Just The Facts, Please!
Former Pickens County Democratic Chairman takes former Oconee County Council candidate to task for recent claims.
In a letter entitled "Observations on a Ridiculous Decision", published in The Journal on June 8,2012, former Republican candidate for Oconee County Council Bill Leonard offered his take on the fiasco that has overtaken this year's election cycle.
Mr. Leonard offers a unique perspective as one who after spending time and resources campaigning found his prospects suddenly "snuffed out" because of a technicality within the law. His letter is permeated with emotions ranging from frustration to amazement and anger.
Were I in his situation there is no doubt I would share his contempt for the process but even with that it does not give him the right to misrepresent the facts regarding these events.
The body of his commentary consisted of 5 specific observations, 4 of which are simply incorrect.
Two included the charge that "both Republicans and Democrats within the legislature were responsibile for not seeing this technical problem" and concluded with his most damning accusation, " this action was instigated by the State Democratic Party to promote their selfish political interests and is anything but democratic".
A cursory review of the facts would discount these claims.
In 2010 as an effort at achieving transparency in government State Representatives Nathan Ballentine, Republican -Richmond and Nikki Haley, Republican -Lexington County, coauthored the amendment requiring electronic filing of Statements of Economic Interest with "no exceptions" after years of a process with no apparent problems.
They evidently failed to consider how this should work with current Election Law requirements.
This was done in the midst of a campaign season, one in which Nikki Haley's rational for running and her major election issue was transparency in government. One cannot help but wonder what level of thought versus political expediency was involved.
It was passed by a General Assembly which has been dominated by Republicans for over a decade and signed by a Republican Governor.
Democrats neither had the power or authority to control what legislation is introduced or pass laws without Republican agreement so attempting to hold Democrats responsible for legislation authored and passed through a Republican dominated body is simply inaccurate.
To analysis the second charge concerning "State Democratic Party" involvement fast forward to 2012.
This specific legal issue began when two individuals supporting Republican State Sen. Jake Knotts filed a lawsuit challenging the candidate certification of his Primary opponent Katrina Shealy based on these laws.
The State Supreme Court ruling against Ms. Shealy ordered both political parties, at the County level, to review and submit a list of qualified candidates by a preset deadline.
There were no Democrats, at the state or county level, involved in this process unless one wants to accuse the State Supreme Court of secretly holding a particular Party affiliation.
Mr. Leonard's specific removal resulted from a lawsuit by the Florence County Democratic Party not state Democrats, charging their counterparts within the Florence County Republican Party with failing to remove candidates that did not meet certification requirements based on this Court decree.
The Florence County Democrats were SIMPLY DEMANDING THAT BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES PLAY BY THE SAME SET OF RULES!
The State Supreme Court agreed and ruled in favor of the Florence Democrats ordering the Florence Republicans to comply and cautioning other county parties to adhere to the law as well.
At that point the Oconee Republican Party abruptly removed 11 candidates previously certified, including Mr. Leonard, and cancelled their Primary.
This Court decision resulted in the removal of about 40 additional candidates statewide, ironically all Republicans, because the local Republican Party organizations were playing fast and lose with the Court's previous interpretation.
This invokes the third disagreement with Mr. Leonard's assessment. In his letter Mr. Leonard states "we cannot blame Eddie Adams for this dilemma because this problem began in Florence County...".
As documented this did not " begin in Florence" and Oconee County Republican Party Chair Adams must bare responsibility for his actions when certifying candidates between the initial State Supreme Court ruling and the decision involving Florence County.
Prior to this disaster Mr. Adams made much of his authority as Chair being quoted "I don't care what my Party put out. My state Party put me in a position early in this race to make judgement calls and I continue to do that' in reference to certifying James Bartee as a candidate for Sheriff contrary to clear State law.
As a former Democratic County Chair I can empathize with Mr. Adams' situation having made decisions that have unexpected negative consequences but that does not negate responsibility and Mr. Leonard should not gloss over that fact with indifference.
His fourth point was that " only Republican candidates are likely to have much chance of getting elected in Oconee County" which he states is why he filed as one.
Again must disagree, noting if he had stated only Republican incumbents he might be correct.
I would also observe that all Democratic challengers in Oconee filed correctly and therefore successfully remain on the November ballot should folks wish to express their displeasure with this turn of events.
Mr. Leonard's fifth point is an astute observation that "South Carolina is behind the times" and argues for supporting "literacy education".
These are points on which we share common agreement but in the process of stating them he should not attempt to score political points at the expense of Democrats. Especially concerning an issue that began with lack of foresight, during a political campaign by Republicans and concluded with Republican Party incompetence regarding their Primary!
John G. Painter