Politics & Government

Will 3rd-party bid keep Democrat James Smith off SC governor ballot?

SC Gov Henry McMaster and Rep James Smith
SC Gov Henry McMaster and Rep James Smith

Despite concerns state Rep. James Smith put his spot on the November ballot for governor in jeopardy by trying to win the nominations of three smaller parties, state election officials said Wednesday that they will not disqualify the Democrat, instead letting voters have the final say.

However, Smith’s place on the ballot still could face a court challenge.

After winning the Democratic nomination for governor in June, Smith filed for the nominations of the Green, Libertarian and Working Families parties earlier this month.

Such “fusion” tickets — with one candidate nominated by multiple parties — are not uncommon in South Carolina. But rejection by any party could trigger the state’s “sore loser” law, saying a candidate that loses one party’s nomination can’t run as the candidate of another party.

Smith withdrew his requests for the parties’ nominations before they could vote, but the S.C. Libertarian Party’s executive committee voted down Smith at its Aug. 4 meeting anyway. Afterward, the party wrote to the S.C. Election Commission, saying it did not certify Smith as its candidate.

That, some say, should disqualify Smith under the “sore loser” law.

But the S.C. Election Commission on Wednesday did not see a problem. Commissioners took no action to stop Smith being placed on November’s ballot as the Democratic nominee along with all other candidates in the general election.

“There’s no issue, from our perspective, with James Smith being certified for governor and (Democratic state Rep.) Mandy Powers Norrell being certified for lieutenant governor,” commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said prior to the commission’s meeting. “To us, the issue is moot because he wasn’t a candidate at the time” of the Libertarian Party’s decision, having withdrawn his candidacy.

Libertarian Party chairman Stewart Flood said Wednesday he thinks Smith could not withdraw after the filing deadline, but added he was not surprised by the commission allowing Smith to go forward. “Like everything else, it depends on what the bosses in the back say, and they say, ‘Put him on the ballot.’”

In November, Smith will face Republican Gov. Henry McMaster. No third-party candidate will be listed on the ballot. The small, centrist American Party voted not to approve candidate Martin Barry at its July convention.

McMaster’s campaign has said it does not plan to challenge Smith’s candidacy and the Libertarian Party has said it doesn’t have the money to launch such a court challenge.

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