Thurmond's District 41 Foes Wiped Out?
Fallout from the S.C. Supreme Court's decision on Tuesday is still unclear
CORRECTION: This article was updated at 5 p.m. June 7 to correct that Paul Thurmond's name does appear on the S.C. Election Commission list of candidates.
ORIGINAL STORY: An updated list of candidates for next Tuesday's June 12 primary races in Charleston County continues to include Paul Thurmond in the S.C. Senate District 41 race.
Despite repeated attempts by Democrats for him to withdraw from the race, Thurmond, son of legendary South Carolina senator Strom Thurmond, told Patch that he thinks he belongs on the ballot.
He said that he and the Charleston County GOP believe as a prosecutor for the City of North Charleston, he meets the public official exemption for filing a paper copy of his Statement of Economic Interest form at the same time he filed to run for the office.
"It is what it is," Thurmond said. "I followed the advice of the Party Chair, and my understanding is that like some other folks with the public official exemption I am exempt as well."
Thurmond said he fully expects that to be challenged however, and added that Republicans have grounds to challenge Democratic candidate Paul Tinkler as well. Tinkler has been certified by the Charleston County Democratic Party and remained on his party's list of candidates for the November general election following Tuesday's ruling. He did not face any other Democratic candidates for the party's nomination for the Senate District 41 seat.
However, two of Thurmond's opponents in the race — Wally Burbage and Sean Pike — do not appear on the election commission's list of Charleston County candidates. Republican John Steinberger had already been removed from the ballot by the S.C. Supreme Court's previous decision on candidate qualifications from May.
No candidates in Berkeley and Dorchester counties were affected by the decision, according to party officials there.
Thurmond said he will continue to fight to remain on the ballot if necessary because he believes people deserve to have a choice in November, and he is not happy about getting the GOP nomination in this manner.
"It's a totally hollow feeling," Thurmond said. "It is absolutely not a way I wanted to win, by default."
Thurmond added that he would welcome petition candidacies from the other candidates that were removed from the ballot, though he thinks mounting such a campaign during a presidential election year with the population as polarized as it is would be an uphill struggle of Sisyphean proportions.
On Tuesday the S.C. Supreme Court held that GOP candidates in Florence County did not meet that public official exemption and were improperly certified by the party. The case centered on whether candidates who filed SEI forms with the State Ethics Commission prior to filing for candidacy were exempt from filing a paper copy at the time they officially filed for candidacy. The election law includes candidates for office in its definition of public officials, and public officials, who are required to keep current SEI forms on file with the Ethics Commission in their roles as public officials, are exempt from having to file SEI forms because the law assumes they already have a current one on file.
The State Supreme Court ruled that despite the definition of public official including candidates for office, those candidates not already in elected or appointed office do not meet the exemption.
Thurmond said his case is different from the cases in Florence County that led to the lawsuit, because prior to filing to run for the S.C. Senate seat, he actually was a public official, serving as prosecutor for the City of North Charleston.
"As a prosecutor I already act for the state," he said. "If someone were to threaten my life in my role as a prosecutor he would be charged with threatening a public official."
According the the Ethics Commission website, Thurmond filed his SEI on March 28. Thurmond posted on his Facebook Page Thursday that his SEI had been filed about 30 minutes prior to him filing as a candidate.