Party Foul

After enjoying a relatively peaceful election cycle, a little rhubarb after the closing bell should come as no surprise to Fairfield County voters. Crying foul is, after all, something of a tradition among certain participants in Fairfield County’s democratic process.

But crying foul is not necessarily the same thing as crying wolf, and without passing judgment on the merits of the recent protest attempted by the runner-up in the June 26 House 41 primary runoff, a careful reading of the statute governing such protests makes one thing abundantly clear: The State Democratic Party has fouled up.

Fairness is an ideal to which we should all want to aspire. That ideal is tainted only by the fact that, in reality, life is not fair. The laws of nature favor the strong, the agile and the quick; while the laws of Man are, and should be, crafted to create a more level playing field for all. The laws concerning election protests are quite clear and concise in their wording, specifically S.C. Code 7-17-560, which states, in part, “The state executive committee must meet in Columbia at such place as may be designated by the chairman to hear and decide protests and contests that may arise in the case of federal officers, state officers, State Senate, State House of Representatives, and officers involving more than one county.”

Note the word “must.”

Not “may,” or “can” or “should,” but “must.”

Whether or not the allegations put forth by the runner-up could possibly withstand the scrutiny of a hearing by the State Party is not the issue. In fact, some very reliable sources inside the County Party have indicated just the opposite. But the simple matter is that the State Party is required by the letter and the spirit of the law to air these allegations out in an open hearing. To deny the protestor that basic right, to have her complaint heard and properly adjudicated, at the end of the day only makes things worse for everyone involved. Such a denial could only serve to prolong the entire process and opens the door to the kind of petty infighting that could accomplish nothing more than to further relegate the Party to the second tier of S.C. politics.

There is little question that this and similar protests are the inevitable fallout from the early June ruling by the S.C. Supreme Court that removed hundreds of candidates from the primary ballot, but laying the blame for such a convoluted mess at the feet of the High Court does little to salve the wounds of our runner-up in the House 41 primary runoff. Indeed, a hearing by the State Party may ultimately offer her little consolation. But she is entitled to that hearing, nonetheless. By denying her that right, the State Democratic Party has not only overstepped its bounds, it has proven once again why it is, and has been for the last three decades, South Carolina’s “Other Party.”

The Party that can barely come in second in a two-man race.

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