SOCIALIST ORGANIZER STATEMENT
South Carolina Labor Party Candidates Booted Off Ballot After Dems File Lawsuit
(September 5, 2022)
Rarely has the political moment been as ripe as it is today to form an independent working-class party based on the unions and oppressed communities. Across the country, there is increasing talk about the need for a third party, as both the Democrats and Republicans have failed to deliver.
This openness to breaking the two-party stranglehold has not escaped the attention of the U.S. ruling class. David Brooks, a conservative columnist for the New York Times, put it this way in a July 14 column:
“I’d like you to consider the possibility that the political changes that have rocked this country over the past six years will be nothing compared with the changes that will rock it over the next six. I’d like you to consider the possibility that we’re in some sort of pre-revolutionary period — the kind of moment that often gives birth to something shocking and new.
“Look at the conditions all around us:
“Americans are deeply dissatisfied with the way things are going. Only 13 percent of voters say the country is on the right track, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll published this week.
“Inflation is soaring. Throughout history, inflationary periods have often been linked to political instability.
“Americans are detaching from the two political parties. Far more Americans consider themselves independents than either Democrats or Republicans. Sixty-two percent of Americans believe a third party is needed.
“If the hunger for change is as strong as it is now, the climate will favor unconventional outsiders, the further outside the better. These sorts of oddball or unexpected candidates could set off a series of swings and disequilibriums that will make the existing party systems unstable.
“What’s coming down the pike is probably so unforeseeable that I don’t even have categories for it yet.”
This does not mean, however, that all who consider themselves independents will necessarily support independent working-class politics — that is, trade union rights, Medicare for All, slash the military budget to fund jobs and social services, fight for $15, citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, abortion rights, LGBTQ+ rights, abolish the filibuster and the Electoral College, reparations, voting rights, etc. Independents are a mixed bag.
But it does mean that advocates of a mass working-class party — a Labor Party – need to get into the ring as soon as possible to ensure that this anger with the Democrats and Republicans is channeled toward working-class politics, not some variant of a center-populist formation (such as the Moderate Party, which was just founded in New Jersey) or far-right party (such as the American Independent Party).
Running independent Labor Party candidates for office, beginning at the local level, is precisely the way to go to help fill this political vacuum, combined with increased agitation in the labor movement around the call for the labor movement to break with the Democrats, who have demonstrated time and again that they, like the Republicans, are a party financed, beholden to, and controlled by the capitalist class.
It’s long overdue for the labor movement to move from discussion to action, to assert its political power independent of the capitalists and for the benefit of the working class.
Birth of the South Carolina Labor Party
An important step in this direction was taken with the founding in June 1996 in Cleveland, Ohio, of the Labor Party. Unions representing close to 2 million workers launched the Labor Party under the banner, “The Bosses Have Two Parties, Working People Need One of Our Own.” There was great promise in the air.
But the Labor Party that was founded in 1996 by Tony Mazzocchi and the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers’ union (OCAW) slowly withered on the vine and was effectively dissolved in 2007, after being dormant for at least two or three years. The reasons for this dissolution are many, but one of the main reasons was the Labor Party’s refusal to run candidates against the Democratic Party. The Labor Party became little more than a pressure group on the Democrats. [See articles on our website: socialistorganizer.org.]
One of the most positive developments during this entire 1996-2007 period was the decision by the Labor Party Interim National Council (INC) to help then South Carolina AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt launch the South Carolina Labor Party as a registered electoral party that is required to run candidates every four years to keep its ballot status. Dewitt was a member of the Labor Party’s INC and a long-time advocate of a Labor Party that runs candidates against Democrats and Republicans with the goal of winning elections and challenging for power.
Since its inception the SC Labor Party has run candidates in three different elections, the latest in 2020, when SCLP co-chair Willie Legette ran for the South Carolina House of Representatives and garnered 12% of the vote, no small feat.
A Promising Development in South Carolina
A very exciting development took place last February when Gary Votour, a leading social justice activist well known for his support to progressive causes, quit the Democratic Party and offered to run for governor as a SC Labor Party candidate in the November 2022 general election.
Votour left the Democratic Party, as he explains in the “Chronology” section of the LCIP Special Report, see below, because it refused to fight for a $15 minimum wage and because it refused to back Black state senator Mia McLeod’s bid for governor in the Democratic Party primary. Votour, in turn, asked labor activist Harold Geddings to be his candidate for lieutenant governor.
These two candidates — joined later by Lucus Faulk, a young community activist seeking to run on the SC Labor Party ticket in Coastal District 1 – offered a huge opening to build and promote the Labor Party across South Carolina and nationwide. As could be expected, SC Labor Party co-chair Donna Dewitt jumped on this opportunity and began to promote support for these three candidates among the leaders and ranks of the SC Labor Party.
This was a very promising development. The South Carolina press began to talk about Votour as a viable candidate capable of reaching out to independents, youth, and disenfranchised voters who ordinarily stay home on election day. The powers-that-be took notice. They understood that a successful SC Labor Party election campaign could set an example for unionists and activists nationwide. They understood that no door, however small, should be left open for the SC Labor Party to walk through.
A Development Torpedoed for Political Reasons
The effort to stop these three SC Labor Party candidates from appearing on the November ballot took off in a hurry. This was to be expected; the South Carolina Democratic Party from day one made it clear that it would do everything in its power to prevent the SC Labor Party from getting a hearing. What was unexpected, however, was the people who joined the SC Democratic Party’s assault on the SC Labor Party and its duly mandated candidates.
SC Labor Party co-chair Willie Legette, working closely with former leaders of the national Labor Party, refused to recognize the legitimacy of a SC Labor Party leadership meeting convened by Donna Dewitt and, later, of the state nominations convention. The “Chronology” section of the LCIP’s Special Report recounts in great detail every episode in the effort by the Democrats and their fellow-travelers to undermine the SC Labor Party candidates and prevent them from appearing on the November ballot. [See Part 2 – the “Chronology – of the LCIP Special Report below.]
After the South Carolina Election Commission voted to certify the SC Labor Party candidates, rejecting the appeal by Legette, the SC Democratic Party ramped up its campaign, filing a lawsuit to overturn the Election Commission’s decision.
The basis of the lawsuit was a technicality regarding the date at which the SC Labor Party nominations convention was held. The law stipulates that conventions must be held before May 15, but it allows for “reconvening” such conventions by August 15. The SC Labor Party convention was held July 30.
The SC Election Commission argued that there was a “gray area” in the law and stated that it “preferred to err on the side of access.” But the SC Election Commission decision was soon overturned.
On August 16, a district court judge ruled in favor of the SC Democratic Party and ordered the SC Election Commission to remove the three SC Labor Party candidates from the ballot.
The court hearing itself was a sham. The SC Labor Party was not given time to secure legal counsel, while the state Democratic Party lawyered up with the top attorneys in South Carolina. Donna Dewitt, who could have addressed all the issues in dispute, was not allowed to testify. The candidates were not advised that they could ask questions to Dewitt.
An Opinion piece in The Post and Courier on August 23 by David Travis Bland hit the nail on the head. The article, titled “SC Democrats take a page from GOP playbook and stomp on democracy with court case,” reads in part:
“Taking the Labor Party candidates to court was anti-democratic and a terrible standard for the party that’s trying to portray itself as upholding democracy rather than tearing it down. That’s especially true if one considers the reason the Democratic Party found to have the Labor Party ousted from the ballot. The Labor Party candidates didn’t have their nominating convention by the state mandated May 15 deadline. …
“That’s a technicality and not worth the democracy-desecrating accusations that could be levied at the Democrats for taking the S.C. Labor Party to court. The state Election Commission appeared willing to put the candidates on the ballot and was waiting for the court or the attorney general to give them the go-ahead.”
What’s especially galling – in fact, outrageous – is that the last two regular state conventions of the SC Democratic Party were held AFTER the May 15 deadline that was used to remove the SC Labor Party candidates from the ballot. [See final statement by Gary Votour in the “Chronology” section of the LCIP Special Report below.]
Root of the Dispute: Political Subordination to the Democratic Party
No one in South Carolina ever seemed to care when the party conventions were held so long as it was before the ballots had to be printed. The dispute was never about abiding by the state’s election laws. It was fundamentally about politics – about labor’s subordination to the Democratic Party.
Legette, in fact, did not hide this fact. Here are clips from The Post and Courier:
• “Legette told The Post and Courier that the party didn’t want to take votes away from Democratic candidates. ‘In different circumstances and different conditions, we’d be willing to do that, but there’s just too much at stake at this present time,’ Legette said.”
• “In his dispute of the Labor Party’s decision, party Co-Chairman Willie Legette said that having a third-party candidate in today’s political environment would only help Republicans. ‘The conditions and circumstances during any general election matters and given where the state is in the country today with the rise of authoritarianism, the extreme right wing, we think we should not do anything that would hamper the possibility of Democratic victories in 2022 and 2024,” Legette said before state commission made its decision.”
In “different circumstances” and “different conditions?”
Hasn’t the labor movement learned that when it comes to the Democrats, it’s never the right time to adopt laws that are vitally important to working people and the oppressed? Isn’t Harold Geddings right when he states that “all the Democrats offer is more of the same?” [See Part 3 – the “Dialogue with the SC Labor Party Candidates” – of the LCIP Special Report below.]
Billions of dollars are approved by Democrats and Republicans every month for the purchase of ever-more sophisticated weapons of mass destruction — instead of funding jobs for all at a living wage, social services, real inflation price controls (instead of stabilizing the highest corporate profits in over 70 years), real climate change measures (not corporate giveaways and poison-pill deals with the fossil fuel industrialists). The list of promises betrayed is long.
Workers and young people are outraged; they are desperate for real change.
“Now is NOT the time for labor to break with the Democrats” is the standard refrain spewed every election year by the labor bureaucracy. It has only one meaning in this two-party system: “There will never be a time.”
Socialist Organizer supports Donna Dewitt and the majority of the South Carolina Labor Party in their effort to run truly independent candidates for office. We applaud their courage to run candidates who were contesting for power, not simply acting as placeholders till that far-off day when the SC Labor Party is finally allowed to run serious campaigns.
Donna Dewitt and the SC Labor Party majority have pointed the way forward with the message of “The Bosses Have Two Parties, We Working People Need One of Our Own” — in deeds, not just words.
It’s time for the rest of us to step up to the plate.
We call on our readers and supporters to contact Labor and Community for an Independent Party (lcipcommittee.org) and join their effort to hold forums across the country aimed at promoting labor-community assemblies and independent candidates, beginning at the local level. Labor-community coalitions and committees, focused on advancing workers’ pressing demands, can help advance the self-organization of working people across the country. They are also key to ensuring that the candidates nominated by the coalitions are accountable to their base.
We also call on union activists to support LCIP’s second point of unity — namely, the call on the labor officialdom to break with the Democrats and build a Labor Party. The 2017 national AFL-CIO convention called for opening this discussion widely in the labor movement, but nothing has been done to implement this decision. There is no time to waste; this discussion is long overdue.
The list is long of fundamental promises betrayed by so-called Friends of Labor. It’s long overdue for the labor movement to assert its political power independent of the capitalists and for the benefit of the working class.
Most important, we call on our readers and supporters to join Socialist Organizer. Contact us at socialistorganizer.org. Help us be the best builders of the fight for an independent working-class political party – at home and abroad. Help us build the political instrument that is necessary to point the way forward in the struggle to put an end to war and exploitation, and to create a just society for all, a socialist society.
The time is now!
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SPECIAL LCIP REPORT
Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
IN THIS LCIP SPECIAL REPORT
Part 1 – Presentation: Why Did the South Carolina Democratic Party Get the South Carolina Labor Party Thrown Off the November Ballot?, by LCIP
Part 2 – Chronology of Promising South Carolina Labor Party Candidacies Torpedoed by South Carolina Democratic Party, with a Little Help from Its Friends, by LCIP
Part 3 – LCIP Discussion with South Carolina Labor Party Candidates Gary Votour and Harold Geddings, by LCIP
* * * * * * * * * *
(Part 1) Why Did the South Carolina Democratic Party Get the South Carolina Labor Party Thrown Off the November Ballot?
How does this slow down the nation’s advance toward fascism or promote a working-class agenda?
(Dossier Prepared by Labor and Community for an Independent Party / LCIP)
What do we need to do to get back on track in building the forces, based in the workplace and in the community, to shift the balance of power needed for the independent voice of the working class to be heard and its power brought to bear, not only to force back the forces of reaction but to launch united campaigns in the battle against capital?
Who colluded with the SC Democratic Party in booting the SC Labor Party candidates off the November ballot?
A careful reading of the attached documents will bring out the essential facts of this shameful affair.
Brother Gary Votour was duly nominated by the South Carolina Labor Party meeting in convention on July 30, a continuation of the Party’s recessed 2020 convention. Two other LP candidates were duly nominated at that time as well: Harold Geddings for Lieutenant Governor and Lucus Faulk for US Representative in the SC First Congressional District.
Gary is a long-time fighter for human rights. He had felt it was time to carry the struggle into the political arena and ran for the gubernatorial nomination in the Democratic Party. When the leading candidate in that race refused to embrace such progressive planks in the party platform as the fight for the $15 minimum wage, and when the DP sidelined an activist African-American woman in that race, Gary publicly left the Democratic Party, to be nominated for governor by the South Carolina Labor Party.
The South Carolina Labor Party was formed in 2006 as a constituent of the national Labor Party. It won ballot status in South Carolina and ran candidates over the intervening years, maintaining that status.
Meanwhile the national party effectively dissolved, as did affiliated state parties elsewhere around the country. But not in South Carolina.
Never has the voice and action of the Labor Party been more needed. Communities have risen up against white supremacy and for justice. Massive long-term strikes have unfolded. And new waves of self-organization and unionization have swept like wildfire through previously unorganized industries, led by young independent-minded labor activists. Yet the two old parties of Big Business live within the DC gridlock.
The Democratic Party may pay lip service to the demands of the working class, even incorporating them in state party platforms, but refuses to enact them and, as we clearly see in South Carolina, works to silence those who do fight for them.
The Republican Party under its current leadership plays to the anxieties of workers and small business, but points to division and false promises. Those who stand up and speak out are special targets of violence at the hands of armed goons, a long-standing trend in U.S. history.
Most elected officials and most labor leaders feel that electing Democrats – without bothering to implement election promises – will hold back the tide of reaction.
But organization gives strength, and the agenda of millions of workers must find effective representation in political struggles, in union halls and in our communities.
Democracy is too important to leave to the Democratic Party!
* * * * * * * * * * *
(Part 2) Chronology of Promising South Carolina Labor Party Candidacies Torpedoed by South Carolina Democratic Party, with a Little Help from Its Friends
(prepared by Labor and Community for an Independent Party, LCIP)
• Excerpt from South Carolina Labor Party Constitution and bylaws (adopted by delegates assembled on September 23, 2006)
For too long, we have watched the other political parties make concession after concession to the corporations that rule this state, while our jobs have disappeared, our incomes have eroded, and our children have gone uneducated. We are tired of the politics of fear and division that keep us divided and weak. We understand that only a party that is run by and for working people can speak to our real concerns.
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• July 30 – SC Labor Party Nominations Convention Report by Donna Dewitt
The SC Labor Party held a convention on Saturday, July 30th at 11:00 am for the purpose of nominating and approving candidates who had filed a Statement of Intention of Candidacy to run as a SC Labor Party candidate in the November 8th general election and have met the qualifications for the office for which they have filed.
The following candidates were nominated and approved by the delegates to the convention:
Gary Votour, candidate for Governor and Lucus Faulk, candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Congressional District 1. The delegates, also, determined that Harold Geddings, the designee for Lieutenant Governor, made by the candidate for Governor, possessed the qualifications for the office. (SC code 7-11-12, B)
A motion was made to accept the Lieutenant Governor choice and was approved by the delegates.
Signed by/ Donna S. Dewitt, Co -Chair
South Carolina Labor Party
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• August 1 – Letter from Donna Dewitt to the South Carolina Election Commission (excerpts)
Attention Chris Whitmire:
I have attached the candidates nominated and approved at the SC Labor Party Nominating Convention held Saturday, July 30th. Holding this convention was approved by a five to three vote of the Steering Committee. Mark Dudzic, Katherine Isaac and Willie Legette would not accept the vote of the county representatives. The code of laws title 7, section 7-9-90 clearly defines who serves on the State Committee and their terms of office.
Emails were sent to the State Committee for every convention held since the founding convention. Unfortunately, Legette has only attended one, in 2020, where he was nominated and approved [as a SC Labor Party candidate] for the SC House of Representatives.
The minutes of all conventions, as well as correspondence to the SC Election Commission, were sent to the State Committee and recorded in my Labor Party file.
As far as notification for Orangeburg County for this convention, a notice ran in the Times and Democrat for two days in the Calendar of Events two weeks before the convention.
I am grateful for the support and generous resources the Labor Party contributed to enable the SC Labor Party to be certified [in 2006]. I was honored to serve on the Interim National Council of the Labor Party. But they have not met for over fifteen years.
Therefore, there is no national Labor Party governing body. As a co-chair of the South Carolina Labor Party, I cannot ignore the vote of the county members of the Steering Committee.
Donna S. Dewitt, Co-Chair
South Carolina Labor Party
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• August 4 – Excerpts from The Post and Courier newspaper
“Will SC Labor Party Candidates Be on the Ballot?
The state Election Commission had to figure out what to do after getting dueling letters from the party’s co-chairs [Donna Dewitt and Willie Legette]. One certified the candidates as convention-approved nominees, while the other asserted the convention was a sham that directly conflicted with a decision earlier this year not to run candidates in 2022.
The ruling [whether or not to include SCLP candidates on the ballot or not] came down to the “black-and-white wording” of the law, said Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.
The agency must put candidates on the ballot “if the names of the nominees are certified, in writing, by the political party chairman, vice-chairman, or secretary,” state law reads.
“It doesn’t address this unprecedented situation where party leaders disagree, so as the agency sees it, it must abide by the certification letter,” Whitmire said.
“We have received a timely certification in writing from a Labor Party chairperson,” he wrote the co-chairs. “As for the disagreements detailed in the various communications from party officials, the SEC has determined it has no authority to resolve these intra-party disputes.”
Beyond that, the agency tends to “err on the side of access” when it comes to gray areas of state voting laws, Whitmire told The Post and Courier.
“That’s part of our culture,” he said.
Labor Party Co-chairwoman Donna Dewitt, who sent the certification letter, said she never doubted the outcome. She said she’s very happy to move forward.
The August 4 decision means that Gary Votour of Columbia and his running mate, Harold Geddings of St. Matthews, will be on the ballot as the Labor Party’s gubernatorial ticket, while Lucus Faulk of Bonneau will be its candidate for the coastal 1st District.
Excerpts from Sidebar Article in The Post and Courier:
The elections agency first became aware of the dispute [between Donna Dewitt and Willie Legette] on July 26, when it received a letter from Legette warning that Dewitt planned to hold a nominating convention days later in Orangeburg in opposition to party leaders’ decision not to run any candidates in 2022.
“Therefore, if this convention proceeds, it is fraudulent,” wrote Legette, of Orangeburg. “I am asking the Election Commission not to certify any nominees of the SC Labor Party.”
Whitmire said he hoped the party leaders would work out the disagreement on their own. But then Dewitt, also of Orangeburg, sent letters Aug. 1 approving the candidates and contending it’s Legette who’s in the wrong, and the convention was legitimate.
[The Election Commission sided with Donna Dewitt.]
* * * * * * * * * *
• August 5 – Excerpts from the Associated Press
“Labor Party Argues Whether to Put Candidates on SC Ballot”
Labor Party co-chairman Willie Legette, who didn’t want their candidates on the ballot, said his group is exploring legal options.
Legette told The Post and Courier that he thought the party decided in March to not run candidates because it didn’t want to take votes away from Democratic candidates. “In different circumstances and different conditions, we’d be willing to do that, but there’s just too much at stake at this present time,” Legette said.
* ** * * * * * * *
• August 5 – Excerpts from an article in The State newspaper
“Some SC Labor Party members didn’t want a nominee for governor. Why they’re getting one”
In his dispute of the Labor Party’s decision, party Co-Chairman Willie Legette said the Saturday, July 30, convention was improperly held and said having a third-party candidate in today’s political environment would only help Republicans.
“The conditions and circumstances during any general election matters and given where the state is in the country today with the rise of authoritarianism, the extreme right wing, we think we should not do anything that would hamper the possibility of Democratic victories in 2022 and 2024,” Legette said before state commission made its decision.
“We’re disappointed in the decision,” Legette said. “We certainly think they (other Labor Party members) violated the law in not following the policies of the Labor Party.
Labor Party Co-Chairwoman Donna Dewitt said the party was within its rights to hold a nominating convention when party members, including those from the executive committee, reconvened a convention from 2020.
She said Votour and Faulk also both embraced the party’s platform, showing support for expanding Medicaid and “Medicare for All.” “The fact that we had candidates file gives you the opportunity … to reconvene the organization to have a nominating convention for your candidates,” Dewitt said.
* * * * * * * * * *
• August 5 – Letter from Mark Dudzic and Katherine Isaac to Donna Dewitt
[Note: As Donna Dewitt pointed out repeatedly to the South Carolina media, the national Labor Party founded by Tony Mazzocchi ceased to exist in 2007. In December 2012, Mark Dudzic, in fact, wrote an article in which he confirmed that the party “had suspended operations in 2007.” No governing body had met over the past 15 years, no Labor Party bodies were maintained. The former national Labor Party leaders did not, therefore, have any authority to issue instructions to the SC Labor Party and the duly nominated SC Labor Party candidates. – LCIP]
On July 26, 2022 we sent you a memo instructing you to cancel all efforts to convene a so-called South Carolina Labor Party convention.
It has since come to our attention that, on July 30, 2022, you participated in a meeting that falsely claimed to be a convention of the South Carolina Labor Party and that you subsequently submitted a list to the South Carolina Elections Commission of purported Labor Party candidates that were allegedly nominated at this meeting.
Please be advised that, effective immediately, you are suspended as co-chair of the South Carolina Labor Party for gross violations of the Labor Party Constitution, the Labor Party Electoral Strategy and the South Carolina Labor Party Constitution and Bylaws. We are also investigating potential violations of South Carolina election laws that may have taken place.
You are instructed to cease and desist from any representation on your part that you are an officer of the South Carolina Labor Party and/or speaking or acting on their behalf. Failure to do so may subject you to additional penalties.
Please be further advised that the Labor Party disavows any candidates who claim to have been nominated at this illegitimate meeting.
If you wish to appeal this suspension, please provide us with a detailed statement in response to these charges no later than 5 pm Eastern on August 15, 2022. Upon receipt of your appeal, we will appoint a Grievance and Appeals Committee to conduct a hearing.
Labor Party National Organizer
Labor Party National Secretary-Treasurer
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• August 10 – Memo by Donna Dewitt
The law states parties may reconvene conventions to nominate and approve. It doesn’t refer to which convention. There is no time constraint for reconvening a nominations convention. The law states, as do our bylaws, that a convention may be called by the chair or 5 members. Willie Legette and his supporters argue that they have no record of county Conventions where minutes do not have to be sent to the state, just elected officers and delegates.
I provided 2 state convention minutes indicating this for discovery, which they did not use and lied about. The judge doesn’t get discovery.
Gary has pointed out that this will set a precedent for the Dems to go after anyone.
* * * * * * * * * *
• August 10 – “SC Democrats Sue to Keep Labor Candidates Off Ballots” (excerpts)
COLUMBIA — The state Democratic Party is suing to keep Labor Party candidates for governor and the 1st Congressional District on November ballots, arguing their nominating convention violated state law.
The lawsuit from the Democratic Party clearly takes the side of co-chairman Willie Legette, who told The Post and Courier last week a majority of party leaders voted in March not to run any candidates because they might siphon votes from Democrats and, thereby, help Republicans win.
But it argues the Labor Party candidates should be tossed for a much simpler reason: Timing. The lawsuit alleges the July convention missed the state deadline for a nominating convention by more than two months.
“Allowing unlawfully nominated Labor Party candidates to appear on the ballot violates state law to the detriment of the Democratic Party and other political parties that followed the rules and seek a fair, lawful electoral contest,” reads the lawsuit.
Gary Votour, a social justice activist in his first bid for office, said he still believes the Labor Party complied with state law. “I do not understand the South Carolina Democratic Party’s desire to meddle in the affairs of other parties,” he told The Post and Courier.
The hearing [before a circuit court judge] falls one day after the state deadline for parties to certify their candidates.
* * * * * * * * * *
• August 16 – Memo to Supporters by Donna Dewitt Following August 16 Hearing
The judge did not render a decision but is expected to render a decision soon. Because we did not have a lawyer, I could not represent the SCLP. The SC Dem Party used specific parts of the law to hammer us as did my co-chair.
They did not use parts of the law that allow us to reconvene a nominating convention. The Election Commission did a very good job and Gary spoke to important points. The candidates did not know they could call on me as a witness.
* * * * * * * * * *
• August 16 – Gary Votour Testifies Before the Judge
(excerpts from an article in The State, Aug. 16)
[Note: Donna Dewitt’s understanding of the law, as she explained repeatedly to the media, was that the deadline for a “reconvened” nomination convention was August 15. Only the deadline for a regular convention was May 15. She argued that the SC Labor Party was simply reconvening a SC Labor Party convention from 2020. This discrepancy was acknowledged by Election Commission Chris Whitmire, who called it “a gray area,” noting further that the Election Commission preferred “to err on the side of access.”]
Mr. Votour testified the Labor Party had a lawful convention that was reconvened from a previous convention. He also testified that he and the Labor Party complied with all party rules and state law.
Mr. Geddings and Mr. Faulk did not testify at the hearing nor did they cross-examine any witnesses. Also present at the hearing was Donna Dewitt, co-chair of the SC Labor Party. The SC Labor Party was not represented by legal counsel.
* * * * * * * * * *
• August 18 – Labor Party Booted From South Carolina Ballot After Democrats Complain
FITSNews – August 18, 2022
By Will Folks
Outgoing circuit court judge Alison Lee did the South Carolina Democratic Party (SCDP) a huge solid on Thursday by granting its eleventh-hour request to remove candidates nominated by the S.C. Labor Party (SCLP) from the November 2022 ballot.
According to the judge, the SCLP failed to follow state law regarding the nomination of its gubernatorial ticket – and its candidate for the Palmetto State’s first congressional district. As a result, she said the S.C. Election Commission (SCVotes.gov) should move forward without these candidates on the ballot.
SCLP nominee Gary Votour was understandably unhappy with Lee’s decision.
“I am extremely disappointed in our legal system,” he tweeted. “The SCDP has interfered in the affairs of the Labor Party. They waited until the last minute to file this lawsuit to deny our right to be on the ballot – and we were not allowed enough time to find legal representation.”
Votour said he planned to appeal the ruling – but he had better act fast. According to SCVotes.gov, September 16 is the deadline for candidates to withdraw or have their names removed from the 2022 ballot. Meanwhile, September 24 is the deadline for general election ballots to be mailed to military personnel stationed overseas.
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• August 18 – Letter from Alan Benjamin to the SC Labor Party Candidates
After speaking with Donna this afternoon — and after reading Gary’s excellent statement quoted in The State and consulting with some of the leaders of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) — it crossed my mind that having you all run as write-in candidates with a unified message would be very important.
As I see it, the Dems (statewide and nationally) have interfered in this election because the SC Labor Party was pointing the way forward with the message of “The Bosses Have Two Parties, We Working People Need One of Our Own.”
Your unified write-in campaign, I am convinced, would be embraced and supported by LCIP. It could help spur an independent electoral movement nationwide. One of LCIP’s two points of unity is the call upon the labor officialdom to break with the Democrats and build a Labor Party. (This was, after all, the initial message of the national Labor Party.)
Your experience with the Democratic Party in South Carolina needs to be heard across the country.
A unified write-in campaign could highlight why we need our own party to win expanded Medicaid and Medicare for All, among the many other central demands that you have raised. Though it is only a write-in effort, you could create campaign labor-community coalitions and committees across the state, focused on advancing your issues, using the election to help advance the self-organization of working people across South Carolina.
I also think that through our LCIP network we could help promote this campaign nationwide. I am also convinced that your campaign will garner huge media attention, as it already has. This will help raise the profile of your appeal to the South Carolina Supreme Court.
I hope that you will consider these proposals.
Member, Continuations Committee, LCIP
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• August 23 – OPINION “SC Democrats take a page from GOP playbook and stomp on democracy with court case” (excerpted from The State)
By David Travis Bland
Taking a page from the Republican playbook, the Democratic Party of South Carolina kicked democracy in the groin by taking poor ole’ Labor Party candidates to court and having them blocked from being on the November ballot. The Labor Party candidates said they would appeal.
Taking the Labor Party candidates to court was anti-democratic and a terrible standard for the party that’s trying to portray itself as upholding democracy rather than tearing it down. That’s especially true if one considers the reason the Democratic Party found to have the Labor Party ousted from the ballot. The Labor Party candidates didn’t have their nominating convention by the state mandated May 15 deadline. That was the violation that allowed the court to rule in the Democrats’ favor.
That’s a technicality and not worth the democracy-desecrating accusations that could be levied at the Democrats for taking the SC Labor Party to court. The state Election Commission appeared willing to put the candidates on the ballot and was waiting for the court or the attorney general to give them the go-ahead.
South Carolina Democratic Party chair Trav Robertson defended taking the candidates to court. “I didn’t have a choice,” he said. The Labor Party candidates “are the people who want Donald Trump thrown in jail and to hold him to account but they don’t want to hold themselves to the same standard.”
Robertson said he believes the state Election Commission or the Attorney General’s office should have enforced the May 15 deadline, but since they didn’t, the Democratic Party was forced to take the Labor candidates to court.
Do Labor Party folks have to get along and agree with traditional Democrats at all times and vice versa? Not at all. But the Democrats shouldn’t be bullies by taking the little guys to court.
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• August 23 – SC Democratic Party: Hypocrites as Well as Liars
Memo from Donna Dewitt
The judge’s decision was based on us not having our nominating convention by May 15. That is the law for all state party conventions. I remembered that the SC Democratic Party convention was later than usual. I even mentioned it to my friend, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter. They have NOTHING on their website about this year’s convention, and I couldn’t find a search icon — so I searched the internet and found that their last two SC Democratic Party conventions have been held after May 15.
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• August 26 – Public Statement by Gary Votour: Why I am not appealing the ruling to the SC Supreme Court and why I will not run as a write-in candidate
It’s time for me to speak truth into the issue regarding the SC Democratic Party (SCDP) decision to use the courts to take a third-party candidate off of the ballot.
I left the SCDP as a candidate for Governor last February for several reasons. The party’s unwillingness to hold Joe Cunningham to the party platform, which supports a living wage of $15, was problematic for me. Additionally, I didn’t want to decrease the chance that Senator Mia McLeod could win that race. She was, by far, the better candidate among us all. South Carolina deserved the chance to vote for a black female Governor.
After the Primary election, I decided to go forward as the Labor Party candidate to continue to try and change the public narrative on several important issues. We had been told by the Election Commission that as long as the Labor Party held our Nominating Convention in time to certify our candidates before their deadline, we would be fine.
We acted in good faith, and despite the defamatory claims made by Trav Robertson, the SCDP chairman, we did not lie or try to deceive the people of our state. We were surprised that the SCDP decided to file a lawsuit to remove the Labor Party candidates from the ballot just days before the filing deadline. With only a few days to prepare we did not have time to find legal representation before the hearing. I was shocked when the Municipal Court judge granted their request and instructed the Election Commission to remove us from the ballot, based on a previously unenforced May 15th deadline for parties to hold annual conventions.
After talking with several national level attorneys, I have decided not to appeal this precedent-setting decision. Even a successful appeal in the SC Supreme Court would not result in us being restored to the ballot in time to give South Carolinians their right to vote for us.
The fact is that the last two annual conventions of the SCDP were held after the May deadline they used to get us removed from the ballot. An appeal would require us to bring that issue into court, and a successful appeal could be used by others to actually decertify the SCDP.
It is imperative for me, as a Christian and as a social justice activist, to show grace to those involved in this blatant act of voter suppression. Unfortunately, the people of SC have been deprived of their right to vote for an honest candidate who ran with a platform that would have helped improve the lives of working-class people.
It is up to people who claim to believe in Democracy and the rights of others to decide how they react to this unconscionable act by the leadership of the SCDP. Personally, I believe Trav Robertson betrayed the party’s principles with this action, and he should resign and move on like he has done before in other states. I have been told he did not take this action with the knowledge of the SCDP Board of Directors, so I absolve them of blame for his decidedly undemocratic action.
I will not run as a write-in candidate. I have no desire to continue in politics as a candidate, as I have realized that I am decidedly unqualified to be a politician for one simple reason… I am honest.
Running for office requires one to embrace a corrupted two-party system, and political candidates must often be dishonest or at a minimum, be willing to overlook the dishonesty of others. I cannot do that.
I will return to my activist roots as I continue the fight to expand Medicaid, to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour, and to protect abortion rights now under attack in our state.
In November, I will write in the name Mia McLeod for Governor, and will also vote for several Democratic Party candidates that will help the people of our state if elected. I suggest you consider doing the same if you value Democracy, for voter suppression must be countered at the ballot box even when it can’t be stopped in the courtroom.
Stay safe and be blessed.
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(Part 3) LCIP Discussion with South Carolina Labor Party Candidates Gary Votour and Harold Geddings
(Prepared by Labor and Community for an Independent Party, LCIP)
On August 11, the Continuations Committee of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) invited the three candidates of the South Carolina Labor Party (SCLP) to participate in a round-table discussion on the struggle for independent working-class political action in their state. The SCLP candidates had been duly nominated by the July 30 convention of the SCLP. They are Gary Votour (for governor), Harold Geddings (for lieutenant governor), and Lucus Faulk (for Representative, 1st Congressional district). Lucus Faulk was not able to participate in the LCIP discussion.
At the time of the LCIP meeting, the three Labor Party candidates had been certified by the South Carolina Election Commission to be listed on the November 8 General Election ballot. One week earlier, on August 4, the Election Commission had met and determined that the SCLP candidates had fulfilled all the state’s legal requirements to be listed on the ballot.
No sooner had this Election Commission decision been rendered, however, than the South Carolina Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against the SCLP, the three candidates, and the South Carolina Election Commission itself. On August 16, five days after the LCIP meeting, a judge ruled that the SCLP candidates could not remain on the ballot.
This is the context in which the LCIP discussion with two of the three SCLP candidates took place. Following are a few of the questions and answers transcribed from that meeting.
Question: Tell us about yourself. What we know is that in February 2022 you quit the South Carolina Democratic Party because it refused to support the $15/hour minimum wage. That took a lot of courage. Most of us don’t know much more about your political activities. Tell us about some of the work you are doing?
Gary Votour: I’ve spent three years as a legal observer with the ACLU, building connections with them at various people’s protests – from Black Lives Matter to Indivisible and different groups around the state.
I am also currently the lead marshal for Planned Parenthood – South Atlantic and for the Women’s Rights Empowerment Network. They are boots-on-the-ground organizations that are fighting, trying to stop our governor from passing a total abortion ban in the next couple of months.
As far as the labor movement, I haven’t spent a lot of time reaching out to unions because I’ve only really been in the Labor Party for five or six months. Harold [Geddings] is an active union member and knows more about the labor movement. I’m going to be leaning on him to help me with that.
What I do know is that we’ve got a strong longshore union here in South Carolina, but beyond that, there isn’t a big union presence. It will be a challenge to enlist labor support; we have the lowest union membership in the entire country. But I also know this: Working people in South Carolina are tired of the Democrats. Poll after poll shows this to be a fact.
Harold Geddings: Absolutely true. Working people in South Carolina, especially the youth, are furious. We are on the brink of ecological and economic collapse, and all the Democratic Party wants to offer us is more of the same. There is huge potential for a Labor Party campaign. There’s a groundswell of anger that we could tap into — especially among the younger crowd.
This campaign is about building the movement. That’s why the Democratic Party is so scared of us. They don’t want to let us get a foot in the door.
Question: You have been accused of being a “spoiler” on behalf of the Republican Party. How do you respond to this charge? Isn’t it, rather, the case of Democrats running scared of seeing a Labor Party, with viable candidates, develop in South Carolina and set an example for others to follow across the country?
Gary Votour: I am constantly being hit with this. I am supposedly the one that will cause [Republican] Henry McMaster to be the governor for another four years, because I am ruining [Democrat] Joe Cunningham’s chances of winning by running as a third-party candidate.
My standard response is this: Democrats in our state have not won a state-level office in almost 30 years. They keep trying to convince people that they can get Republicans or independents to vote for them. And it does not work.
There are 150,000 registered voters in South Carolina who don’t even bother to vote because they don’t think either party works for them. I call them the “disillusioned” and the “disaffected” voters. My goal with our SCLP effort is to reach those people with the message that I am listening to them and am building a campaign around the issues that they need and want.
People tell me, “You’re a third party. You’re going to spoil this for Joe Cunningham.” I say, no, Joe Cunningham is the third-party candidate. I tell them, “Vote for the candidate whose issues reflect your values – not the person you think has the best chance of winning or the prettiest smile or the best stage persona.”
As for proof of whose interests are served by the Democratic Party, here in my hands is the 16-page lawsuit we’ve all been served by the Democratic Party of South Carolina. Its aim is to keep our South Carolina Labor Party candidates off the ballot. The Democrats are scared. They know they are running a Democratic candidate who has a weak foundation. In the U.S. House of Representatives, Cunningham voted against the $15 minimum wage. He guaranteed the restaurant and tourism industries that he wouldn’t shoot for $15, so they would donate to his campaign. He’s nothing but an empty suit. This is how things work in the Democratic Party.