Ballot "conspiracy" is elephant in room at tense GOP meeting

Monday night, the Horry County GOP met to simply vote for a new vice-chair and executive committee chairman. Nearly four hours later, some yelling, and infighting, not too much had progressed.

It took the party about an hour to agree on an agenda. It also took another hour and a half and five rounds of voting to elect the two party officers.

The big elephant in the room for the majority of the evening was that of 45 Republican candidates on the ballots in Horry County, 16 were thrown off because they failed to file a statement of economic interest by a March 30th deadline. Some of those people were at Monday night's meeting, and many were tossing the blame at the Horry County GOP Party Chairman Johnnie Bellamy. Horry County had more Republican candidates knocked off the ballot than any other county in the state.

Many people at the meeting blaming Bellamy said they've now seen a memo sent to the chair in early February describing the new requirement.

"Johnnie, this was sent to you on February 6th. It should have gone out to every candidate. It stated everything they needed, and I'm asking you Madame Chairman why didn't you do your job?" asked party member Gerri McDaniel.

Mary Henry, a county council candidate who was thrown off the ballot was also angry. "I want to know from the chairman, why this was not distributed."

For the first time Monday night, we heard a public statement from Johnnie Bellamy. She said, "I've been in this office from 10-6 everyday. Nobody comes in. The amount of work that it takes to do this is overwhelming. So that is my point. I made a mistake."

The Senate Judiciary Committee will meet Tuesday at 10 am to talk about reopening filing for disenfranchised candidates. State representatives Tracy Edge and Alan Clemmons were at the meeting. They each told the crowd they are introducing bills to try to get more candidates back on the ballot.

"I think the court went farther to interpret legislative intent," Edge said. "And in good conscience, I can't put any blame on Johnnie or any member of the party. This wasn't a conspiracy, despite what some people think."

The March 30th deadline and requirement was new for this election cycle, and many who got the boot were first time candidates. Overall, 88 Republican and 95 Democratic candidates statewide are off the ballot, while 436 GOP and 353 Democratic candidates remain.

The list below of candidate whose names will not appear on the primary ballots was compiled by NewsChannel 15 based on lists provided by the State Election Commission and the county political parties. There's so much confusion on the part of the parties and the candidates, it's possible this list could change.

Horry County:

Camille Noonan (R), School Board Dist. 5

Keisha Kirkland (D), School Board Dist. 8

Levon Martin (R), School Board Dist. 11

Jeffrey Lee Garland (R), School Board Dist. 11

Cheevin Lex Gardner (R), County Council Dist. 3

Keith Van Winkle (R), County Council Dist. 3

Christopher Burroughs (R), County Council Dist. 4

Marvin Heyd (R), County Council Dist. 6

Patrick Boulter (R), County Council Dist. 9

Michael Ryhal (R), House District 56

Mary Henry (R), County Council District 3

Thomas Muse (R), House District 68

Kevin Hardee (R), House District 105

Mike Connett (R), House District 105

Bert von Herrmann (R), House District 105

Liz Gilland (R), House District 105

William Wiegand (R), House District 105

Dick Withington (R), House District 106 & Senate Dist. 34