The abrupt resignation of former South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell has left Republicans pushing for a special election. For their part, Democrats hope next week’s ballot goes forward, virtually assuring them of a Charleston-area House seat they have not held in almost 40 years. The South Carolina Election Commission meets today to consider whether to order a special election for the seat vacated when Harrell submitted his resignation last week after pleading guilty to using campaign money for his own benefit. The commission late Tuesday received his affidavit asking that his name be removed from the District 114 ballot, saying he resigned on what he called the “legitimate nonpolitical grounds” of “family crises and substantial business conflict.” As part of a plea deal with prosecutors Harrell agreed not to seek office for at least three years.
Harrell’s name is still on the ballot and if the Tuesday election in the district goes ahead, votes for Harrell would not count and the likely winner would be Democrat Mary Tinkler. Green Party candidate Sue Edwards also is on the ballot. The last time a Democrat was elected to the seat was in 1974.
But under state law, if a candidate resigns his candidacy for nonpolitical reasons, the seat must be filled in a special election and that would give the GOP the chance to nominate another candidate to replace Harrell.
Among nonpolitical reasons for withdrawing listed in state law are “family crises, which include circumstances which would substantially alter the duties and responsibilities of the candidate to the family or to a family business.” The law also lists “substantial business conflict,” which includes an employment change impairing a candidate’s ability to serve.