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Tucker's lapse leaves campaign in question

Posted: July 19, 2012 5:19 p.m.
Updated: July 20, 2012 5:00 a.m.

The candidacy of Kershaw County Council Vice Chairman Sammie Tucker Jr. has been brought into question for failing to turn in required campaign paperwork to the S.C. Ethics Commission (SCEC).

According to SCEC General Counsel Cathy Hazelwood, Tucker has not filed statement of economic interest (SEI) forms since 2010, a violation of the state’s campaign laws. The forms, which outline the source, type, and value of a candidate’s financial assets, are supposed to be submitted annually.

Concerns over Tucker’s eligibility have been magnified in light of recent state-wide contention over the filing of SEIs.

About 200 candidates across South Carolina were removed from the June 12 Democratic and Republican primary ballot after failing to properly file SEI forms. Incumbents were exempt from the ruling since current public officials were supposed to turn in SEIs annually. Consequently, incumbents should have had a SEI form already on file.

Hazelwood noted the filing deadline for 2012 SEIs was April 15, although there was a five-day grace period for incumbents, extending the date to April 20.

SCEC records indicate that all current public officials, except Tucker, filed their 2011 and 2012 SEIs. 

If an incumbent failed to submit a 2012 form, they were hit with a $100 fine. However, Tucker’s eligibility remains questionable since he failed to submit the form for the last two years.

Hazelwood said Tucker, a Democrat who represents District 2 on council, also owes the commission $21,000 in late filing fees and fines in connection with his 2010 run for Kershaw County sheriff. She said his late filing penalties for the sheriff’s race do not affect his county council general election campaign. However, his two-year SEI filing lapse may ultimately leave him ineligible.

Hazelwood noted that the SCEC is currently formulating a list of incumbent candidates across the state that failed to file a SEI in 2012.

“That report is being generated now to penalize those people through (a) $100 fine,” she said. “Mr. Tucker would be fined $200 since he will owe us two forms.” 

S.C. Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire agreed with Hazelwood’s assessment of Tucker’s potential ineligibility for November, but indicated the decision to decertify him as a candidate will ultimately rest with the Kershaw County Democratic Party (KCDP).

“The next step in the election process is the certification of candidates for the general election,” Whitmire said. “All parties, county and state, have to certify candidates on the county level and state level by noon Aug. 15 to go on the general election ballot.”

If certified, Tucker is set to have no opposition on the Democratic or Republican side. Also, no petition candidates filed for the District 2 seat before the noon July 16 petition campaign filing deadline.

Whitmire said if Tucker is not certified, then a special, all write-in election would have to be held.

“That would be a pretty rare circumstance,” he said.

He noted that either way the KCDP decides, the situation may wind up in court.  

“That’s a distinct possibility this year,” Whitmire said. “There have been a lot of lawsuits over these issues since April. If he’s certified, I’m sure there may be somebody who disagrees with that decision who could sue. If he’s not certified, then the candidate may disagree with that and he could sue.”

KCDP Chair Cindy NeSmith said the decision to certify Tucker will likely be made in early August.

“We’re going to have to wait and see how it plays out,” she said.

She also said she plans to learn more about the SEI issue and will be further discussing the situation with fellow members of the KCDP.       

“I think we’re sort of in uncharted waters all the way across,” she said, “but I will personally go the Democratic Party Board on the county level and we’ll come together and make a decision on how we want to proceed.”

Tucker did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him for comment on this story. During an interview in February, regarding his $21,000 in ethics violation fines, Tucker stated it was difficult for him to file paperwork with the SCEC due to his lack of “ready access” to a computer.

The general election will be held Nov. 6, 2012.

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