Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 21, 2014

South Carolina: Top Democrat Says 7th District Primary Botched

“Clusterf—,” South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said, enunciating every profane syllable in his Southern-tinged baritone.

“We’ve got more in common with a third-world, South American country than we do with the rest of the other 49 states. This is nuts,” he added. Venezuelan leader Hugo “Chávez would conduct a fairer, better election than the Republican South Carolina [State] Election Commission.”

All of which is to say  the South Carolina Democratic Party is not very happy with Tuesday’s Democratic primary election results in the state’s new 7th district.

At first, the results appeared to indicate a Democratic primary runoff between long-shot candidate Gloria Bromell Tinubu, an economist, and establishment-backed attorney Preston Brittain, since neither received the more than 50 percent required to be declared the winner outright.

But then, according to the Associated Press, the South Carolina State Election Commission disqualified the votes received by state Rep. Ted Vick (D) on the grounds that he had withdrawn from the race before primary day. That gave Tinubu more than 50 percent of the vote and the victory. Vick dropped out of the race after being arrested but remained on the ballot.

Tinubu, who was a former state Representative in Georgia, is seen by South Carolina political operatives of both parties as almost certain to lose the race in this GOP-leaning district.

“I’ve read the law. I happen to be a lawyer when I’m not wasting my time on this shit,” Harpootlian said. “If no one gets 50 percent plus one of the votes cast, there’s a runoff.”

“The election commission, some bureaucrat over there last night, said they weren’t going to count Ted Vick’s votes. I don’t know how you do that.” Harpootlian added. “He’s on the ballot!”

Harpootlian went on to explain that if Vick’s votes are counted, no one got 50 percent and, therefore, there must be a runoff.

Harpootlian said that in his conversations with the commission, it said it was unclear whether there would be a runoff or not, and a decision would be made Friday.

Harpootlian said the party would not bring a lawsuit in this matter. But he floated the possibility that there could be a new election. If a candidate files a protest with the state executive committee, and the committee votes to hold a new election because of improprieties, a new contest could be held, he said.

That election would include all the candidates. Though whether the ballots would include Vick is unclear.

A spokesman for the commission told Roll Call it would meet on Friday to certify the results and a decision would be made then. He noted the commission had heard the Democratic Party’s arguments about why Vick’s votes should be included and was seeking advice from the state’s attorney general.

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