Despite Appeal, Bennett Likely to be Certified
S.C. Supreme Court might not hear appeal case that questions GOP nominee Sean Bennett's candidacy until after Wednesday's deadline certifying candidates for November ballot.
S.C. Senate District 38 candidate Sean Bennet will likely be certified Wednesday for the November ballot, regardless of a court challenge from his GOP primary opponent.
The deadline for certification is noon Wednesday. While the S.C. Supreme Court approved a motion to expedite Tuesday, the motion allows for a maximum of 27 days of information gathering from all parties before the case will be heard by the Justices.
Bennett's primary opponent and incumbent Sen. Mike Rose filed the appeal that challenges Bennett's candidate filing procedure Aug. 10. He and Bennett were listed as defendants in a lawsuit brought June 29 by the Dorchester County Democratic Party against the Dorchester County Republican Party et al. The suit alleged that all GOP non-incumbents had not filed in accordance with S.C. election law. A Circuit Court judge ruled Aug. 9 that the three non-incumbents who survived the June 12 primary, including Bennett, would remain certified.
Bennett beat Rose in the primary, and the judge said he "declines to disenfranchise voters" by overturning the election results on the basis of a clerical error. According to filing documents, Bennett filed his 2012 Statement of Economic Interest on the 2011 form with the S.C. Ethics Commission.
The Bennett campaign has alleged that Rose is being a sore loser, and Rose will not make comment to the press.
Fellow GOP non-incumbents S.C. House District 97 nominee Ed Carter and Dorchester County Council District 5 nominee Carroll Duncan do not face appeals to their certification. Duncan is unopposed in November and Carter faces Democratic incumbent Rep. Patsy Knight.
In S.C. election law history, there is a candidate who was decertified after the certification deadline and only six weeks before the general election: gubernatorial Democrat Charles "Pug" Ravenel. Ravenel was decertified over residency issues in 1974.
"Ravenel is certainly the obvious example," USC political science professor and longtime observer of S.C. politics Mark Tompkins said. He added that while one can compare the 1974 post-deadline decertification and the possibility of the Supreme Court doing it again, that's where the comparisons end.
"This is pretty unusual stuff," Tompkins said. "You have to view this as a unique event."
The Bennett-Rose entanglement is just one example from a confusing and bitter 2012 election season that has grown more complicated in the wake of two S.C. Supreme Court decisions that upheld existing election law but resulted in the decertification of hundreds of non-incumbent candidates.
Tompkins had called the election cycle "unprecedented" in a previous story on the statewide debacle.