South Carolina Can Cancel Its Presidential Primary, Court Rules

(Bloomberg) -- South Carolina’s Republican Party can cancel its 2020 presidential primary, a judge ruled, making for one less hurdle in President Donald Trump’s bid forreelection next year.

The party’s executive committee voted 43-1 in September to forgo the nomination contest, known for being the earliest in the southern U.S., saying the move would save South Carolina taxpayers more than $1.2 million. But a former U.S. congressman and a state business sued to force an election, saying state law requires the party to hold a primary.

Chairman Drew McKissick said there was “no rationale” to hold a primary when the party has a president in the White House, noting that Republicans didn’t hold primaries in 1984 or 2004 and that Democrats didn’t stage them in 1996 or 2012.

State Circuit Judge Jocelyn Newman in Columbia dismissed the suit, saying in a ruling Tuesday that state law doesn’t require the party to hold a presidential primary and that the executive committee “acted well within its discretion” according to law and its own rules.

South Carolina is one of more than a half-dozen states where Republicans have canceled presidential primaries next year as Trump seeks a second term. While it’s unlikely the elections would have been highly contested given the president’s popularity within the party, the move frees the state delegates from pledging their votes to any single candidate and could cause them to abandon their loyalty if he faces difficulties.

The case is Inglis v. South Carolina Republican Party, 2019-CRP-40-05486, South Carolina Circuit Court, County of Richland.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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