Former Congressman Sues SC Republican Party Over Canceled Primary

October 2, 2019by Emily Bohatch
Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) speaks on December 13, 2010, at Columbia University in New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/TNS)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — After voting to cancel its party’s primary in early September, the South Carolina Republican Party is facing a court challenge to its decision.

The party was sued Tuesday by the nonprofit United to Protect Democracy on behalf of former Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis and Mount Pleasant businessman Frank Heindel, who said the state’s GOP broke South Carolina law and its own rules by voting to cancel the 2020 Republican primary, according to documents filed in a Richland County court.

“I’m a life-long Republican who has served as both an elected member of the House of Representatives as well as a party official,” Inglis said in a statement released by Protect Democracy, “I’m participating in this lawsuit because the cancellation of the primary by a small handful of party insiders denied me — and every other South Carolina Republican — our voice in defining what the Republican Party is and who it supports. I’m fighting for all of us to get our voices back.”

United to Protect Democracy is a nonprofit focused on executive branch accountability.

Inglis and Heindel argued that, by canceling the primary, the South Carolina Republican Party “deprived” them of the ability to vote for their preferred candidate in “South Carolina’s famous (and particularly influential) ‘First in the South’ primary.”

“It didn’t have to be this way,” the lawsuit reads.

The pair argue that the South Carolina GOP’s executive committee does not have the power to cancel an election on its own. According to state law, to hold a nominating convention, the Republican Party must get a three-fourths vote from the total convention and support from a majority of Republican primary voters.

On Sept. 7, the South Carolina GOP executive committee voted 43-1 to cancel the primary. Chairman Drew McKissick said in a statement after the vote it was not unusual for a party to cancel its primary when it has an incumbent in the White House.

But that isn’t always the case. In 1992, South Carolina held a Republican primary when incumbent President George H.W. Bush was running against conservative commentator Pat Buchanan and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Inglis and Heindel also argued South Carolina law requires political parties to follow their own rules when it comes to primary elections, and the South Carolina GOP bylaws state that the party must decide “within two years prior to each presidential election year,” whether to hold a primary.

“Instead, the State Executive Committee has chosen which candidate to support by fiat, and in doing so, excluded Republican voters from the process entirely,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit also pointed to a resolution passed unanimously by the Republican Party in 2014 that called for neutrality in the primary process and treating “all campaigns equally.”

But in December, McKissick told the conservative Washington Examiner that, “we’ll end up doing what’s in the president’s best interest.”

The group is seeking a permanent injunction against canceling the primary and asks that the court order the GOP to hold a presidential primary.

Officials from the South Carolina Republican Party “don’t comment on pending legal matters,” spokesman Joe Jackson said.

The lawsuit is the first filed in response to the state Republican Party’s decision to cancel the GOP primary, effectively shutting out President Donald Trump’s opponents — including Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and congressman — from appearing on ballots in the state.

Without a primary, 2020 hopefuls like Sanford, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh would either have to run under another certified political party or submit a petition with the signatures of 10,000 registered state voters. South Carolina does not have an option for write-in candidates for the office of president.

After the vote to cancel the primary, Trump’s Republican opponents voiced their displeasure with the system, publishing a letter in The Washington Post which called for party officials to reinstate primaries in South Carolina, Arizona, Kansas and Nevada.

On Sept. 16, Sanford embarked on a campaign to get the primary reinstated, calling for voters to reach out to the Republican Party and decry the decision. During the speech, Sanford did not rule out taking legal action to get the primary reinstated, saying he was “still looking at any and all options.”

Reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Sanford reiterated that he had been considering his options for whether to launch his own legal challenge to the South Carolina GOP, but had “heard rumors to the effect that something was happening, and I wanted to wait and see.”

He said he had not spoken to Inglis, Heindel or Protect Democracy representatives prior to them filing their suit, or at any point in this process. Sanford also was noncommittal about whether he would offer himself up as a resource during legal proceedings or if he saw a way to be helpful.

“I’m just watching like everybody else,” Sanford told The State.

Without a Republican primary, Republican presidential campaigns will likely campaign less in South Carolina. Campaign officials told The State they had deprioritized campaigning in the Palmetto State.

The move to cancel the primary has received mixed reactions.

Former U.S. Rep. Arthur Ravenel Jr. disagreed with the decision in a letter to The State, calling political primaries “vital functions of welcome, inclusion and critical information.”

On the other hand, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster’s chief of staff Trey Walker tweeted Tuesday that “SC’s GOP presidential primary is considered a beauty contest and delegates to the GOP national convention are not bound by the result.”

“SC’s delegates are elected at (presidential election) year GOP congressional and state level conventions,” Walker tweeted. “They can vote their conscience.”

———

Staff writer Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

———

©2019 The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Visit The State (Columbia, S.C.) at www.thestate.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

State News

Spanberger Secures $1.2 Million for Virginia Health Workforce Development
Employment
Spanberger Secures $1.2 Million for Virginia Health Workforce Development
August 10, 2020
by Reece Nations

Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., announced Monday the acquisition of $1.2 million in federal grant funds for the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority’s recruitment efforts, continuing education and health care workforce development. The VHWDA grant will be issued to the organization’s network of Area Health Education Centers,... Read More

States Wary of Trump’s Move for Them to Kick in on Federal Aid
Economy
States Wary of Trump’s Move for Them to Kick in on Federal Aid

A day after President Donald Trump took executive action to offer $400 per week in supplemental unemployment benefits, including 25% he said should be kicked in from state coffers, governors are pushing back. The leaders of states including New York and Michigan said Trump’s plan ignores... Read More

City of Albany Sponsors Socially Distant Street Fairs All Summer
Cities
City of Albany Sponsors Socially Distant Street Fairs All Summer
August 7, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

ALBANY, N.Y. – The city of Albany has initiated a traveling street fair for residents to socialize at a distance and to learn about local resources. The street fair, called Playstreets, was started last month and its next fair will take place on August 14.  Among... Read More

New York AG Sues to Dissolve National Rifle Association
State News
New York AG Sues to Dissolve National Rifle Association
August 6, 2020
by Gracie Kreth

ALBANY, N.Y. - New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit against the National Rifle Association Thursday. The lawsuit calls to dissolve the country’s largest pro-gun organization alleging years of corruption and leadership’s personal use of millions of dollars in donations to the organization. “The... Read More

Inslee Advances in Washington Gubernatorial Primary
Political News
Inslee Advances in Washington Gubernatorial Primary

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee advanced Tuesday in Washington's primary election as he seeks to become the first incumbent elected to a third term in the state in more than 40 years. Inslee was leading decisively in early returns. He’ll face a small-town... Read More

Districts Go Round and Round on School Bus Reopening Plans
Education
Districts Go Round and Round on School Bus Reopening Plans

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — School districts nationwide puzzling over how to safely educate children during a pandemic have a more immediate challenge — getting 26 million bus-riding students there in the first place. Few challenges are proving to be more daunting than figuring out how to... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top