- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - It appears the seat held by former South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell will be won by a Democrat for the first time in four decades.

The state Election Commission said Monday the contest will go forward next week with Harrell’s name on the ballot, though he could not be declared the winner.

Harrell, speaker since 2005, resigned last week after pleading guilty to using campaign money for his own benefit. As part of his plea deal, the Charleston Republican agreed to not seek office for at least three years, the length of his probation.

Even if Harrell gets more votes, the winner would be the candidate with the second-most votes, said Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire. The agency will post signs at the district’s polling places to inform voters that Harrell’s not a viable candidate, he said.

Democrat Mary Tinkler is running. Green Party candidate Sue Edward also is on the ballot.

GOP leaders say they still hope Harrell provides the sworn affidavit necessary for the Election Commission to reconsider postponing the election and reopening the filing for the seat representing parts of Charleston and Dorchester counties.

“We’ve asked Mr. Harrell to provide the proper withdrawal documents. The ball is in his court,” said state Republican Party spokesman Matt Orr.

State law allows political parties to replace a candidate who withdraws only if the candidate does so by sworn affidavit. But Harrell resigned from office and withdrew his candidacy in a letter Friday to the House clerk, which was forwarded to the Election Commission, Whitmire said.

If Harrell does submit an affidavit, the election agency can reconsider whether a special election can be held. The commission still would have to determine whether the withdrawal meets the legal definition of a legitimate, nonpolitical reason, he said.

Harrell first won his House seat in 1992. A Democrat has not held the seat since 1974, when all 12 members of the Charleston delegation were Democrats.

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