Lawsuit could lead to another wave of 2012 primaries in SC

abeam@thestate.comAugust 22, 2012 

A disqualified Charleston County Council candidate has asked a judge to order a new Republican primary in his district – a request that, if it succeeds, could lead to another wave of election lawsuits across the state.

Brian Moody, a Republican, was disqualified along with more than 250 other candidates after the state Supreme Court ruled they did not file their financial paperwork properly. Subsequently, candidates across the state have tried, mostly in vain, to get back on the ballot.

But, last week, when a state judge disqualified Paul Thurmond from a state Senate race for similar reasons, the judge ordered the GOP to hold a new primary, giving Thurmond a way back onto the ballot.

The next day, Moody filed a lawsuit asking for the same thing. “It’s probably a ‘hail Mary,’ but if you’re already going to have a primary with my good friend Mr. Thurmond, why not have one for us?” Moody said.

While the judge has ordered a new primary in Thurmond’s district, that primary is on hold while Democrats appeal that decision to the state Supreme Court. State law allows for another primary if a political party’s nominee becomes disqualified for a non-political reason.

Other candidates could file similar suits, said Columbia attorney Rob Tyson, who has handled several election lawsuits this year but is not part of the Thurmond or Moody cases.

“All of these candidates now appear to be seeking, searching for one last straw of hope,” he said. “My gut tells me it is an uphill battle. ... But if it’s successful there could be others like that.”

State Republican Party officials say they are concerned any new elections could violate federal law. The federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act requires the state to mail absentee ballots to overseas military personnel at least 45 days before an election.

“Any potential special primary would not be completed by (that) deadline,” said Matt Moore, executive director of the S.C. GOP.

Moody said he was not aware of that federal deadline. But it does not change his mind.

“I can’t understand why party officials would not want to do everything they could to ensure competitive elections,” he said. “That seems the most American thing I can think of.”

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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