Bessinger challenges Pinckney's election win

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Bessinger challenges Pinckney's election win

By CASEY CONLEY
cconley@islandpacket.com
Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012   |  528 Words  |  

A Beaufort County woman who lost to Democratic state Sen. Clementa Pinckney on Nov. 6 is contesting the result, claiming Pinckney lives outside District 45.

Republican Leilani Bessinger, who received less than 34 percent of the vote and lost by nearly 13,000 votes, filed a protest Tuesday with the S.C. State Election Commission. She wants the five-person panel to void Pinckney's victory and call a special election to fill the seat.

Attempts Tuesday to reach Bessinger and Pinckney for comment were unsuccessful.

Bessinger's filing says she learned on Nov. 9 that Pinckney does not live at the Sunset Avenue address in Ridgeland listed on his voter registration card. The filing also claims Pinckney signed a form when casting an absentee ballot attesting that the Sunset Avenue home was his legal address.

According to the protest, Pinckney told a Jasper County Sun reporter recently that he moved from the Sunset Avenue home -- which has been rented by another family -- address three years ago. He told the paper he now lives on Cross Creek Circle in Ridgeland, Bessinger claims.

That street is within District 45, which includes sections of Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties, according to a map on the state legislature's website.

Bessinger accuses the head of the Jasper County's Democratic Party of failing to investigate this and other discrepancies "related to Pinckney's residence" prior to the election.

Pinckney, who received more than 66 percent of the vote in last week's election, has served three four-year terms in the state Senate. He lists a P.O. Box in Ridgeland as his home address in campaign filings with the S.C. Ethics Commission.

Spokesman Chris Whitmire said the commission must conduct a hearing by Dec. 14. At that time, both parties can present evidence and make arguments.

"The two basic outcomes of a protest hearing are to deny the protest and affirm the results of the election, or to grant the protest and call for a new election to be held for the particular office," he said.

Those decisions can be appealed to the S.C. Senate, he said.

Meanwhile, the losing candidate in the District 7 Beaufort County Council race is planning to protest on similar grounds.

Dan Duryea, a petition candidate who lost to Cynthia Bensch by about 2,500 votes, said in a statement Tuesday that he was challenging Bensch's residency in the greater Bluffton-area district.

He pledged to file the challenge at the Beaufort County Board of Elections and Registrations office today.

Attempts Tuesday to reach Bensch for comment were unsuccessful.

Related content

  1. Pinckney leading challenger Bessinger, Nov. 6, 2012
  2. Bensch elected to new Beaufort County Council seat, Nov. 6, 2012
  3. Questions arise about Bensch's District 7 residency, Nov. 1, 2012