Here is the cold, hard truth Preston Brittain, his supporters and high-ranking members of the S.C. Democratic Party don’t want to face:
Brittain got his butt kicked – bad – in the Democratic primary for the 7th Congressional District.
He lost by double-digits to a woman, Gloria Bromell Tinubu, who didn’t have nearly the name recognition.
He lost by double-digits to a woman who ran a mostly self-financed campaign.
He lost by double-digits to a woman despite high-wattage endorsements from Democratic heavyweights such as U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, former U.S. Rep. John Spratt, former Gov. Jim Hodges and one-time Democratic nominee for governor Vince Sheheen.
Maybe it was because of Tinubu’s experience as an elected official from Georgia or the power of her ideas or her poise during debates or some other reason or a relentless shoe leather campaign that led to big dividends.
Or maybe it was because her smile is better than Brittain’s. Who knows?
But we do know that Tinubu even clobbered Brittain in his own back yard, the Grand Strand, by a more than 2 to 1 margin, a place where his family name is well-known and revered.
Though he put out a statement shortly after the primary declaring that he was happy to have made it to a runoff election, the S.C. Election Commission upheld that butt-kicking and said that according to how the rules have long been interpreted, Tinubu is the clear winner.
Runoffs are only necessary when no candidate breaches the 50 percent threshold. The early argument from the Brittain campaign – and from top members of the S.C. Democratic Party – is that the votes cast for Ted Vick must be counted. Under that scenario, Tinubu’s total would fall below the 50 percent level but still far outpace Brittain’s.
A personal scandal enveloped Vick, the then presumptive Democratic frontrunner, forcing him to drop out of the race weeks before the primary but too late to have his name removed from the ballot. The party establishment quickly lined up behind Brittain thinking he had the best chance to upset the Republican nominee, either Andre Bauer or Tom Rice, in November.
State law says that only the votes of candidates should be considered in situations such as these. The S.C. Election Commission upheld that long-established standard and declared there would be no runoff.
On the day of the primary, Vick was no longer a candidate.
Even votes for supposed write-in candidates are not counted during primaries in South Carolina.
By the rules leading up to and on June 12, Tinubu is the clear winner.
But Brittain’s allies have taken a page right out of the Retha Pierce playbook. Yes, that Retha Pierce, of Atlantic Beach.
Last fall, Jake Evans beat her fair and square during an election that was overturned by a municipal election board which didn’t like the result. A new vote was held last month and Evans won again, that time by an even larger margin.
Twice the voters had a choice and twice they voted to oust Pierce. Did she shake Evans’ hand, congratulate him and call it a day? No. She sued knowing that her reign as mayor can’t end until the legal process plays itself out, effectively giving voters the middle finger.
Seems like that’s what Brittain’s supporters are hoping for as well.
And if S.C. Democratic Party leaders aren’t careful – and try to put their thumb on the scale in favor of their preferred candidate – their political reputation should be taken only as seriously as Atlantic Beach’s.
Despite getting his butt kicked – even with a Dumpster truck full of advantages – Brittain would effectively be given another bite at the apple.
A lawsuit has been filed by Conway attorney Morgan Martin to force a runoff.
There does need to be a better definition of just what defines a candidate and just when a candidate who drops out too late to have his named removed from the ballot is no longer legally one.
But any judge worth his salt can solve this problem without giving Brittain something he shouldn’t have, a backdoor entry after the voters slammed the front door in his face.
A judge can uphold the Commission’s decision because it is based upon precedent. To do otherwise would be to change the rules in the middle of the game. A judge also can instruct the General Assembly to clear up any confusion by rewriting the statute to make the language clearer to avoid confusion in future elections. The folks in Columbia should be the ones confirming what candidate means.
That would send a message to Brittain and others that you get elected not by mandate of a judge, but by the consent of the governed.
Contact ISSAC J. BAILEY at 626-0357 or firstname.lastname@example.org or at Twitter.com at @TSN_IssacBailey.