They’ve gone from having three candidates vying to represent them on county council to having none, but the people of Union County Council District 2 are a step closer to have three candidates on the November ballot thanks to two weeks of hard work by Frank Hart.
In May, the State Supreme Court ruled that candidates for public office must provide their party with a paper copy of their statement of economic interest regardless of whether it had been filed electronically. The court’s decision forced the Democratic and Republican parties to remove hundreds of candidates from the June 12 primary and the Nov. 6 general election ballots. In Union County, 10 of the 17 candidates that had filed to run in either the primary and/or the general election were removed by their parties.
The race for the District 2 seat being vacated by the retiring Dora Martin-Jennings was the hardest hit with all three candidates for the Democratic nomination being removed from the primary ballot. Since no Republicans were running for the seat in November, this left the district without any candidates in District 2.
Hart was one of the candidates removed from the ballot in District 2. His only option — and that of the other candidates removed from the ballot — was to collect the signatures of 5 percent of the registered voters in his district and have his name placed on the November ballot as a petition candidate.
On Friday, Hart announced that he’d collected the signatures of more than 240 registered voters, a process that he said took him two weeks to complete. He said the people he spoke with while collecting the signatures were disappointed about the court’s decision and its impact on their ability to choose their representatives, but were supportive of his efforts to get back on the ballot.
“A lot of people said they were disappointed they didn’t get to have a primary,” Hart said Friday morning. “They were very supportive and said they wanted to have a choice.”
Hart said he’s hoping to give them the choice and was on his way to the Union County Voter Registrar’s Office to deliver his petition for review and certification. If the signatures on his petition are certified, Hart ‘s name will be placed on the November ballot.
The placement of Hart’s name on the ballot will not only give the voters of District 2 a candidate for their seat on council, but a choice of candidates. Curtiss Hunter, who, like Hart, was also removed from the primary ballot in District 2, has had the signatures on her petition of candidacy certified by the registrar’s office and will be on the November ballot. Though his petition has not yet been certified, Ralph Tucker, the third candidate in District 2 removed from the primary ballot because of the court’s decision, has also turned his petition in to the registrar’s office for review and certification.
Hart said Friday that, like the people he spoke with while collecting signatures for his petition, he too was dismayed by the court’s decision.
“I was disappointed in the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision to remove over 200 candidates from the ballot,” Hart said. “They allowed a few people with political motives to manipulate the system.”
Hart said that in addition to discussing the court’s decision and its impact on the political process, he was also asked by a number of people why he decided to go to all the trouble of running as a petition candidate after being removed from the party ballot.
“As I was going door to door on Saturdays and in the evenings after work, several of my friends asked me ‘Why do you want to do this? You’ve got small children, a business to run, responsibilities at church, etc.,’” Hart said. “The answer is simple. I want to change Union. When I finished Clemson and started looking for a job close to home there was no opportunity here. I ended up working in Greenville County and driving almost two hours each day to and from work. Unfortunately, the situation is the same or worse. I want my children to have the opportunity to live, work, and raise their families here. We cannot keep doing the same things and expecting something different.”
Of the seven other candidates who were removed from the ballot by the parties in the wake of the court’s decision, all but two have announced plans to run petition candidacies in November. Democrat William Jolly and Republican Marshall Adams have said they will run as petition candidates for Union County Sheriff while Democrat Crystal Coffer and Republican Ronda Adams-Palmer have said they will run as petition candidates for the Union County Council District 3 seat. Melanie Lawson, a Democrat, said she will run as a petition candidate for Union County Clerk of Court.
Republican Randall English, who was running for SC House District 42 seat, and Democrat Ray Treadway, who was running for the Union County Council District 6 seat, have not said whether or not they will run petition candidates for the offices they were seeking when they were removed from the ballot.
Persons wanting to run as a petition candidate must turn in their petitions to the Union County Voter Registrar’s Office by noon July 16. For more information call 429-1616.