The 2012 election will be remembered in South Carolina as the one in which nearly 250 candidates were thrown off the ballot because of a technical violation in filing financial interests reports.
Incumbents weren’t generally affected because they routinely are required to file those reports as sitting officials.
The fact that the S.C. Supreme Court’s decision inadvertently served to protect incumbents added insult to injury.
The court case was initially brought by political associates of state Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, presumably to derail opposition to the legislative veteran in the Republican primary. The senator’s opponent, Katrina Shealy, ran strong against Knotts in the 2008 primary.
As a result of the court ruling, Shealy was among those who lost a place on the ballot. And she was among those who managed to get back on the ballot for the general election via the arduous petition route.
So there is no small irony that Knotts was the sole incumbent S.C. legislator defeated by a petition candidate in the election.
It is testament to Shealy’s commitment to seek election to the Senate, despite the obstacles.
But she got some help along the way. The state Republican Party, tired of being embarrassed by Knotts, broke tradition and endorsed the petition candidate.
In 2010, Knotts brought embarrassing national attention to the state by calling then-GOP gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley a “raghead,” an aspersion related to her Indian-American ethnic background.
Also that year, he was reprimanded by the Senate Ethics Committee for accepting excessive campaign contributions and sloppy record-keeping.
As a senator, Knotts routinely opposed legislative reforms, most recently threatening to holdup a bill to allow party candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to run as a ticket. Knotts was able to move the effective date of the change to 2018.
That revision evidently was inserted so that Haley couldn’t name her running mate, should she decide to run for re-election.
Incidentally, a political action committee associated with Haley contributed to the Shealy campaign effort for the District 23 seat.
Every little bit helped Shealy surmount the odds and win election to the Senate, where she will be the sole woman when sworn in to replace Knotts.
Call it poetic justice.
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