Exclusive Interview: Lawsuit May Put Libertarian in South Carolina Senate Seat

A South Carolina election law may put a Libertarian Party candidate in a Charleston-area (District 42) Senate seat.  The seat was left vacant on May 31, when Democrat Robert Ford resigned due to a scandal surrounding the use of public funds at adult establishments.  A special election was held on October 1 and won by Democrat Marlon Kimpson, who garnered 79.6% of the vote.  See article.

Republican Billy Shuman Jr. got 19% of the vote, while Libertarian Party candidate Alex Thornton got just 1.2%.

jeremywaltersJeremy Walters, Chairman of the Libertarian Party in York County, S.C., though, filed a lawsuit on September 26 contending that both the Republican and Democrat candidates violated a state election law.  According to Section 8-13-1356 of the S.C. Code of Laws, political candidates must file their Statements of Economic Interest (SEI, an income disclosure form) for the previous calendar year along with their declaration of candidacy or petition for nomination.

Both Kimpson and Shuman listed 2013 on their SEIs, and Thornton was the only candidate to fill out the form correctly.  The same law got 250 candidates kicked off the ballot in 2012, and though Governor Nikki Haley signed a bill this year attempting to mitigate the effects of this legislation, those changes had not yet taken effect because they had yet to be approved by the Department of Justice.

Alex ThortonIf the lawsuit is successful, Thornton may be declared the winner of the election.  She would be the only Libertarian State Legislator in the country, and one of the higher ranking Libertarian politicians in any state.  There are many Libertarians nationwide who have been elected to local offices – such as Municipal Court Judges, School Board members and Water Board members – and these are positions where they can make a direct impact and gain more support for the party.

The first Libertarian candidate was elected to a state legislature in Alaska in 1976, and he became a popular politician, even winning 15% of the votes in a gubernatorial election.  Thornton is clearly in a “progressive” area of the state, where Robert Ford served for nearly 40 years and where the Democrat candidate to be his successor won almost four times as many votes as all the other candidates combined.

The Libertarian Party has been in the spotlight in the past few years, and if Thornton wins the lawsuit and goes on to become a legislator, she could become the standard that other

people look to when deciding whether or not to vote Libertarian.  She would provide a tangible representation of how Libertarians can be expected to vote and act in any elected office, and while this would invite a type of scrutiny the party has not been exposed to, it would also move Libertarians closer to an even playing field.

Though the thought of Libertarian Senators and Congressmen is an appealing one to liberty-minded voters, the Libertarian Party must build its base by winning local elections and then moving on to state and national ones.  It holds a number of local positions, but if Alexandra Thornton wins her lawsuit and both she and other party members use the victory wisely, she

could help other party members to attain state positions.  This could be a very beneficial victory for the Libertarian Party statewide, and later nationwide.

Listen to the exclusive interview with Chairman Jeremy Walters: