Dear Friends in the SCGOP:
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen many of you. Far too long, quite frankly. Lately I’ve spent most of my time building my law practice. But as with each of you, Republican Party politics is never far from my heart.
Yesterday I received a call from Amanda Somers, a fellow member of the Greenville County Republican Party and State Senate candidate. Mrs. Somers told me about this brewing reopened filing controversy and asked for my help. I told her I would help her on one condition, a condition Mrs. Somers immediately agreed to: at no point would we attack the SCGOP or any of its members or officers. I care deeply about our Party, as I know you do, and all of us have worked too long and too hard to see it damaged by infighting. Mrs. Somers understands that and agrees. If she didn’t, I wouldn’t be helping her, nor would I be asking for your help.
Here is how this started. Mrs. Somers filed for State Senate District 5, a district primarily in Greenville County. The incumbent state senator also filed, setting up a primary election. A couple of days ago, the incumbent—Sen. Phil Shoopman — withdrew from the election for personal reasons.
Then a funny thing happened. Instead of congratulating Mrs. Somers on her victory as an unopposed Senate candidate, Rep. Tom Corbin demanded that filing for the Senate be reopened so he could jump into the race and steal the Senate seat from Mrs. Somers — even while still running for his State House seat. I cannot believe Rep. Corbin is attempting this; Republicans don’t steal elections.
What Rep. Corbin is attempting violates a number of provisions of federal and state election law. The SCGOP Executive Committee must decline to accept his filing. Not only does this look like a Columbia insider trying to steal an election, it presents serious Voting Rights Act problems as well. The rules of the game can’t be changed at the last minute.
Even worse, the statute in question is very likely unconstitutional, as it violates the Equal Protection Clause in a very obvious way: a candidate who files unopposed wins automatically, while a candidate who becomes unopposed after a withdrawal still has to fight in a primary after a reopened filing period with brand new candidates.
But this is not just about Mrs. Somers and Rep. Corbin. Today, a number of elected officials and candidates have contacted me asking if something like this is possible in their races. I’ve had no choice but to tell them yes, unless the SCGOP Executive Committee or the U.S. Department of Justice puts a stop to it. Every single candidate I’ve spoken to is opposed to reopened filings.
Before you vote on whether to take away Mrs. Somers’ election victory, please call your candidates in your county and ask how they feel about this. No candidate wants to see his or her opponent withdraw from the race and then be forced to face an entirely new batch of opponents when filing is reopened. It’s horribly unfair, and forcing our candidates into unnecessary primary elections only weakens them for the general election.
I would urge you to vote against accepting any new candidate filings. Mrs. Somers has won this State Senate seat fair and square, and if Rep. Corbin wanted to run for State Senate District 5 he should have filed for it on time. Taking Mrs. Somers’ victory away from her and forcing her to fight a brand new opponent is completely inappropriate. But even if you don’t believe me, please pick up the phone, call some of your candidates, and get their perspectives. I can promise you that your candidates will be far more convincing than I am on why reopening filing is a terrible idea.
In closing, I want to emphasize one final thing. SCGOP Chairman Chad Connelly’s actions in this have been completely appropriate, and he has done exactly the right thing by turning this matter over to the SCGOP Executive Committee to make the final decision here. I always count on the SCGOP to make the right decision in matters like this, and I have never been disappointed. I hope you all will make the right decision here. Anything else will jeopardize the Party that we have all worked so hard to build.
With kindest personal regards, I remain,
Very truly yours,
(This is a letter to the editor from a FITS reader. It does not necessarily reflect the editorial position of FITSNews.com. To submit your letter for consideration – anonymously or otherwise – click here).