the good of our party?’ Please let me represent a party I can be proud of because this breaks my heart.”
After her speech, which received a standing ovation in the Knights of Columbus Hall, Haley said she did not tell party leaders how to vote. “I just told them my thoughts on what I had just witnessed,” she said.
But Charleston attorney Andy Savage, who worked with Knotts in the Richland County solicitor’s office and fought against Shealy’s reinstatement before the GOP committee, wondered why Haley did not appear on behalf of the other two candidates fighting to get back on the ballot.
Knotts has said during the ballot battle that he wanted candidates to play by the rules and that this was not an effort to keep Shealy out of the primary.
“There is nothing in this thing that’s got the fingerprint of Katrina or any of the other people,” he said earlier Wednesday, after the Senate passed a bill he sponsored to fix filing measures that was not retroactive.
Shealy said she was relieved but did not have any other comment, beyond releasing a statement decrying the “shenanigans” of the ballot fight.