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SC Republican Party overrules Greenville County GOP, confirms Russo as primary winner

·2 min read

After completing a courtroom-style hearing Thursday night, the South Carolina Republican Party's executive committee voted to overturn Joe Dill's protest of the District 17 Greenville County Council primary election result.

Joey Russo, the winner of that primary, will face environmental scientist Sheryl Guarniero, a Democrat, in the November general election.

"I feel like justice was served here," Russo said after winning his appeal. "I feel like we restored the faith in our voters who spoke on June 14."

Joey Russo, candidate for Greenville County Council District 17.
Joey Russo, candidate for Greenville County Council District 17.

Russo was represented at the hearing by Jeff Chambers, who conducted testimony from Russo along with two Greenville County Elections Office employees who spoke to precautions taken to ensure fair elections in District 17 and across the county.

"It your job to protect the voters," Chambers said. "No way does any error in this process add up to 132 votes."

Dill did not go to Thursday's hearing, and he called the meeting "illegal."

"We've got a major problem here," Dill said. "The law is very specific."

He did not rule out the possibility of taking further legal action, saying he is waiting to see if the Election Commission orders a new primary before taking next steps.

The state GOP's decision comes after tensions rose last week between state and county party leadership.

Subscribe for more: SC and Greenville County Republicans at odds as GOP considers overturning primary

Greenville County Republican Party Chairman Jeff Davis previously claimed that the state executive committee waived its right to hear Russo's appeal because it did not meet a June 25 deadline set by the South Carolina Election Commission, but a state GOP spokesperson disagreed, saying the state executive committee has until July 2 to hear appeals.

Twice during Thursday's hearing, Davis attempted to ask about the deadline, but he was shut down both times by state GOP Chairman Drew McKissick who said his questions were not pertinent to the witnesses before the committee.

Dill filed his protest after losing to Russo by 132 votes in the June 14 primary. Dill claimed there were irregularities at polling places across his district, including poll workers not being properly sworn in and calibration issues with voting machines.

Joe Dill of Greenville County Council at a meeting in January 2019.
Joe Dill of Greenville County Council at a meeting in January 2019.

In a special meeting held last Thursday, the executive committee of the Greenville County Republican Party voted to uphold Dill's protest after hearing some firsthand testimony from voters who said they experienced issues.

Greenville GOP sides with Dill: Greenville County Republican Party overturns primary over alleged voting irregularities

Greenville County Elections Director Conway Belangia said he has not received any formal, written complaint from voters about the District 17 race, and he said he was surprised to hear claims of calibration issues with voting machines.

"That was news to me," Belangia said. "We weren't aware of any calibration issues."

Russo appealed the county GOP's decision last week to the state party, prompting Thursday's hearing.

Check back for more on this developing story. 

– Tim Carlin covers county government, growth and development for The Greenville News. Follow him on Twitter @timcarlin_, and get in touch with him at TCarlin@gannett.com. You can support his work by subscribing to The Greenville News at greenvillenews.com/subscribe.

This article originally appeared on Greenville News: SC Republican Party overrules Greenville GOP, confirms council primary