State GOP takes on Richland Senator Lourie over county election mess

03/27/2014 12:06 PM

03/27/2014 12:07 PM

State 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 since Jan. 1, 2011.

Moore held a news conference 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, D-Richland. 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 the Richland County office.

Thursday, he attributed the attack to the governor, 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.”

Moore said he was inspired to embark on what he called “a new project” to get answers on the 2012 election debacle in Richland County when going to the office as Republican candidates filed to run for office. “The same officials are still here,” he said.

Moore acknowledged the GOP would “potentially” be fielding a candidate to run against Lourie.

Next, he probably will seek records involving Jackson’s tenure with the office, he said.

The board has not given a reason for Jackson’s dismissal after eight months on the job.

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