SC Politics

SC Senate Race: Russell Ott Clarifies Position On Abortion

Democratic lawmaker backs a ban after twelve weeks …

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South Carolina state representative Russell Ott – who is running for the S.C. Senate in next month’s Democratic primary elections – is clarifying his position on the issue of abortion.

Sort of …

Ott has come under relentless fire (here and here) from state senator Dick Harpootlian for his votes in favor of multiple abortion bans. Ott previously supported a ban on abortion at twenty weeks (three times) as well as a ban on abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected (twice).

Last year, however, Ott flip-flopped and opposed a heartbeat ban.

This week, the veteran lawmaker from St. Matthews, S.C. appeared on The Urban Scene with host Don Frierson to clarify his views. Asked whether he could live with an abortion ban between 15 and 24 weeks, Ott responded that there was a “big difference” between that time frame.

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“What I’m saying right now is six weeks is not adequate, and that we need to have people that can bring forward proposals and legislation that work for the women of the state of South Carolina,” Ott told Frierson.

Asked what his proposal was, Ott responded by saying he would support an abortion ban prior to twelve weeks.

“You know, like I said, I think twelve weeks,” he said. “Twelve to 15 weeks is a place that I would like to start.”

Take a listen …

(Click to View)

(Harpootlian for Senate)

Harpootlian pounced on the latest evolution in his opponent’s position on this hot-button issue …

“I am disappointed but not surprised by Russell Ott’s extreme and dangerous stance on abortion,” he said in a statement. “For nearly a decade, Russell Ott has consistently voted with Republicans to rip away a woman’s right to choose. If Russell genuinely believes in these sexist and restrictive policies, he should consider running in the Republican primary where his views would be more aligned with their agenda.”

While Harpootlian has adeptly branded Ott as being out of touch with Democratic primary voters, the outspoken politician suffered a defeat at the hands of rank-and-file activists at the S.C. Democratic Party (SCDP) convention last weekend.

A two-time chairman of the party, Harpootlian was decisively defeated in his bid to become a national delegate.

“He was the only sitting member of the legislature to run and lose,” one Democratic activist told me. “Six other members ran and won.”

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Dick Harpootlian (Pool)

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According to the activist, Harpootlian’s defeat was “a huge and unmistakeable ‘f*ck you,'” to the former solicitor turned prominent defense attorney.

“It was for two reasons: He’s an asshole and his antics during the Murdaugh trial,” the activist added.

“Pretty crazy because a decade ago he would have been one of the top vote getters,” another party activist told us.

Harpootlian’s allies said they are not sure why his name appeared on the ballot because he communicated his intention not to run for national delegate to state party officials in April 2024. They added Harpootlian is a member of the Democratic national finance team and did not need to win a delegate’s slot to appear at the party’s quadrennial convention this summer.

Harpootlian and Ott are vying for the recently redrawn S.C. Senate District 26 – which became contested when veteran senator Nikki Setzler announced his impending departure from the legislature in January. Harpootlian won his current Midlands seat in a special election in November 2018. He was reelected to a full, four-year term in 2020 – but his district was subsequently drawn off the map to accommodate population shifts toward the booming Palmetto Lowcountry.

Ott has served in the S.C. House for the past decade – inheriting his seat from his father, Harry Ott, a former Democratic minority leader. Harry Ott, incidentally, is the president and chief executive officer of S.C. Farm Bureau – an entity which has paid Russell Ott $800,000 over the past decade for “non-lobbying services.”

Ott and Harpootlian face off against each other in the Democratic primary on June 11, 2024.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.

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