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Down-Ballot SC Judicial Race Drawing Heat

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LAWMAKERS MULL CANDIDATES FOR CIRCUIT COURT …

We’ve devoted much of our bandwidth of late to the ongoing legislative election for the S.C. Supreme Court … a race we’ll be updating our readers on later today.

As for down-ballot judicial races?   We haven’t really been following them all that closely …

If history is any indication, though, maybe we should pay more attention.   After all, as we exclusively reported two years ago these races often involve shady deals which impact the outcome of the top-of-the-ticket contests.

Wait … you thought lawmakers elected judges on their merits?

LOL …

This is South Carolina, people.  Where everything is “who knows who.”  And cui bono.

Anyway, one of the races drawing significant attention involves S.C. circuit court candidate Jocelyn Newman – daughter of current circuit court judge Clifton B. Newman and brother of former Columbia, S.C. city councilman Brian DeQuincey Newman.

If those latter two names sound familiar, they should …

Clifton Newman is the judge who recently awarded bail to Michael Slager – the white North Charleston, S.C. cop who fatally shot 50-year-old black man Walter Scott multiple times in the back following a traffic stop.

Sources tell us Newman – who is black – has had some trouble solidifying her support among Democrats in the S.C. General Assembly due to her father’s controversial decision.  Of course there’s a flip side.  We’re told she’s made up some of that ground among white “Republicans” – several of whom have reportedly told her they will support her candidacy as a way of getting out of having to back liberal S.C. Supreme Court justice Donald Beatty next year.

Ah, the politics of race …

“Some of the Republican House members are now worried about being called bigots,” one source told us.  “Especially in an election year.”

Really? 

If anything, we would argue “Republican” lawmakers should be taking a hard line on electing the most conservative judges right about now … not letting political correctness guide their decision-making.

That’s what GOP primary voters will be focused on …

Compounding Jocelyn Newman’s problems?  The recent legal trouble her brother is experiencing as a result of his association with the “penny tax” – a $1.2 billion tax hike approved via a rigged election in Richland County in 2012.  Brian DeQuincey Newman was one of two black leaders busted on tax charges earlier this month in connection with a S.C. Department of Revenue (SCDOR) investigation into the proceeds of this rigged election.

More trouble could be coming down the pipe for those associated with this scam …

In addition to that blowback, Jocelyn Newman is also not benefitting at all from the involvement of scandal-scarred Columbia, S.C. mayor Steve Benjamin in her race.

Legislative sources tell us Benjamin – who had an abysmal election cycle at the municipal level last fall – has been in “full lobby mode” for Newman, “calling and cajoling and occasionally cussing out legislators.”

“As with the citywide elections in November, he’s doing  more harm than good,” one lobbyist familiar with the vote count told us.

So … why is he involved?  City politicos were buzzing about “Mayorhood’s” advocacy in this particular legislative election – wondering whether it was part of an effort to shield Benjamin from further scrutiny of his, um, affairs.

“Is there a quid pro quo for Brian Newman’s silence about Benjamin’s shady dealings?” one mused.

Wouldn’t surprise us …

As we’ve said all along … state lawmakers should not be allowed to elect judges.  The process is notoriously corrupt, and should be replaced by either executive appointment or popular election (frankly we prefer the appointment model, with future governors submitting nominations to the S.C. Senate for its advice and consent).

Will that ever happen?  Hell no …

Lawmakers love horse-trading too much.

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