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Election 2012: More candidates struck from the ballot

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Just days before the party primaries, more Georgetown County candidates have been stricken from the ballot as a result of a state Supreme Court ruling.

The court ruled the candidates improperly filed economic interest disclosure forms and are ineligible to appear on the ballot. At last count, the only candidates remaining on county ballots for the primary and November elections, aside from incumbents, are three Republicans. No incumbent’s eligibility was affected by the ruling because they have to file annually.

The first of the new cuts was made late Wednesday afternoon when Bubba Grimes, a Republican who was supposed to face District 5 incumbent County Council Member Austin Beard in the primary, was removed from the ballot.

By noon on Thursday, Jacquelyn Williams, a Democrat running for state House District 103 against Rep. Carl Anderson had also been removed (she was the first county Democrat to be affected), along with a number of candidates who were supposed to be on the November ballot. Among them are Democrats Jarrod Ownbey, candidate for state House District 108; Darryel Carr, running for sheriff; and Ben Dunn, another Council District 5 candidate, according to party officials. Notification is pending on one other Democrat, Cezar McKnight of Lake City, who is running for state Senate against Yancey McGill.

The party plans to release a list later today of candidates who will run as petition candidates.

Republicans who were cut from the November ballot today are Mike Andrews, candidate for county treasurer, and Tom Winslow, another candidate for House District 103.

Remaining on the ballot are Doug Dishong, who will face Sheriff Lane Cribb in the Republican primary; Ownbey’s opponent, Stephen Goldfinch for House District 108; and Brian Shult, the Republican nominee for county auditor. There is no incumbent for District 108 or the auditor’s position.

The reason Dishong, Goldfinch and Shult weren’t disqualified is because they provided a printed copy of their statement of economic interest when they filed with the party, according to Jim Jerow, county GOP chairman.

“We’re very disappointed in this whole process,” Jerow said. “It’s disenfranchising the voters, the candidates, the whole process. But it is what it is.”

Goldfinch said it’s because of his campaign consultant, Tom Swatzel, that he filed correctly.

“I was fortunate enough to have a consultant that has been through the issues and is very familiar with the process,” Goldfinch said. “I paid him good money to know the right answers. He had everything printed out for me and told me where to sign, otherwise I could have fallen victim to this as easy as anyone else.”

Swatzel is the former county GOP chairman.

Dishong said it’s because he did his research he wasn’t affected. He went to the State Ethics Commission’s website before filing to make sure he was familiar with all the rules and regulations surrounding the process to make sure he did it right, he said.

As for Shult, he said he just followed directions from Jerow. He added that Jerow is “getting a bad rap for no reason” as a result of the situation.

“Jim Jerow has don’t everything correctly,” Shult said, calling the whole situation “absolute insanity.”

The Supreme Court ruled in May in a case from Anderson County that the parties did not follow state law in qualifying candidates. The law requires that candidates file a statement of economic interest and a statement of candidacy at the same time. Incumbents are exempt because they are required to file annual economic interest statements.

This week, the Supreme Court ruled in a case from Florence County that candidates were not “public officials” who are exempted from the law. The court chastized the county Republican Party, which claimed otherwise, for failing to follow its earlier ruling. The case was brought by the county Democratic Party.

The court noted that the rulings are specific to each county but have statewide implications that party officials ignore “at their peril.”

Schult said he can’t speak to how other candidates ended up filing incorrectly, but he and Dishong agree the disqualifications are unfortunate.

“This is really hurting the citizens of Georgetown County and the rest of the state, because we’re taking away their right to vote for the individual they want in office,” Dishong said.

“I would rather have everybody competing, including my opponent,” Shult said. “This is a disgrace. I guess there are going to be a lot of petition candidates statewide.”

Rod Stalvey, who filed to run against Shult in the Republican primary, was one of the first candidates to be disqualified earlier this year, along with another Republican, Tammie Avant, who filed to run for clerk of court. Both have since announced plans to run as petition candidates.

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