May 15, 2012

GOP shoots down Shealy’s bid to remove Knotts from ballot

Add another chapter to the feud between state Sen. Jake Knotts and Katrina Shealy: dueling.

Add another chapter to the feud between state Sen. Jake Knotts and Katrina Shealy: dueling.

First, a state Supreme Court ruling resulted in Shealy being removed from the June 12 Republican primary ballot. That ruling came after a paid campaign worker for Knotts filed a lawsuit alleging Shealy and others did not file their paperwork correctly. Then, last week, Knotts used legislative maneuvers to kill a Senate bill that would have allowed Shealy back on the ballot.

On Monday, Shealy asked the S.C. Republican Party’s executive committee to remove Knotts from the ballot because “he has previously issued a duel challenge to former S.C. GOP First Vice Chairman Patrick Haddon.”

That’s “duel” as in, stand back to back, walk 10 paces, turn and shoot.

Shealy’s attempt is rooted in the state Constitution, which says “any person who shall fight a duel or send or accept a challenge for that purpose, or be an aider or abettor in fighting a duel, shall be deprived of holding any office of honor or trust in this State.”

In a reply letter, state GOP officials denied Shealy’s request, saying they are “not equipped to deal with such constitutional questions.”

“To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever been brought before a state political party on a protest grounds,” said Butch Bowers, an attorney for the party. “If she wants to press this claim, she should take it to court. That’s a more proper venue than a political party.”

It’s unclear if the duel challenge ever happened.

In the summer of 2010, Knotts — appearing on Pub Politics, a weekly Internet talk show — referred to President Barack Obama and then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley as “ragheads.” Shortly thereafter, Haddon — a state party official — called on Knotts to resign.

On Dec. 22, 2010, Haddon posted to his Twitter account: “Sen. Jake Knotts challenged me to a duel today. Senator, take your best shot. You couldn’t hurt Nikki, you won’t hurt me.”

Attempts to reach Haddon were unsuccessful, and calls to Knotts were not returned. (Knotts has denied having anything to do with the lawsuit that resulted in Shealy and nearly 180 other candidates being removed from the June 12 primary ballots.)

Shealy’s protest, filed by her attorneys Amy and Thomas Cofield, included no details of the alleged duel challenge. Attempts to reach Shealy and her attorneys were unsuccessful Monday.

Dueling was part of South Carolina’s political culture for nearly 100 years. One governor, James Hamilton Jr., “successfully fought 14 duels, always wounding but never killing his opponents,” according to the South Carolina Encyclopedia.

South Carolina’s last recorded duel was in 1880 between Ellerbe B.C. Cash of Chesterfield County and William Shannon of Kershaw County, both former members of the S.C. House of Representatives. Shannon was killed. Less than a year later, the Legislature passed laws outlawing dueling and, before long, amended the state Constitution.

The Republican Party’s executive committee will hear five protests Wednesday from candidates — including Shealy — challenging the decision to remove them from the primary ballot.

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