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As you know, there are questions in our state over who is considered a “certified” candidate for the upcoming primary and eventually the November General Election. It is a state wide issue that also reaches deep into Edgefield County including my campaign. I have been asked many questions about the future of my campaign and felt the need to give my take on this debacle and answer any lingering questions.
As of the today (5/9/2012), I am a certified candidate by the South Carolina Republican Party. With that said, there are still some questions surrounding the Supreme Court ruling and how that affects my campaign.
On Wednesday, May 2nd, I received an email from Matt Moore, Executive Director of the South Carolina Republican Party. It started off by discussing the Supreme Court’s ruling and “directed the Republican and Democratic Parties to ONLY certify non-exempt candidates (i.e. candidates who did not already have a Statement of Economic interest on file with the State Ethics Commission) who accompanied their Statement of Intention of Candidacy with a Statement of Economic Interests when they filed with their local party representatives”.
Under the court’s order, the political parties had to provide a list of candidates who were eligible under this standard to the State Election commission by noon on Friday, May 4th. Therefore, I was asked to “email and respond with “Yes” or “No” before 2:00 pm on Thursday, May 3rd” whether I had turned in a Statement of Economic Interests form at the time I declared my candidacy with the Edgefield County Republican Party. My response to the email was under oath.
In speaking with the local party officials that evening, it was determined that I was not going to be certified since the party had not received a hard copy of my Statement of Economic Interest when I filed. This was an oversight by the party statewide, not just Edgefield.
Weeks before on March 6, 2012, I filed my State of Economic Interest online at the SC State Ethics Commission website. This was completed several weeks before filing even opened for registering to run for an office.
On Friday, March 23, 2012, I filed for candidacy with the Edgefield County Republican Party as a candidate for the District 1 County Council seat. I submitted my State of Intention form, Notice of Candidacy and Pledge form, as well as my filing fee. I was asked if I had filed my Statement of Economic Interests online but at no time was I asked for a printed copy of my SEI.
Therefore, this was my response through email to the Executive Director of the SC Republican Party: Even though I submitted everything online in advance of the required date, I did not submit a hard copy to the Edgefield County Republican Party when I filed.
On the evening of May 3rd, I received a reply to my email from the Executive Director of the SC Republican Party that stated: We are sending your name as certified, given that you filed an SEI before filing for office – and therefore were an “exempt” candidate under the law, as interpreted by our attorneys.
The interpretation by the state level Republican Party was that I would be viewed the same as an incumbent since I filed my SEI before filing (to run for office) even opened.
But the Supreme Court was very clear about two things: 1) file your SEI online 2) submit a hard copy of the SEI to your party when registering.
I never submitted a hard copy.
As a candidate, I take full responsibility of that and place no blame on the Edgefield County Republican Party. Even though many attorneys state that I am certified, I do not meet the requirements of the ruling by the SC Supreme Court under my interpretation.
There are hundreds around our state that are in the same exact situation that I am in. They submitted their SEI online, filed for candidacy, and are now certified by the Republican Party or Democrat Party (this is an issue on both sides of the aisle).
Here is the main issue of concern for me. A party can certify you and get you placed on the ballot. However, the SC Election Commission can void your candidacy after the election if election rules were violated. That is a chance I will not take as District 1 is in need of a new representative. I cannot take a chance of winning and then have the SC Election Commission void the results. It is also an ethical issue.
Currently, the SC Senate is discussing a bill that would allow a window of time in the next few weeks for candidates to file legally. I am obviously in support of this as it would allow myself and others to file properly.
If this does not pass, I have no other options than to withdraw as a Republican Candidate and file as a petition candidate. I cannot allow myself to run as a Republican knowing that I am violating a Supreme Court ruling. Again, I place no blame on anyone except myself in not being knowledgeable of the law.
To be placed on a ballot as a petition candidate, I must collect signatures of 5% of the registered voters in District 1 that voted last election cycle. I would then be placed on the ballot as a Non-Party candidate.
Either way, I will be on the ballot—ethically and legally.
My campaign has one goal: “To Restore the Voice of District 1”. Our goals are bigger than any political party affiliation. This is our county, our home, and a place that our children are growing up in.
Distractions can happen in campaigns and I want my supporters to understand that we are pushing forward. District 1 needs representation. County Councils main role is to serve the people who elected them. The voice of District 1 has been lost and is stifled by its current representative. It is past time to move District 1 forward and the only way for me to represent you is to run legally.
It is my ethical call to do this right. Period.
I tell my children at school every day you must always do the right thing. As adults, we must set ethical standards not only because it is the right thing to do but also to model for our youth how to accomplish goals the right way, even if that path is less traveled. They are always watching.
Even with this bump, my campaign is still gaining ground every day. The support is amazing.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. I look forward to representing you in restoring the respect of our district.
William P. Smith
Candidate, County Council District 1