Dorchester Co. Democrats File Suit Against Local, State GOP
Democrats cite improper filing and ask for decertification of all non-incumbent Republican candidates in Dorchester County.
SUMMERVILLE — The Dorchester County Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Friday against the county Republican Party, chairwoman Carroll Duncan and a host of local and state GOP and elections officers.
A judge has issued a temporary restraining order. Court dates are expected in the second week in July.
The suit claims Dorchester County Republican Party illegally certified all of its non-incumbent candidates, and asks the First Judicial Circuit to decertify the candidates, including GOP nominees for S.C. House District 97 Ed Carter and for S.C. Senate District 38 Sean Bennett.
Nearly 250 candidates across the state were purged from ballots after two S.C. Supreme Court decisions leading up to the June 12 primary that said parties must decertify candidates that did not simultaneously file their Statements of Intention of Candidacy and their Statements of Economic Interests paperwork in person during the March 16-30 filing period.
The Dorchester County Democrats decertified their only non-incumbent candidate June 14, the same day they began requesting the Republican Party show their candidates' paperwork or decertify them. Democrats said a lawsuit would be imminent if Republicans did not comply.
The lawsuit lists the defendants as: the Dorchester County Republican Party; Duncan; Dorchester County Board of Elections and Voter Registration and its executive director Joshua Dickard; the S.C. Republican Party, its Chair Chad Connelly and its Executive Director Matt Moore; and the State Election Commission, its Executive Director Marci Andino and its Director of Public information and Training Chris Whitmire.
See the full lawsuit attached to this story on the right.
"We are doing this for the voters — we need full transparency and all abide by the laws, even if we do not like them," Dorchester County Democratic Party Chair Richard Hayes wrote in a statement to Patch.
Thursday night, the Republican Party leadership shut down intra-party discussion on the filing procedure on advice from legal counsel. Duncan refused to allow the executive committee to convene in executive session to discuss the looming lawsuit and allegations. She said she would make no statement on the matter.
"We can't talk about it. We are under advisement by a lawyer," Duncan told the committee. "I want to talk but we can't."
Duncan released this statement Friday through her lawyer Todd Kincannon:
“I’ve just seen the lawsuit filed by the Dorchester County Democratic Party against the Dorchester County Republican Party (‘DCGOP’). I have done and will continue to do everything in my power to ensure that the DCGOP follows the rulings of the South Carolina Supreme Court. If a court decides any candidates were wrongly certified, we will immediately correct the certifications.”
Last week, Dorchester County GOP elections officer Tony Piscatella said any suit filed would be ended during the discovery period since all of the Dorchester County paperwork is in order.
The suit cites the rulings in Florence and Anderson counties as reasons Dorchester County non-incumbent Republicans should be decertified — in other words non-incumbents at the time of their filing need to submit simultaneously their Statements of Intention of Candidacies and their Statements of Economic Interest.
James E. Smith Jr., a Democratic S.C. House representative for District 72, is representing the Dorchester County Democratic Party.
Carter is facing Democrat incumbent Rep. Patsy Knight for the general election, after a victory over fellow Republican Jordan Bryngelson June 12 for the nomination. Bennett has no Novemeber challenger, and beat Republican incumbent Sen. Mike Rose in the primary.
Read more on this topic:
- GOP leadership tries to quiet rumors
- Republicans question GOP filings
- Democrats call for GOP to release filing paperwork
- Democrats ask to review Carter's paperwork
Updated 8:55 p.m. June 29 to add Carroll Duncan's statement.