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Judge dismisses lawsuit aimed at forcing SC GOP to hold presidential primary

Emily Bohatch, The State (Columbia, S.C.) on

Published in News & Features

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- A Richland County judge has dismissed a lawsuit claiming that the South Carolina Republican Party broke state laws and its own rules by canceling the state's GOP presidential preference primary.

The decision Wednesday came more than a month after attorneys for the South Carolina GOP and for former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, a Greenville Republican who represented the state's 4th Congressional District, argued in court over whether the contest should be held in 2020.

In her decision, Judge Jocelyn Newman said state law "unambiguously" says that the South Carolina Republican Party has the right to decide whether it wants to hold a presidential primary and that because voters aren't directly voting for a candidate in the contest, state law does not apply to the presidential primary.

"The law does not give Plaintiffs a legal right to a presidential preference primary, and the Court will not substitute its own judgment for that of the General Assembly or the SCGOP," Newman wrote in her decision.

Inglis and Mt. Pleasant businessman Frank Heindel hoped that a judge would force the party into holding the contest.

"We had hoped for an opportunity for all South Carolina Republicans to vote in the First in the South primary in 2020, but that is not to be," Inglis said, according to a statement from Protect Democracy, a nonprofit that was involved in the case.


Lawyers for Inglis and Heindel said they would evaluate their options with the case before moving forward.

"We respectfully disagree with the judge's decision that presidential preference primaries are different than official primaries," attorney Cameron Kistler said, according to a statement. "Party bosses shouldn't be able to cancel elections and deny hundreds of thousands of voters their voice in selecting presidential candidates."

On the other hand, GOP leaders applauded Newman's decision.

"We are pleased that the judge agreed with us that we don't have to waste taxpayer dollars holding a presidential primary to find out what we already know: that South Carolinians support President Trump," South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick said, according to a statement from the party. "We also appreciate that the judge recognized that the SCGOP's State Executive Committee followed the law, its party rules, and historical precedent."


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