Bensch, Sterling safe to run in Beaufort County June 12 primary

achristnovich@islandpacket.comMay 4, 2012 

Two Beaufort County candidates can run in the June 12 primary despite a state Supreme Court ruling that had cast their eligibility in doubt.

Cynthia Bensch, who is running for the District 7 County Council seat, and Laura Sterling, who filed for House District 120, will be on the Republican ballot in the June 12 primary.

The decision was made Thursday by Jerry Hallman, Beaufort County Republican Party chairman.

Bensch alone will be on the Republican ballot for the District 7 race because Dan Duryea of Rose Hill was disqualified Wednesday by the court ruling. District 7 includes the Bluffton-Okatie area, south of U.S. 278, west of S.C. 170 and north of S.C. 46.

Sterling will join Republican County Council members Weston Newton and Jerry Stewart in a three-way race for the party's nomination for House District 120. The district, which spans the Bluffton-Okatie area, was redrawn after the 2010 census. It is represented by Bill Bowers, D-Hampton, who was drawn out of the district.

On Friday, state political parties produced updated candidate lists at the behest of the state Supreme Court, which ruled that candidates who didn't file financial paperwork at the same time they filed for their candidacy could not stand for election.

Duryea had submitted his disclosure form more than a month after he registered with the Beaufort County Republican Party and did not provide a paper copy at the time he filed.

Sterling registered for office March 15 and had filled out a paper disclosure form but filed the form electronically to the commission March 30.

Bensch was cleared to run after it was determined her term on the S.C. State Election Commission from 2008 to 2011 qualified her as an incumbent. The ruling didn't affect incumbents because they are required to fill out the disclosure form once a year during their term and have a later filing deadline.

Statewide, the nearly 200 candidates left off the ballots were split fairly evenly between the parties. Republicans said 87 candidates in Statehouse and county-level races were ineligible. State Democrats' number was 95.

Party officials had asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision, arguing that the filing controversy could be detrimental to challengers seeking to oust incumbents, who already filed economic interest statements when they ran or were in office.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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