On Tuesday, we settle if Chairman Chad Connelly has the authority, on his own, to declare B.R. Skelton the winner of the primary election after the State GOP Executive Committee, the Election Commission, and the primary voters in House District 3 declared Ed Harris the nominee. The Greenville Tea Party wants all of the facts and background information in your hands.
B.R. Skelton is a long time Democratic Party activist and through his hard work he rose to the rank of Chairman of the Democratic Party of Pickens County. B.R. Skelton announced that he was going run for the State House as a Republican in House District 3. Ed Harris wanted to give the voters in District 3 the opportunity to vote for a Republican and a conservative. The local Tea Party organizations worked hard to help elect Ed Harris.
Ed Harris won the primary on Tuesday, June 12. He got more votes in the primary than B.R. Skelton. On Thursday, June 14, the Pickens County Election Commission certified Ed Harris as the winner of the primary. On Sunday, June 17, B.R. Skelton filed an election protest with the GOP State Executive Committee. B.R. Skelton alleged that Ed Harris did not file his Statement of Economic Interest with Pickens County Chairman Phillip Bowers at the time he filed his papers to run for the house seat.
A trial was held before the GOP State Executive Committee on Thursday, June 21. State law required the GOP State Executive Committee to hear the election protest on the first Thursday following the filing of the election protest. S.C. Code § 7-17-570. Remember this legal point, it will become important later on in this email. State law also requires the GOP Executive Committee to make a final determination ("shall determine all issues") and "to certify the results of the election." S.C. Code § 7-17-570. Also, state law forbids the Committee from adjourning or taking a break until a final decision and certification is reached by the Committee. S.C. Code § 7-17-570. So, for example, the Committee cannot decide to recess and come back the following week to hear more testimony from more witnesses. Now, you really need to remember this point because it is going to be a very important issue at your upcoming meeting.
On Thursday, June 21, the GOP Executive Committee met in Columbia. Pickens County Chairman Phillip Bowers was called as a witness and he testified that he was the person who received the candidate paperwork from Ed Harris. He testified that Ed Harris filed his Statement of Economic Interest when he filed the paperwork. Chairman Bowers is a good, Christian man and he has no reason to lie about something he witnessed first-hand. In addition, before he testified, he swore to tell the truth and he was under oath when he testified.
Several witnesses testified at the trial. After all of the testimony, on Thursday, June 21, the GOP Executive Committee unanimously certified Ed Harris the winner of the primary and held that he properly filed his paperwork. This decision becomes a final certification or judgment unless it is reversed by the S.C. Supreme Court.
B.R. Skelton then filed a petition to the S.C. Supreme Court and asked the Supreme Court to review the decision of the GOP Executive Committee. The Supreme Court does not have to hear election disputes and it can simply do nothing and allow the decision of the GOP Executive Committee to be the final certification in the case. However, just a few days after filing the petition, B.R. Skelton decided to voluntarily dismiss his petition for review. Maybe he dismissed the appeal because he realized that he had no evidence to support his claims? The Supreme Court then dismissed the petition since B.R. Skelton had abandoned the appeal. Why is this important? Since the Supreme Court never reviewed the matter, and because no Decision was made by the Supreme Court, the decision of the GOP Executive Committee becomes the final judgment. The final judgment is Ed Harris is the certified winner of the primary because he properly filed his paperwork plus he received the most votes!
Once a judgment becomes final, it cannot be undone -- by anyone. However, we now have a very public problem because of Chairman Connelly. In August, Chairman Connelly is required by state law to send in the names of the primary winners to the state election commission. A few days after the certification became final, Chairman Connelly stated in the newspapers that he was going to list B.R. Skelton as the primary winner on the paperwork he was sending to the State Election Commission. Chairman Connelly's comment was in direct violation of the decision of the Executive Committee.
Also, since Ed Harris has already been certified as the winner of the primary under the state election laws, if Chairman Connelly sends paperwork to the State Election Commission saying B.R. Skelton was the winner, you will have two men claiming to be the nominee.
What can you do? First, let's talk about what you cannot do. You cannot declare B.R. Skelton the nominee. The GOP Executive Committee was required to certify a candidate on Thursday, June 21. Remember, state law states that the Committee is not allowed to take a recess or adjourn or decide the issue on a later day. State law requires the Committee to "determine all issues" and "certify the results of the election." Nothing can be left for a later day. Ed Harris was declared and certified the winner at the conclusion of the trial. Once the Executive Committee was dismissed on June 21, no further testimony or deliberations are allowed under the election laws. Since the Supreme Court did not review the case, the decision of the GOP is final and permanent. If the Executive Committee or Chairman Connelly declare B.R. Skelton the winner, then the GOP has violated the election laws. If further evidence is received by the Committee after June 21, or if there are any further deliberations after June 21, then the GOP has violated the election laws. We are not Democrats. We must honor the rule of law.
Here are the options: First, you can do nothing. Ed Harris is already the certified winner. The problem is that Chairman Connelly has publicly said that he is going to list B.R. Skelton as the winner on the paperwork sent to the state election commission in August. This will cause a crisis.
Your second option? Pass a resolution instructing Chairman Connelly to abide by the final decision of the GOP Executive Committee certifying Ed Harris as the winner.
Now for the REAL STORY that explains what is going on at GOP headquarters. You see, when B.R. Skelton dropped his appeal to the Supreme Court, he hired attorney James Smith, a radical Democrat and "progressive" member of House of Representatives (D-Columbia) to sue the GOP, Pickens County Chairman Phillip Bowers and Ed Harris for money damages. The lawsuit was filed by B.R. Skelton in Richland County and it alleges that our GOP family members are committing a civil fraud by certifying Ed Harris the winner of the primary. YES, YOU READ IT RIGHT -- B.R. Skelton wants the GOP leadership and Pickens County Chairman Phillip Bowers to pay B.R. Skelton money because B.R. Skelton lost the primary.
The B.R. Skelton lawsuit against the GOP is frivolous. However, it had the intended result. After the GOP got sued for money damages, Chad Connelly announced that he was going to certify B.R. Skelton the winner. Now, the Tea Party certainly understands that nobody wants to be sued by a money hungry, Democrat lawyer, but Chairman Connelly cannot change the results of an election to appease the Democrats.
Where is the damage if Chairman Connelly acquiesces to this threat? The Republican Party's integrity is compromised; the primary voters and volunteers are dismissed as irreverent. Free men in South Carolina are played by the permanent political class that holds on to power at all costs and using any means.
In order to take our America back, we must stop caving in to the Democrat's threat of lawsuits and do what is right. No one should give into fear and threats where liberty and justice is on the line.
There are Democrats in the S.C. Republican Party! To stop more Democrats from joining the Republican Party, there must be candidate certification of the state and county executive committeemen. We must not allow party officers or the threat of laws suits to control duly elected executive committeemen! Republican Party integrity is already damaged by Jake Knotts and his lawsuit.
The Greenville Tea Party believes that your decision on Tuesday should be based on the law and the facts, not threats from a Democrat lawyer and House member. Stand up for our citizens! Stand up for what is right!
God Bless America,
Bill Rhodes, P.E.
Founder of the Greenville Tea Party