Lawyer: Duncan to Begin Petition Drive

Dorchester County Council GOP candidate Carroll Duncan will begin petition drive to keep her name on the ballot no matter what the court decides.

Dorchester County Republican Party Chair Carroll Duncan will file as a petition candidate for the unchallenged Dorchester County Council District 5 seat, according to her lawyer Todd Kincannon.

Duncan and her fellow non-incumbent GOP nominees in the county have come under fire with , alleging they did not file in accordance with S.C. election law . Nearly 250 non-incumbent candidates have been decertified because they did not simultaneously file their Statements of Intention of Candidacy with their Statements of Economic Interest to party election officials.

Duncan joins Dorchester County Council District 6 challenger Miriam Birdsong, , striving to make the July 16 petition deadline. Birdsong needs 750 signatures to appear on the ballot. Duncan will likely need roughly that same amount. 

Kincannon said this is "out of an abundance of caution," adding that while he's confident his client filed correctly, he is not sure how the judicial court will rule on the case.

"I don't think anybody's safe unless they're an incumbent or have photographic proof," Kincannon said.

Duncan could not be reached for comment.

According to her lawyer, Duncan went to Dorchester County Republican Party headquarters March 28 with her Statement of Intention of Candidacy, she filed that statement at 1:05 p.m. with elections officer Tony Piscatella and then used the headquarters' computer and printer to fill out her Statement of Economic Interest online and print it. He said it was printed and filed at around 1:29 p.m. 

"She filed right," Kincannon said, but added that it might not be enough for the judge. "It all happened at the same encounter ... But we live in a world now that we are just as technical as we can be on these election laws."

He said six months ago he would have known with certainty that would constitute "simultaneous" filing, but now he was uncertain.

S.C. House District 97 GOP nominee Ed Carter would not comment on whether or not he planned to file as a petition candidate. S.C. Senate District 38 GOP nominee Sean Bennett emailed this statement:

I am confident I filed my candidacy in strict compliance with the law. I filed carefully, with all the required paperwork, and submitted on time to the appropriate officials.  So I'm looking ahead on how to best serve the people of this District that placed their trust in me and elected me, by a wide margin I might add, as the Republican nominee.

Carter and Bennett have previously given statements to Patch on how they filed. Both said they filed, printed and submitted the SEI online prior coming to party headquarters. They said they arrived at headquarters with both their SICs and SEIs in hand. 

Another non-incumbent candidate John Hull, who ran for Dorchester County Council District 4, said he filed similarly to Duncan. He said he handed Piscatella his SIC and then used the computer to fill out and print the SEI form.

In June, Piscatella said Hull's account of filing was inaccurate.

"That's not what happened. He tried to file, but I wouldn't accept his filing," he told Patch.

Hull lost his GOP bid to incumbent Larry Hargett.

According to S.C. Ethics Commission, the Statement of Economic Interest forms are no longer distributed in hardcopy since a 2010 law that said all SEI filings are to be done online. However, a law pre-dating that one said a paper copy of the SEI is required at the time of filing for non-incumbent candidates — which is what the S.C. Supreme Court cited in its decision in two cases earlier this year.

Incumbent candidates already have their SEIs on file at the Ethics Commission and are not required to submit paper copies of this at the time of filing. 

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