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South Carolina Judicial Race Inflames State House Tensions

Also, fresh vote-trading allegations are being leveled …

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The South Carolina State House is buzzing over recriminations related to a contentious judicial election – further underscoring why we believe the legislative branch of government should have no involvement whatsoever in picking candidates for the judiciary.

The process is just far too corruptible …

South Carolina is one of only two states in the nation in which lawmakers elect judges, a process which has led to all manner of insider dealing … not to mention preferential treatment shown to powerful lawyer-legislators once the judges they elect take their seats on the bench.

We have argued for years that South Carolina should abandon this shady process and instead adopt the federal model of judicial appointment … in which governors select nominees with the advice and consent of the legislative branch.

Anyway, this news outlet’s founding editor Will Folks was recently dragged into the latest judicial race, which pits S.C. circuit court judge DeAndrea Benjamin of Columbia against family court judge Jay Vinson of Florence for a seat on the S.C. court of appeals (the state’s second-highest court).

Benjamin is the wife of Columbia, S.C. mayor Steve Benjamin – who is widely expected to announce sometime this week that he is not seeking reelection to his current post. This, of course, has sparked considerable speculation about his future as a potential statewide candidate (Benjamin ran unsuccessfully for attorney general as a Democrat prior to becoming mayor).

Why did we get dragged into the judge’s race? Because FITSNews has criticized judge Benjamin (and other judges) for excessive leniency with regard to granting bond for violent criminals. We believe this is a serious problem in South Carolina and have said so often … although we have not taken a position one way or another in the appeals court race.

Benjamin has also been criticized by Upstate businessman John Warren – who has questioned her former employment at a law firm which doled out big dollar contributions to Democratic politicians a decade ago.

Warren was pilloried by reporter John Monk of The (Columbia, S.C.) State for his involvement in the election – including a headline which accused him of directing a “smear” at Benjamin.

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Specifically, Monk blasted Warren for sending an email “clearly meant to dissuade the state’s 170 lawmakers from voting for Benjamin.”

Wait a minute … since when did linking someone to Democrats constitute a “smear?”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but … Benjamin is a Democrat.

And while the contributions from her law firm were indeed doled out more than a decade ago, a recent review of her voting record reveals she has participated exclusively in Democratic primary elections since then.

That’s not a “smear,” it’s a fact.

Honestly, those pushing Benjamin’s candidacy within the S.C. General Assembly should probably thank Warren for raising the issue … especially considering how many “Republican” lawmakers in South Carolina vote like Democrats.


According to our sources, though, Benjamin’s race could ultimately wind up being decided by … wait for it … good old-fashioned horse-trading. Specifically, we are told there is “another judicial race” scheduled for this coming week in which the votes of multiple lawmakers are “in play.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a flurry of eleventh hour vote trading,” one lawmaker told us, referring to the potential impact of this “other” race on the Benjamin-Vinson vote for the appeals court.

Specifically, we are told the S.C. Legislative Black Caucus (SCLBC) is staying “powder dry” in at least two other contested judicial races in order “to try and influence a trade.”

Wait, though … isn’t vote-trading illegal?

Yes … but

Which reminds us, these same sources told us at least one referral has been made to the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC) regarding unspecified conduct related to the Benjamin-Vinson race … although it is not immediately clear who is being accused of wrongdoing in relation to this referral.

Stay tuned … lawmakers will cast their votes in a special joint session of the S.C. General Assembly scheduled for this coming Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

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