State Democrats Deny McDaniel Protest

The Chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party has denied a request for a hearing to protest the results of the June 26 runoff election in the Democratic Primary for the District 41 seat in the S.C. State House.

Annie E. McDaniel, who lost to MaryGail Douglas by 742 votes in the June 26 runoff, submitted the request for a hearing to the State Party June 28. Dick Harpootlian, Chairman of the State Democratic Party, issued a denial in a letter dated July 2.

“Your request has been denied on the grounds that your complaint is improperly based on S.C. Code Section 7-17-560, which merely applies to the procedure by which a candidate my protest the results of an election, and not to whether or not a candidate improperly appears on the ballot seeking party nomination,” Harpootlian’s letter states.

McDaniel’s campaign claimed in their request for a hearing that Douglas was not properly certified by the Fairfield County Democratic Party to appear on the ballot and that Douglas failed to file a Statement of Economic Interest (SEI) at the same time that she filed her Statement of Intention for Candidacy (SIC) in accordance with a June ruling by the S.C. Supreme Court (Florence County Democratic Party vs. Florence County Republican Party).

Ernest Yarborough, who is serving as a media consultant for the McDaniel campaign on the issue, said he was confused by Harpootlian’s decision.

“Once a candidate files a protest, the State Party must meet and hold a hearing,” Yarborough said. “They don’t have any choice. They don’t have the authority to deny a hearing.”

According to S.C. Code Section 7-17-560, “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.”

Yarborough noted that the law states “must,” and referred to a similar protest filed June 12 with the State Republican Party by District 3 Representative B.R. Skelton. Like McDaniel, Skelton requested his hearing under 7-17-560 and was heard by the State Republicans.

“If you look at (Skelton’s protest), he did the exact same thing,” Yarborough said, “and he got a hearing with the Republican Party.”

The State GOP this week overturned the results in the District 3 primary, naming Skelton the winner over Ed Harris.

Yarborough said that McDaniel will likely have to ask the Party to reconsider, but because of Harpootlian’s decision, McDaniel’s case has become suddenly more complex.

“Now the question becomes how can she get a fair hearing after the Chairman denied her initial hearing,” Yarborough said. “This is a bigger issue now. The question is if Annie McDaniel is getting any justice.”

Yarborough said that 7-17-560 is the only statute by which a candidate can file a protest, that the Party has no choice other than to hold a hearing and then judge the protest on its merits.

Sources said Tuesday afternoon that McDaniel plans to appeal the decision.

Attempts to reach Harpootlian were unsuccessful at press time.