More than 40 SC candidates taken from ballots this week

06/09/2012 12:00 AM

06/08/2012 10:22 PM

Almost four dozen additional candidates have been disqualified or have withdrawn this week from next Tuesday’s S.C. primaries, according to election officials.

In the Midlands, three Saluda County Republicans – including Phil Perry, a candidate for the S.C. House District 39 seat that extends into Lexington County — removed themselves from the ballot and a fourth was taken off Friday, said Jerry Strawbridge, chairman of the Saluda GOP.

The names of candidates who were decertified or withdrew this week still will be on next Tuesday’s ballots, so signs in polling places will tell those casting ballots that votes for those candidates will not be counted.

Perry’s departure narrows the race for the Republican nomination for the House 39 seat to Lexington 3 school board member Ralph Kennedy and Batesburg-Leesville Mayor James Wiszowaty.

“It knocks the wind out of your sails, but you keep on going,” Perry said of his decision to withdraw from the race. “This debacle is confusing and frustrating.”

Perry said he plans to run for the House seat in November as an independent if he can collect enough petition signatures to qualify.

County parties have been scrambling to re-examine their candidate lists since Wednesday, after the state Supreme Court ruled that Florence County Republicans had disregarded an earlier ruling on paperwork submission and just certified all candidates.

Nearly 200 candidates were dropped from ballots last month after the justices ruled that financial and candidacy paperwork must be submitted together.

In its ruling this week, the high court urged all counties and candidates to make sure they had followed the rules. That set off a wave of new candidate disqualifications and withdrawals.

The parties’ responses to the mess has differed.

Thursday night, state GOP chairman Chad Connelly sent out a video calling the whole matter “disgusting” and decrying conflicting information from state officials on how candidates should file their paperwork.

Also Thursday, U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan – a Republican unaffected by the ballot controversy – called the situation “deplorable” in a letter to his constituents. “Through a technicality, the court has denied hundreds of people the right to run for office, and has essentially denied hundreds of thousands the right to participate in a free and fair election.”

Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, said Friday the root of the problem lies in the GOP-controlled Legislature, which passed a confusing law requiring electronic filing for some paperwork but not for others.

Harpootlian said he expected more legal challenges would follow, with parties having until election results are certified to make challenges in court. “There will be a number of different issues being developed,” he said.

Staff writer Tim Flach contributed to this story.

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