Shoopman happy, Somers isn't as SCGOP reopens filing

District 5 Senate seat becomes hot political topic overnight

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Monday, April 16, 2012

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Phil Shoopman announced Sunday night he will not run for re-election for District 5 Senate seat.

Phil Shoopman announced Sunday night he will not run for re-election for District 5 Senate seat.

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Amanda Somers takes the South Carolina Republican Party to task for re-opening filing for the District 5 Senate seat.

Amanda Somers takes the South Carolina Republican Party to task for re-opening filing for the District 5 Senate seat.

The South Carolina Republican Party has reopened filing for the District 5 Senate seat in a whirlwind 12 hours of activity that began with Greer’s Phil Shoopman announcing he would not seek re-election of his seat.

That left Greer’s Amanda Somers as the lone candidate and, until late Sunday night, a shoe-in to win opposed in the June 12 primary. However, the state Republican Party, citing a South Carolina Election Law reopened filing for the seat beginning noon today through noon Wednesday.

Shoopman, 43,  surprised the party with his e-mail announcement Sunday night that he would not seek re-election, according to the state Republican Party. Shoopman wrote he wanted to spend more time with his family and in his engineer job. Read interview with Shoopman here.

Somers also released an e-mail this morning, which read: "I was completely surprised to learn yesterday afternoon that Senator Shoopman was considering a decision not to seek re-election.  Republican Party Chairman, Chad Connelly called last night to notify me Phil had submitted a letter to withdraw his name from the ballot; and on behalf of the Executive Committee he had decided to re-open filing Monday at noon.

"There are mixed emotions with this announcement. The excitement from my supporters for winning the primary was short lived.  As we discovered the final determination to re-open candidate filing appears to be a closed-door ruling. The decision came without notice, without an open forum, and is from the same leaders who champion transparency. If the story had not been leaked to the press, I do not know when I would have been notified."

In fact, Connelly used a section of the South Carolina Code of Laws of 1976, to exercise the option to re-open refiling for the seat.

The state Republican party cited section 7-11-15 of the South Carolina Code of Laws stating: “If, after the closing of the time for filing statements of intention of candidacy, there are not more than two candidates for any one office and one or more of the candidates dies, or withdraws, the state or county committee, as the case may be, if the nomination is by political party primary or political party convention only may, in its discretion, afford opportunity for the entry of other candidates for the office involved; however, for the office of State House of Representatives or State Senator, the discretion must be exercised by the state committee.”

Somers, running for her first public office, challenged the legality of the move.

"This is truly disheartening,” Somers wrote in her email.  “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.

"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.  This entire situation also strengthens a core pillar in my platform, our government and the entire process needs reform."

Matt Moore, Executive Director of SCGOP, said the party followed its procedures in pursuit of fairness. “If it was not opened up we would have opened ourselves for more criticism,” Moore told GreerToday.com. “We consulted with the party’s attorneys and executive committee members before we reached this decision.”

Conway Belangia, Director of the Greenville County Board of Elections, said the law cited is to prevent “ghost candidates”. That is, one candidate has the intention of dropping out of the race leaving one remaining after the filing deadline has passed. “This provision has been used before,” Belangia said. Belangia said he didn’t expect improprieties.

Somers announced her candidacy to challenge Shoopman March 28, three days before the March 30 filing deadline. The senate seat encompasses part of Greenville and Spartanburg counties.

Shoopman served six years in the senate. He is a core of fiscal conservatives in the state senate. His voting record shows a pro-taxpayer ledger. His senate committee assignments were Corrections and Penology, General, Judiciary, Medical Affairs and Rules.

Connelly praised Shoopman’s tenure in a statement. "Senator Shoopman has consistently defended taxpayers and provided strong, honest leadership. His retirement is a real loss for district five and the South Carolina Senate."

A phone call to Somers was not returned at the time of this story’s posting.


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