Eugent Platt fights to stay on SC ballot as a Green

UPDATE July 22, 2008: I clarified some reasons for respecting the earlier nominations of candidates seeking a second ballot line in a subsequent contest. I’ve amended to include the situation of Michael Cone, as well as that of Eugene Platt.

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South Carolina has its first elected Green. Eugene Platt is a member of the James Island Public Service District Commission and has been since 1993. He had been seeking the Democratic, Green and Working Families nominations for the SC State House District 115, and when he lost the low-turnout Democratic primary, Platt decided to continue as a Green into the general election. He had previously resigned his position in the Democratic Party and became Lowcountry coordinator for the Green Party.

SC state law allows electoral fusion, but according to this Ballot Access News post, it is prohibited under the following circumstances: under section 7-11-10 of SC state law if a candidate, seeks the nomination of and is nominated by one party then seeks the nomination of a second party, but loses the second nomination, the first nomination is invalidated and the candidate cannot appear on the November ballot under either party designation.

This is apparently a variation on the ‘sore-loser’ principle, which presumes to keep spurned primary nominees from seeking to punish their inter-party rivals by splitting a party’s vote in the general election. The different political parties represent more or less different ideologies; but still may have complementary interests. Electoral fusion permits a candidate to build a coalition of shared interest across part of the political spectrum. If the appeal to endorsement of a second party does not succeed, then the candidate still has a platform for political office. Except, apparently, in South Carolina, where the state electoral commission has interpreted section 7-11-10 to permit a party which rejects a coalition to negate the candidacy of another party.

Another situation, aside from Platt’s, where the SC state electoral commission’s interpretation would interfere with the political expression is in the U.S. Senatorial election. The South Carolina Working Families Party nominated Michael Cone to oppose Lindsey Graham in November. Cone was also seeking the Democratic nomination, which he lost to Bob Conely, by 1,049 votes out of the 147,287 cast. Conely is apparently a Republican and a former Horry County GOP Committeeman. Conely is a supporter of Ron Paul and has picked up support from some Southern separatists – two positions that don’t comport with those of many South Carolina Democrats. I do not know if the WFP intends to run a candidate on its own, but the party should, in order to give the tens of thousands of Democrats who voted for a registered Democrat in the Party’s primary a candidate representing their positions. By permitting the party that holds the later primary to veto the choice of the earlier party, the state electoral commission’s interpretation of the statute denies political expression to both Greens and Democrats.

Given that the political opinions of South Carolinians are much broader than the choices would suggest, section 7-11-10 shouldn’t be used to exclude failed primary candidates with real policy differences from competing in the general election. This is an argument for Cone to appear on the Working Families candidate and for Platt to appear as the Green in their respective contests.

Three local news stories have appeared on Platt’s challenge in the Charleston press. A ruling from the state Electoral Commission should be forthcoming in a week.

By Robert Behre
The Post and Courier
Thursday, June 19, 2008

The State Election Commission will decide next week if state House District 115 candidate Eugene Platt may appear on the ballot this fall, but his odds appear dim.

Platt, who lost the June 10 Democratic primary to James Island lawyer Anne Peterson Hutto, hopes to run in November as a Green Party candidate.

Before he can run, he must clear two hurdles.

One, state law appears to prohibit candidates from running in a general or special election if they already have lost a primary race.

Two, Platt signed a pledge with the Democratic Party vowing that he wouldn’t run again this fall.

As far as the pledge goes, Platt said Wednesday, “That was probably one of the papers that was presented to me along with the others.

“Obviously I signed it not knowing the full ramifications, not anticipating a situation like this. The Green Party feels such a pledge would not be enforceable.”

Platt said he has resigned from the Democratic Party, and “I no longer consider myself as a Democrat.”

State law might prove an even greater obstacle. The Election Commission staff cited a section of law indicating that Platt may not appear on the ballot since he lost his primary race, but the commissioners will consider the request on June 27.

If Platt loses, then Hutto will face only incumbent Republican Rep. Wallace Scarborough on Nov. 4.

Green Party organizer Gregg Jocoy said the commission’s decision will set an important precedent, and he noted that Platt was nominated by the Green Party in May, a month before the Democratic primary.

“Our right to have our candidate on the ballot in November shouldn’t be subordinated by the Democratic Party’s decision who it wants on the ballot,” Jocoy said. “Eugene’s campaign is vital to the growth of the Green Party in the Lowcountry.”

Platt, who has run for state and federal legislative seats and lost several times, said he is weighing whether to seek re-election as a James Island Public Service District commissioner at the same time he runs for the state House seat.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or at rbehre@ postandcourier.com.

After a loss at the polls on primary day last week, the now former Democrat Eugene Platt has been in serious talks about running as a candidate for the Green Party in the S.C. House District 115 race. But state law could prevent him from getting on the ballot.

Considering the closeness of Platt’s run as the Democratic candidate in 2006 (losing by a scant 40 votes to Republican Wallace Scarborough), its not surprising that the Democratic Party is concerned about Platt spoiling the vote in a election year where people are even more keyed up about voting out the status quo.

The state law says that if a candidate who lost in the primary attempts to be placed on the general election ballot, the county party chair can seek through the courts to enjoin him/her from being included on the ballot.

The gray area is the term “thereafter” in the law. Since Platt secured the Green Party nomination prior to the Dem primary, he could argue that this electoral double jeopardy doesn’t apply in his case.

But (and this is a BIG BUT), one could easily see the court weighing the intent of the law, which seems to be to prevent any losing primary candidate (regardless of the time and place of a second endorsement) from being on the general election ballot.
By Greg Hambrick

Published yesterday at 10:33 am, by Chris Giganti.

Former Democrat Eugene Platt lost his primary bid to become the Dems’ nominee for state House District 115 race in November, but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up. Platt is hoping to become the Green Party nominee for the James Island seat, a spot he secured before the Democratic primary even took place.

There’s one problem though: State law could keep him out of the race. From Charleston City Paper:
The state law says that if a candidate who lost in the primary attempts to be placed on the general election ballot, the county party chair can seek through the courts to enjoin him/her from being included on the ballot.

The gray area is the term “thereafter” in the law. Since Platt secured the Green Party nomination prior to the Dem primary, he could argue that this electoral double jeopardy doesn’t apply in his case.

Platt was also chosen as the nominee for the Working Families Party this year, as The Post and Courier reports:
(Platt is) also the nominee of the Working Families Party and said he was recently picked as the Green Party nominee for District 115.

Garry Baum, spokesman for the S.C. Election Commission, said it is possible under state law to be listed as a nominee of more than one political party, which is called being a “fusion” candidate.

Platt ran for the seat in 2006, losing to Republican Wallace Scarborough by only 40 votes.

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Posted on June 19, 2008, in Eugene Platt, Green Party, Politics, South Carolina and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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