Senate Candidate: SCGOP Decision Shows 'Good Old Boy' System
Amanda Somers looked to be one step closer to becoming District 5's next state senator, but now the South Carolina GOP is opening up the field for more candidates after incumbent Phillip Shoopman pulled out of the race.
The lone Republican candidate for South Carolina's District 5 Senate seat is questioning the fairness and investigating the legality of a the SCGOP chairman's decision to re-open candidate filing for the position after the incumbent abruptly pulled out of the race.
Phillip Shoopman, a Republican who has served District 5 for six years in the Senate, wrote a letter to SCGOP Chairman Chad Connelly over the weekend informing him of his decision to not seek re-election.
"It has become obvious that I cannot continue to provide the desired level of service and maintain adequate time with my family and private work," Shoopman wrote.
Connelly immediately re-opened candidate filing. SCGOP Executive Director Matt Moore said the new candidate filing period will last from Monday until noon Wednesday, April 18.
Somers, who announced her candidacy in late March, said she looking into the legality of what she views as an unfair and uniliteral decision made behind closed doors.
"We discovered the final determination to re-open candidate filing appears to be a closed-door ruling," Somers said. "The decision came without notice, without an open forum, and is from the same leaders who champion transparency."
Moore said the SCGOP acted within the letter of the laws governing candidate filing, as found in Section 7-11-15 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. But Somers questions whether or not the chairman himself can act on behalf of the entire SCGOP committee in such matters.
"I plan to investigate the legality of Chairman Connelly's decision to act on behalf of the entire committee as required in state law if filings are re-opened for State Senate candidates," Somers said. "This entire situation also strengthens a core pillar in my platform; Our government and the entire process needs reform."
Moore said there is precedent for re-opening filing in two-person races where one candidate drops out at an early juncture in the contest. Ultimately, the state party is interest in competitiveness, he said.
"Above all, this decision was made in the interest of fairness, only after consulting with members of the state executive committee, party attorneys and the State Election Commission. These kinds of decisions are not made lightly," Moore said. "Not re-opening filing would have subjected the party up to the opposite complaint - it's darned if we don't, danged if we do."
But Somers said the decision was just another example of the old guard acting against a female newcomer.
"This is truly disheartening," Somers said. "When our state begins to make progress with encouraging women to enter politics, this is yet another example of what appears to be insiders cutting deals to preserve the 'good old boy' status quo."
On Monday, S.C. Representative Tom Corbin confirmed to The Travelers Rest Tribune that he would be running against Somers.