Dan Duryea has dropped his bid to overturn Republican Cynthia Bensch’s election win in Beaufort County Council District 7, solidifying her 48-point victory in the Bluffton-area district.
Duryea, a petition candidate whom Bensch defeated by about 2,500 votes, also lost a protest he filed last month alleging Bensch lived outside District 7. The county’s Board of Elections and Registration unanimously rejected his challenge Nov. 19.
After initially vowing to appeal, Duryea now says he will accept the board’s decision.
“After the hearing, I contacted a ‘well connected’ attorney in Columbia regarding a challenge at the State Election Commission and he basically said that it would be very unusual for the ... commission to overturn a 5-0 decision,” Duryea wrote in an email to The Island Packet.
“As a result, we have decided that it would be futile to pursue this matter any further as we are not going to be able to change the system by ourselves.”
Although Duryea’s protest was rejected, at least two elections board members appeared skeptical during the Nov. 19 hearing that Bensch actually lived in District 7. However, it determined she met the standard based on the state law.
She produced documents, including a South Carolina driver’s license, showing her legal address is a home in Rose Hill within District 7. However, she also acknowledged that she spent many nights leading up to the election at a rented home in Eagle’s Pointe in District 6.
State law requires candidates to live in the district they hope to represent on Election Day. However, the law is less explicit in determining the difference between a residence and a domicile — a question that vexed elections board members last month.
Duryea, who was among 250 candidates statewide removed from the June primary ballot for filing a financial form late, says this is more evidence for reforming the state’s election laws.
“If, after the fiasco in Beaufort last (month) and, with the overall election climate in our State in 2012, if no one believes that we desperately need Election and Ethics Reform in the State of South Carolina they must have blinders on,” he said.
The issue is likely to come up during the 2013 legislative session, at least for discussion.
State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, whose redrawn district includes parts of Beaufort County, told an audience in Beaufort last week that pursuing election reform was one of his top priorities.
Attempts to reach Bensch for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful. She will be sworn in Jan. 2 for a four-year council term.