SC Politics

‘Conceived In Rape’ Candidate Seeks South Carolina House Seat

Does GOP candidate have a chance against potentially divided Democrats?

For those of you new to this outlet, our oft-expressed editorial position is that victims of rape and incest should continue to be allowed to have abortions. In the former case, we would certainly hope that a woman in such a situation would choose to bring new life into the world despite the circumstances of its conception – but in the event she doesn’t, our staunch pro-life views do not extend to criminalizing that particular choice.

Not everyone agrees with us on this issue … which is part of an evolving debate at the South Carolina State House.

While we debate this issue in the abstract, however, a woman who was actually conceived in rape is mounting a bid for the S.C. General Assembly.

On Tuesday morning (February 4, 2020) Ashley Lawton announced her candidacy for S.C. House District 122 (.pdf) – touting her “Christian values, honesty and integrity.” The wife of a Baptist pastor, Lawton is a speaker for the group Save The 1 – which advocates against abortion exemptions for victims of rape.

In fact, Lawton and Save The 1’s national founder – Rebecca Kiessling – recently participated in a rally at the S.C. State House in support of personhood legislation.

We reached out to Lawton for information regarding her candidacy but did not immediately receive a response.

(Click to view)

(Via: Ashley Lawton for S.C. House/ Facebook)

Lawton (above) faces an uphill climb in her bid for the State House. The Lowcountry district she wants to represent – which straddles the Savannah River and includes parts of Beaufort, Hampton and Jasper counties – is devoutly Democratic. U.S. president Donald Trump received only 41.2 percent of the vote there in 2016, compared to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s 56.8 percent.

Four years earlier, Democratic president Barack Obama received 62 percent of votes in the district.

“It is un-winnable for a Republican,” one veteran Palmetto political strategist told us, citing the district’s high “BVAP,” or “black voting-age population.”

Ordinarily, we would concur with that statement … however there are certain factors at play in this district which could conceivably open the door to a potentially viable Republican challenge.

Since 2019, district 122 has been represented by Democrat Shedron Williams of Hampton, S.C. Williams narrowly defeated third-term incumbent Bill Bowers in the June 2018 Democratic primary election.

The public health official ran unopposed in the 2018 general election, however he received an abnormally high number of votes against him as supporters of Bowers waged an aggressive write-in campaign hoping to return him to Columbia, S.C.

This campaign was not without controversy as the Hampton county Democratic party eventually filed a lawsuit against Bowers – claiming he was illegally supporting this write-in campaign (participants in partisan primaries in South Carolina must pledge to refrain from campaigning in the event they are defeated during the primary, a.k.a. the “sore loser” law).

In a ruling issued just days before the election, S.C. circuit court judge Carmen Mullen determined Bowers was not in violation of the sore loser law.

Williams wound up getting 80.7 percent of the general election vote, with 19.3 percent of voters choosing the “write-in” option (most of them voting for Bowers). Typically, unopposed candidates draw between 97-99 percent of the vote in a general election.

Will Williams draw Democratic primary opposition in 2020 as he seeks to hold onto this seat? And could Democratic divisions in the district possibly help a Republican steal this seat away from them?

It is not likely … but not impossible. Especially if Lawton is able to get financial support from the national pro-life movement based on her personal narrative.

(Click to view)

(Via: Travis Bell Photography)

As we point out in all of these candidate stories, every single seat in the 170-member S.C. General Assembly is up for election in 2020. That includes all 46 S.C. Senate districts and all 124 seats in the S.C. House of Representatives. 

Unfortunately, as we have frequently pointed out, very few of these races wind up being competitive.

Candidate filing for legislative seats opens at 12:00 p.m. EDT on March 16, 2020 and closes at the same time on March 30. Partisan primary elections will be held on June 9, 2020 – with runoff elections held on June 23, 2020, if necessary (if no candidate receives a majority of votes in a partisan primary election in South Carolina, the two top vote-getters advance to a head-to-head matchup two weeks later).

Once major party nominees are selected (and any petition candidates are certified), the general election will take place on November 3, 2020.

We will continue to keep an eye on this particular primary race as filing approaches … assessing developments as best we can and (as always) offering our microphone to Lawton, Williams and any other candidates who may file for the seat.

Finally, while we maintain our editorial view regarding abortion exemptions for rape and incest, we believe Lawton’s life serves as a compelling reminder of the right choice in such a situation. We applaud her for her advocacy, and more importantly we applaud her mother for the choice she made to bring her into this world.




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Banner: Columbia SC Photographers Travis Bell

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