Politics in South Carolina has always been a special kind of crazy, but the insanity goes (way) off the charts whenever we venture into Horry county – a notoriously corrupt cesspool where unprincipled local leaders have habitually squandered the potential of one of the Palmetto State’s few competitive assets: Its gorgeous coastline.
This legacy of dishonest self-service has sadly been exported from Horry to the state capital in Columbia, S.C. – most notably in the form of state senator Luke Rankin, who is currently in a pitched battle to hold onto the S.C. Senate district (.pdf) he has represented since 1993.
In last week’s Republican primary election, Rankin received 40.2 percent of the GOP vote (4,915 ballots) compared to 34.4 percent (4,210 ballots) for challenger John Gallman and 25.4 percent (3,105) for challenger Carter Smith.
It was a disappointing showing for the “former” Democrat, who according to a recently-released scorecard is the most liberal Republican in the most liberal GOP legislature in America.
Quite a distinction …
Because Rankin did not receive a majority of the ballots cast last Tuesday, he and Gallman have advanced to a runoff election scheduled for June 23, 2020. Late Friday, though, third-place finisher in this contest threw a potential monkey wrench into the upcoming head-to-head vote.
“Corruption rules the day,” Smith wrote in a message to reporters Christian Boschult and Charles Perry at My Horry News announcing his intention to challenge the results of the June 9, 2020 balloting.
According to Smith, “many voters” have claimed they received ballots that did not include his name – despite the fact he was duly certified as one of the three GOP candidates in this race. As a result, Smith is calling for a new election.
“I will not support either candidate in this runoff and will not concede my run for office without another election with all three candidates on the ballot,” Smith added. “I request a re-election be performed with all three candidates in the ballot.”
Does he have grounds for such a request?
According to Boschult and Perry, the results of last week’s elections in Horry county were “delayed for hours” while local officials “struggled with technical problems, poll worker errors and tallying the results from thousands of absentee ballots that were submitted amid COVID-19 concerns.”
The extent of the alleged irregularities was not immediately clear, though – which makes it difficult to assess the merits of Smith’s complaint (and his subsequent request to overturn the results of the first round of balloting).
Not only must the third-place finisher prove these alleged irregularities took place as he described – but that they took place in sufficient numbers so as to influence the outcome of the primary vote.
Smith’s request for a new election must be submitted by Monday, June 15, 2020 to executive committee of the South Carolina Republican Party (SCGOP) – a group that has hardly distinguished itself of late in terms of following the law (or maintaining neutrality within its ostensibly “fair” partisan primary races).
Should anyone trust this group to handle this matter fairly and judiciously?
In fact, we should probably trust it to do just the opposite.
It boils down to this: If Smith has legitimate evidence of voting irregularities that could have conceivably impacted the outcome of this race, then such evidence needs to be submitted for public inspection as soon as possible. And frankly, it ought to be provided to the S.C. Election Commission (SCVotes.org) – which as far as we can tell is the only agency in the Palmetto State that has any credibility/ objectivity in this matter.
The SCGOP and local party officials clearly have neither of those things.
If the evidence submitted by Smith warranted it, we would absolutely support a new election … irrespective of who it might benefit or harm politically.
However (and this is a critical point to note) there are many in Horry county who believe Smith’s challenge is less about challenging the integrity of last Tuesday’s results – and more about giving Rankin the time he needs to marshal special interest backers in support of his flagging candidacy.
“Powerful interests in Columbia are not going to let Rankin lose this seat,” one source familiar with the situation told us. “There is simply too much at stake for them.”
Extending the time frame of the runoff election through some sort of formal protest by Smith could give these “powerful interests” the time they need to rally resources behind Rankin in the aftermath of his unexpectedly poor showing.
Do we believe this is what is behind the protest? We are not sure … but we do know Rankin has been nauseatingly effusive in his praise of Smith on social media of late, calling him “a man of deep faith (who) ran a passionate campaign” and extolling the work he and his wife do within the local community.
“It makes me sad the better man did not make it to the run-off,” Rankin added.
To reiterate: This news outlet opposes Rankin’s reelection. Unequivocally. Aside from his atrocious votes on taxpayer issues, his long history of slavish subservience to failed government-run power provider Santee Cooper was among the reasons lawmakers plunged the Palmetto State headfirst into NukeGate, a $10 billion (and counting) command economic disaster.
At every step of this debacle, Rankin was pulling the strings for Santee Cooper and former crony capitalist utility SCANA – the latter of which bilked ratepayers out of more than $2 billion (thanks to special interest legislation Rankin sponsored and shepherded through the S.C. Senate).
In typical Palmetto political sleight of hand, however, Rankin is now presenting himself to voters as having worked to hold these utilities accountable.
Rankin recently claimed on social media to have been “the one who exposed their wrong doings” in the summer of 2018 – however as we have meticulously documented in our previous coverage, he spent the prior decade enabling both utilities.
In fact, he is still enabling Santee Cooper …
Sadly, from what our sources on the coast are telling us, Rankin’s deplorable record will not be what drives the debate during this runoff’s final (we think) days. With the veteran lawmaker’s slash-and-burn consultants ready to launch a ferociously negative (and personal) campaign against Gallman – several local strategists working against Rankin have hinted they are ready to fire back with equally incendiary allegations.
Stay tuned for more on that in a future report …
In the meantime, we would urge coastal voters to ignore all the negative noise and focus instead on their individual interests as well as the long-term interests of the region and the state. None of those interests would be served by reelecting Rankin to an eighth four-year term.
The only interests he serves are the ones ripping us off …
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