Having three non-Democrats running as Democrats in their Democratic primaries has put South Carolina’s county and state Democratic parties in need for near Demagoguery, it seems, in order to restore democracy.
To explain it simpler, less alliterately, and in more detail: Karen Smith, a self-declared Tea Party sympathizer, is challenging Rep. Jim Clyburn in the June 10 Democratic primary. Phil Black challenged incumbent Republican Rep. Joe Wilson in the last two GOP primaries, but is doing it again as a Democrat in 2014. Jay Stamper originally sought Republican support for U.S. Senate in Jan. 2013, then quickly claimed to be a Democrat when he realized that incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham already had GOP primary opponents.
These candidates, in an area with recent and ongoing history of other fake Democrats, have left the state and county Democratic parties at a standstill. Can they call out the fakes by endorsing the trues? If they did, would that be a violation of party rules, if not the impartiality the party promotes?
These questions were answered by recent communication from Kaye Koonce, 1st Vice Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, in an April 28 email, which focused on one particular race. Her message to county party chairs and state executive committee members read:
“We have been asked numerous times whether County Parties can endorse State Senator Brad Hutto of Orangeburg for U.S. Senate prior to the Democratic primary on June 10.”
Hutto faces Jay Stamper, the questionable character who has attacked the party and Democratic candidates in other races since his very recent move to South Carolina, in the primary.
Yes, you can, Koonce offers in her message:
“SCDP rules don’t prohibit such endorsements by County Parties. County Party Executive Committees can make such an endorsement unless the County Party (or other organization) has a rule that prohibits such an endorsement. And, of course even in that case the County Party could amend its rules to allow such an endorsement, if the County Party Executive Committee votes to make such a change in its rules.”
Some responded to Koonce’s okay rather quickly, such as the Aiken County Democratic Party. Its website now has “not a real Democrat” stamped over the photos of candidates Black and Stamper. (Congressional District 6, sought by Karen Smith, is not included in that county.)
Party endorsement of a candidate before any primary election might not be common, but it’s certainly not rare, especially today. For example, the Nevada GOP has recently endorsed primary candidates, and so has California’s Democratic Party.
By the same token, fake Democrats are more common nowadays, too. For example, Wisconsin’s special elections in 2012 featured Republicans running as Democrats, which the state’s GOP openly admitted it. That same year in Tennessee, Tea Party member Mark Clayton crashed the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. The state’s Democratic Party formally disavowed Clayton, and due to his campaign’s apparent intent to protect the Republican incumbent. Many other instances are ongoing in other states in the 2014 election cycle, too.