by Paul Bowers
Among the roughly 100 candidates who were thrown off of ballots for state legislative seats because of a recent S.C. Supreme Court ruling are Charleston County candidates Peter vonLehe Ruegner (R-House District 110) and Will Freeman (R-House District 111). Larry Carter Center, a Green Party candidate for House District 114, says he thinks the ruling does not affect him as a member of a third party.
On Wednesday, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled on a case out of Lexington County involving several non-incumbent candidates who were accused of improperly filing a form called the Statement of Economic Interest (SEI). The court decided that, since the candidates had failed to file their forms at the right time, they should be removed from their respective ballots.
State law requires every new candidate to file an SEI "at the same time and with the same official with whom the candidate files a declaration of candidacy or petition for nomination.” The law was written before the state switched to electronic SEI filing, and Will Freeman says that's where the problem comes from.
Freeman says he filled out his SEI before going to the Charleston County Republican Party headquarters to file for candidacy, and he — like many other candidates — simply printed a copy of a receipt from the electronic filing process to show to local GOP chairperson Lin Bennett.
Speaking on radio station 1250 WTMA this morning, Bennett said the whole situation sounded like "good-ol'-boy protectionism" intended to keep incumbents in office. Since incumbents are not required to re-file an SEI every election year, only non-incumbent candidates were affected by the ruling on Wednesday.
Freeman calls the day of the Supreme Court ruling "the day democracy died in South Carolina" and thinks the whole thing started with a single incumbent who wanted to knock his opponent out of the race on a technicality, not considering the fact that a state Supreme Court ruling would apply across the state.
The irony of the situation for Freeman is that he had almost nothing to report on his SEI. As we reported earlier, he and Ruegner are undergraduate students at the College of Charleston. When he filled out the form online, Freeman says, "literally, I just kept having to hit skip, skip, skip, because there was nothing to put down."
To read the S.C. Supreme Court ruling, click here.