SC gubernatorial candidate says zero chance he'll be booted from ballot

Gov. candidate says zero chance he'll be booted from ballot
Updated: Aug. 6, 2018 at 8:26 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Rep. James Smith (D-Richland), the Democratic nominee for Governor, isn't worried after a weekend full of headlines that have questioned his candidacy's legitimacy. Smith said he's lost zero sleep as some question whether or not his spot on the ballot should be challenged.

"Is there any scenarios that you can envision where your name is removed from the ballot?" WIS asked him.

"None. Zero. Not possible. Not going to happen," Smith said.

The debacle began last week when Smith also filed to become the nominee for three minor parties: the Libertarian, Working Families, and Green Parties.

Smith said he wanted to become what's known as a "fusion" candidate to represent all South Carolinians, regardless of party.

However, the plan blew up when some of those parties were caught by complete surprise.

"Him filing as a Libertarian at the last minute -- it seems like he was trying to get the straight-ticket voters instead of actually getting to know us," said Alex Thornton, the Vice Chair of the South Carolina Libertarian Party.

On Saturday, during a committee meeting in West Columbia, the Libertarian Party voted unanimously to reject Smith on Saturday. They selected "none of the above" as the party's candidate instead.

"Ultimately, we did not feel that James Smith and his ideals lined up with ours as a Libertarian," Thornton said.

Little did they know, sensing the plan was on shaky ground, Smith withdrew all three applications the night before. But Thornton, and her chair, Stewart Flood, feel Smith didn't withdraw correctly, and they point to a law that states a candidate has to be removed from the ballot entirely if he loses any primary or convention. It's known as the Sore Loser Law.

"A person who was defeated as a candidate for nomination to an office in a party primary or party convention shall not have his name placed on the ballot for the ensuing general or special election," the law reads, in part.

Flood believes Smith's withdrawal was done incorrectly.

"He was careless. He made a rash act," Flood said. "I can't see how they can't get a candidate who could manage his campaign better."

However, South Carolina Election Commission records suggest Smith properly withdrew consideration from all three minor parties on Friday, which was before he was rejected by the Libertarians.

"{The Libertarian Party's} conclusions of the law are completely inaccurate," Smith said.

The Democrat feels he withdrew correctly, has followed the law, and he said this mix-up is nothing more than a distraction of political theater.

"It takes away from what's important -- and that's what's important to the future of our state," he said.

However, multiple political experts and attorneys described the mix-up as bizarre. While most said they believe Smith will keep his spot on the ballot, they said the debacle represents a big -- almost fatal -- political mistake.

"Smith stepped in a big pile of dog poo," said one well-respected attorney who imagines there's a "50-50" chance that Smith's status as on the ballot will be challenged in court.

On Monday afternoon, the Election Commission said it's yet to receive any complaints or challenges.

"We'll address any issues as they arise," spokesman Chris Whitmire said.

Had Smith successfully become a fusion candidate, his name would have been on the ballot four times. Votes for all four of the parties would have been added up for Smith.

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