SC Politics: SC GOP seeks records of Richland County elections office communications

March 27, 2014 

Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

S.C. GOP seeks records of senator-county elections office communications

S.C. GOP chairman Matt Moore said he has embarked on a campaign to get records about possible nepotism and political interference in the operations of the Richland County elections office.

His first request: all emails, text messages, phone messages, voicemails or other records reflecting communications involving state Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Richland, since Jan. 1, 2011.

Moore held a news conference Thursday in front of the county elections office on Harden Street. Next to him were placards of oversized photos of Lourie and his brother-in-law, Garry Baum. Baum worked in the county elections office before he was dismissed last fall.

Former elections director Howard Jackson said, after he was fired, that he was warned against firing Baum because of his family connection to Lourie. Baum said earlier this month he was “outraged” at Jackson’s insinuation.

Lourie has denied having any conversations with anyone about the hiring of his brother-in-law, who had a career with the state elections office before taking a job for Richland County. He attributed the attack Thursday to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley, who he said was unhappy with his calls for reform at one of her Cabinet agencies, the S.C. Department of Social Services. “If they think cheap political stunts can intimidate me,” he said, “they’ve miscalculated.”

Next, Moore said he probably will seek records involving Jackson’s tenure with the office. The board has not given a reason for Jackson’s dismissal after eight months on the job.

McConnell rules out holding 2 jobs

Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell ruled out Thursday the possibility of remaining lieutenant governor after taking the College of Charleston’s helm, saying he’s committed to his alma mater.

The college’s board selected McConnell on Saturday to succeed president George Benson, who is stepping down July 1 after six years as president.

McConnell’s decision ends speculation that he could remain lieutenant governor to fill the post until voters replace him.

Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, R-Richland, said earlier this week he will not relinquish his Senate seat to temporarily become lieutenant governor.

House moves disputed ethics bill to panel

The S.C. House has created a special committee to evaluate the Senate version of ethics reform legislation. The House sent the version the Senate passed last month to a Judiciary subcommittee. The House version passed last year.

Ordinarily, when the chambers disagree on each other’s versions, the measure goes to a conference committee made of up three House and Senate members to iron out differences. But House Judiciary chairman Greg Delleney says the bill is too important for a simple vote. Delleney says sending the bill to the committee will speed its potential for passage.

A major difference is the Senate leaves intact the system of House and Senate ethics committees overseeing their colleagues. The House version called for independent investigations, with committees still deciding punishment.

Thursday’s primary filings in Richland, Lexington counties

Filing ends Sunday for the June 10 primary election. Previous filings at www.thestate.com/politics

House District 79: Vannie Williams Jr. (D)

Staff writer Dawn Hinshaw and The Associated Press contributed

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