South Carolina candidate protests loss to mystery Democrat

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by MEG KINNARD

Associated Press

Posted on June 14, 2010 at 7:05 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 14 at 7:05 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A U.S. Senate candidate asked for a new Democratic primary Monday after he lost last week to an unemployed military veteran who raised no money and had no signs and no ads.

The Democratic Party's 92-member executive committee plans a hearing Thursday on former state lawmaker Vic Rawl's protest and could order the primary results overturned. State party leaders can't remember that ever happening before. Rawl could also appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Pundits have been puzzled since Alvin Greene, a 32-year-old political unknown, defeated Rawl in the primary to see who would face GOP U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, the heavy favorite in the fall. Greene won with 59 percent of the vote to 41 percent for Rawl.

Rawl, now a Charleston County council member, says he campaigned statewide, put 17,000 miles on his car and, in the days before the primary, sent out hundreds of thousands of e-mails and automated phone calls seeking voter support. Greene claims he traveled the state to talk to voters, but he had no campaign organization and no website. He did not return a call Monday.

Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, South Carolina's top Democrat in the U.S. House, called on state and federal authorities to probe how Greene came up with the money needed to file as a U.S. Senate candidate. Clyburn says he thinks someone put Greene up as a shell candidate to embarrass the Democratic Party.

Greene claims he saved up his military pay for two years for the $10,440 filing fee he paid in March.

Rawl said at a news conference in Charleston that he suspects Greene's victory is due to either voting machines or software malfunctioning.

"As to who did it, why they did, whether it was an accident or was intentional, I have no idea and I don't feel comfortable commenting on that," he said.

He said several people told him they pressed his name on the touch-screen ballot, only to have Greene's name appear. Rawl says he also heard of at least one voter in the Republican primary who had the Democratic U.S. Senate race appear on her ballot, and he said experts who have analyzed polling data noticed irregularities.

South Carolina has open primaries, which means voters can choose to vote in either the Republican or Democratic contest.

To get a new primary, Rawl doesn't have to prove that voter fraud happened. He just has to lay out a convincing argument.

"You have to have enough evidence that what you're asserting could have happened," executive director Jay Parmley said.

State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said the agency is confident in the accuracy of the voting machines, though Democratic state Sen. Phil Leventis on Monday asked to have them all inspected because of alleged voting irregularities. Those included precincts that he said showed more votes for one of the Democratic candidates than were actually cast.

State party Chairwoman Carol Fowler called for Greene to remove his name from the ballot after The Associated Press reported he faced a felony charge related to a November arrest for obscenity.

Greene was charged with showing obscene Internet photos to a University of South Carolina student, then talking about going to her room at a university dorm. He has declined to comment on the charge, and he has yet to enter a plea or be indicted. He has said he's staying in the race.

He filed for and got a court-appointed attorney, something a prominent South Carolina lawyer said Monday should not have happened if he had the money for the filing fee.

"If he's got $10,000 lying around, he shouldn't get a court-appointed attorney," said Dick Harpootlian, a Columbia defense attorney and former chairman of the state Democratic Party.

In a sworn statement dated days after his arrest, Greene told court officials he was unemployed and earned $1,160 a month. He left blank spaces asking for information on bank account balances, cash or value of any bonds or investments.

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Associated Press Writer Bruce Smith in Charleston contributed to this report.

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