An Upstate engineer has announced a write-in campaign to block Jason Elliott from becoming the state’s first openly gay legislator.
With two weeks to go until the Nov. 8 election, Brett Brocato said Monday he is challenging Greenville attorney Jason Elliott for the S.C. House District 22 seat.
Elliott won the GOP nomination for that seat in June. He does not face a Democratic or third-party challenger on the Nov. 8 ballot.
In the June primary, Elliott unseated incumbent Republican state Rep. Wendy Nanney, best known as the author of the state’s new law restricting abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Elliott beat Nanney by a 16-percentage-point landslide.
Elliott has said voters in the Greenville House district, which includes conservative Bob Jones University, knew he is gay. But, he added, his sexual orientation did not play a role in the race.
Brocato said he decided to run as a write-in candidate after hearing constituents react to news reports about Elliott’s sexual orientation.
“The timing of my run is due to the fact that our Republican nominee claims the voters have accepted his progressive sexual values, yet we’ve seen no evidence that he campaigned as openly homosexual,” Brocato said in a statement.
Asked how Elliott should have campaigned, Brocato told The State: “That burden of figuring out how to campaign that way would probably be on my opponent.”
Brocato said he has had conversations with voters who said they did not know Elliott is gay.
Brocato has not reported raising any money for his campaign, according to filings with the S.C. Ethics Commission. A candidate’s first report is due within 10 days after spending or receiving $500.
Elliott had raised nearly $62,000, including a $10,000 loan, according to an August filing.
Write-in candidates candidates face challenges being elected that can include a lack of financing, little time remaining until an election and a need for high name recognition.
“When your name’s not on the ballot, it needs to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue,” said Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon, noting Strom Thurmond won a write-in election to the U.S. Senate in 1954 but the former S.C. governor was well known and campaigned for longer than two weeks.
Huffmon said he was surprised an openly gay candidate emerged from the Upstate district.
“I kind of assumed it meant that the Republican Party was beginning to become far more focused on small government and business conservative issues,” Huffmon said. “But, in the end, I’m not surprised that some internal opposition has arisen.”