Vic Rawl lost the Democratic nomination for US Senate in South Carolina in a stunning upset to Alvin Greene, a heretofore unknown who’s become a media darling … for all the wrong reasons. South Carolina certified the results today at noon, which means that Greene — who refused to withdraw — will be on the ballot in November despite the state Democratic Party demanding his removal. Rawl will announce in a press conference today that he’s not done yet:
Vic Rawl, the South Carolina Senate candidate who was stunningly upset by the widely unknown Alvin Greene in last week’s Democratic primary, will announce Monday morning whether he will file an official protest with the party over the outcome.
Rawl campaign manager Walter Ludwig would not definitively say what the campaign had decided to do, but in an interview with POLITICO Sunday afternoon, he promised, “lots of news tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow’s the deadline to file a protest and we’ll be announcing whether we decide to file a protest. I’m not trying to be coy, there are a lot of variables here,” he said.
The hook will be that the absentee ballots and the election-day results were widely different from each other. Rawl won over 80% of the absentee ballots in Lancaster County, for example, while Greene beat Rawl on in-person votes by 17 points. A statistician from the Rawl campaign said that kind of result would only happen once every ten times, which suggests that some kind of irregularities might be responsible for Greene’s win.
It’s an interesting argument, but Rawl has a problem: it’s backward. Normally, absentee ballots would be suspect in that kind of disparity, not the election-day votes. That is especially true for Rawl’s result of 84% among absentee voters in a county, which might not seem unexpected for a candidate with high name recognition, but in a contest between two people who are hardly household names, it seems a little odd. Furthermore, there are more safeguards on Election Day voting than with absentee ballots. Greene did 11% better on Election Day than on absentee ballots, a significant but not necessarily unusual difference, especially for an unknown. Unless there was a conspiracy among election judges so wide as to create that 30,000+ vote advantage Greene got, the idea that any irregularities occurred on Election Day to that extent is simply very difficult to take seriously.
Could the Democrats get a new election? Yes, but without evidence of actual and explicit wrongdoing, it’s going to be a tough sell:
State party chair Carol Fowler, who asked Greene to step aside after court records revealed he was arrested last year for allegedly showing obscene photos to an underage student, said Rawl’s campaign would need to amass an overwhelming body of evidence in order to convince the state committee to void the result.
“It is possible for us to order a new election if we think the outcome is doubt. The party could overturn the outcome. It could say, ‘the other candidate won.’ But that’s pretty rare. The Senate race is not very close. You’d have to see something very abnormal to overturn it,” she said.
“They would have to find something pretty big. We wouldn’t just overturn a result because the favored candidate didn’t win,” she added.
Fowler says that no precedent for such a decision exists, to her knowledge. And without it, even though Fowler wanted Greene to withdraw, she may have little choice but to let the election stand. That would force Rawl into a write-in campaign to run against both Greene and incumbent Senator Jim DeMint, who has to be having the laugh of a lifetime over the Democratic disarray in his race.
Update: Rawl makes it official:
The former state lawmaker who lost South Carolina’s U.S. Senate Democratic primary to an unknown, unemployed military veteran is protesting the election results.
South Carolina Democratic Party Executive Director Jay Parmley says Vic Rawl filed a protest just before the noon deadline Monday.
And all of this helps South Carolina Democrats win elections … how?