COLUMBIA, SC — The S.C. Democratic Party has taken the unusual step of endorsing a candidate in a contested primary.
The party’s executive committee voted unanimously to back state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, in the party’s primary for the right to run for the seat now held by Republican Lindsey Graham.
The executive committee, which includes representatives from all 46 counties, endorsed Hutto over Jay Stamper, who moved from Washington state last year to run against Graham.
Stamper’s past includes a felony plea and an agreement to repay millions stemming from a failed investments business. In the past, Stamper also has bought web domains that included politicians’ names and linked them to sites promoting cannibalism, white supremacy and marijuana cultivation.
Stamper’s candidacy reminded politicos of the 2010 U.S. Senate campaign of Alvin Greene against Republican incumbent Jim DeMint. Soon after Greene won the Democratic Primary, news came out that he was facing obscenity charges.
A state Democratic spokeswoman said the party wanted to avoid having another nominee like Greene. The executive committee never before had endorsed a candidate in a contested race, the party said.
“This year, when Jaime (Harrison) became (state party) chair, he set up a vetting process,” Democratic Party spokeswoman Kristin Susanne said. “Given everything that’s come up about Stamper, they decided to go through the vetting process with him and Hutto and then ... moved forward with the endorsement.”
Stamper said the endorsement of Hutto, a candidate with a high rating from the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, “is consistent with South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison’s belief that we need to act like Republicans to be elected as Democrats.”
Stamper said his felony plea stemmed from mistakenly failing to file required paperwork to register his company’s securities, adding he had spoken to Harrison about his record.
“I’ve paid a price for standing up to the party establishment – but it’s worth it,” Stamper said. “As Democrats, we’re here to stand up for working and middle-class families. We’re here to support equal rights for all people, not just a few. But Jaime Harrison wants to stand with Lindsey Graham, Brad Hutto and the very same big corporations he represents as a lobbyist.”
Graham is facing a challenge from six other Republicans in the June primary to win the GOP’s nomination for a third Senate term.