Elections 2012

2 Lexington County candidates off ballot

Number of those ineligible for primary grows across S.C.

tflach@thestate.comJune 8, 2012 

The primary election ballot in Lexington County got a little less crowded Thursday as two County Council candidates were removed from the ballot.

The pair ruled ineligible for Tuesday’s election by Republican leaders are part of a new wave of candidates across the state who have been disqualified because they failed to disclose correctly potential financial conflicts of interest when filing for office in March.

Council candidates Brian Duncan and Wes Howard, the two candidates disqualified Thursday, promised to try to appear on the ballot Nov. 6 as independent candidates nominated through petitions signed by voters.

They join at least eight other Lexington County Republicans who say they will try to revive their campaigns via petition after being taken off the ballot.

No Richland County candidate was ruled ineligible Thursday. “There’s no change we know of,” assistant county election director Gary Baum said.

However, the candidate toll continued to grow Thursday in other S.C. counties.

Six candidates were taken off the ballot Thursday in the Charleston area.

Lexington County’s Howard was a candidate for County Council’s District 3 seat, representing the town of Lexington and the surrounding area. He is the fifth candidate removed from that race. Only lawyer Kent Collins, a Republican, remains on the ballot after Howard.

“I’m not going away – make that no with three exclamation points,” Howard said. “It’s an unfortunate situation, but I’m not giving up.”

Duncan was running in the County Council’s District 5 race, which represents the Red Bank area and South Congaree. Only Republican incumbent Bobby Keisler remains on the ballot in that district.

Duncan called the chaos created by questions about disclosure “absurd.”

“After all the effort we put into this, I can’t believe this is happening,” he said.

Duncan and Howard now will start petition efforts, a month later than other candidates who were disqualified in May. That late start will make it more difficult to meet the July 16 deadline to submit petitions to county election officials.

Depending on the district, council candidates will need to collect from 750 to 900 signatures from voters, county election officials say.

Other candidates seeking a countywide office, including coroner or clerk of court, will need to gather slightly more than 7,800 signatures.

The latest disqualifications reduced the number of races Tuesday in Lexington County to four from six. The races left are for coroner, treasurer, register of deeds and County Council District 6, representing the Chapin, Irmo and Lexington areas.

The disqualifications started in May, when the state Supreme Court ruled that challengers had to turn in their statements of candidacy and economic interest at the same time to local party officials in order to qualify to run. Many of the almost 200 candidates then disqualified said they had been told – inaccurately – to file the economic interest statements online with state officials.

The second round of disqualifications started this week, when the Supreme Court reprimanded Florence County Republicans for ignoring the rules and warned other county parties to double-check the eligibility of candidates.

More than 20 candidates were disqualified by local parties Wednesday and still more were Thursday. But no statewide count of the latest removals was available.

In Charleston County, the outcome left Paul Thurmond — a son of the longtime U.S. senator — as the sole Republican candidate for a state Senate seat formerly held by Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell.

Lexington’s Howard predicted more legal battles over the eligibility of candidates.

“A lot of people are considering that,” he said. “Hopefully, this situation will wake a lot of people up. Having this happen doesn’t bode well for our democracy.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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