Senate effort to re-instate candidates fails

CAMDEN, S.C. (WACH) - Kim Demer is one of dozens of candidates disqualified from the June primary ballot after the state Supreme Court ruled they did not properly submit financial paperwork when they filed for office.

The Kershaw County Republican has never run for public office before, but says she decided to run for the House District 52 seat to make government more accessible to the average person. So the mother of four says a filing error that got her and dozens of other candidates booted off the ballot is a perfect example of what's wrong with the system.

"This is just filing. This is not actually running for anything or making a law," said Demer.

Critics argue candidates who did not properly file statement of economic interest forms shouldn't be writing laws at the State House anyway.

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Nearly 200 candidates were tossed off the June 12 primary ballots after the state's highest court ruled last week that, under a new system, the political hopefuls had to hand over the paper form at the same time they filed their candidacy.

Demer and others have argued they did what they were told by party officials.

"I'm not bitter. It was kind of a sick feelilng," said Demer. "But, I've just been waiting to find out, I guess, what the next decision is."

For nearly three hours Wednesday the Senate debated a possible fix for the ballot blowup that would get candidates back in the game.

The hours-long debate resulted in some heated exchanges.

Aiken County Republican Greg Ryberg, who is retiring, fired away at some of his colleagues accusing them of looking out for their own interests and those in the "club," rather than working to get booted candidates back in the game.

"People that think about possibly running for office in the future have to think through I wonder what rules they changed this time to try to keep me off the ballot," said Ryberg.

Lexington County Republican Jake Knotts, who got in a shouting match with Congressman Joe Wilson's wife Tuesday after opposing a separate ballot fix, maintained there should be no rewards for candidates who didn't follow the new rules.

"All of the people that did it right what's this saying to them," questioned Knotts. "The law is the law."

Senate Republicans failed to attach to an election bill on "third reading" an amendment re-instating candidates who filed required forms by April 15. The attempt to fast-track the proposal required overriding a Senate rule barring unrelated amendments to a bill.

Democratic leader Senator Brad Hutto held firm on a March 30 deadline, however, Republican Senator Larry Martin pushed for an extended deadline.

The standoff resulted in more finger-pointing after the efforts failed.

"Senate Republican leadership blocked Democratsâ??, and some Republicansâ??, efforts to restore access to the ballot box and maintain the existing primary calendar," said Hutto in a statement. "Senate Republican leadership chose to play procedural games instead of passing a solution."

It appears the only hope for the ballot issue lies with a lawsuit. A federal judge has scheduled a hearing Thursday afternoon in Columbia for a federal lawsuit over the state Supreme Court's decision to remove the candidates from the ballots.

State Senate candidate Amanda Somers filed the suit last week, arguing that her candidacy was thrown into limbo after the justices ruled that financial- and candidate-intent paperwork must be filed at the same time.

Somers was ultimately certified to remain on the ballot.

Kim Demer was not, but regardless of what happens going forward, she is determined to get in the race. Demer is trying to determine whether to run as an Independent, the same filing rules do not apply to that classification, or lead a petition drive to get on the ballot.

"I have a hard time giving up on anything," said Demer. "So to say that you're going to scare me away from it, probably not."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)