Originally created 07/24/99

Candidate files charge of hostility



AIKEN -- GOP candidate Rebekah E. Sutherland says she's tired of "hostile treatment" by Aiken County Republican Chairwoman Diane Giddings.

So she registered a complaint against the chairwoman at party headquarters in Columbia on Friday.

Mrs. Sutherland, Robert S. "Skipper" Perry and Kathryn Kling are seeking the Republican nomination for the State House District 81 seat made vacant by the death of Rudy Mason.

The winner of the Aug. 17 Republican primary may have to face independent Scott Singer, a petition candidate, if he collects the approximately 1,000 signatures needed to get his name on the ballot.

In a letter to the South Carolina Republican Party, dated Friday, Mrs. Sutherland charged that Mrs. Giddings "has falsely accused me of ethics violations, falsely accused me of mud-slinging and name calling, and lied to me about the newsletter."

She says she holds the South Carolina Republican Party accountable for what she charges is abuse by Mrs. Giddings and demanded that the state organization take action.

She also demanded that the state party issue "an immediate press release with an apology to me for your chairman's behavior."

Mrs. Giddings says she has already apologized to Mrs. Sutherland personally for reporting what she mistakenly thought was an ethics violation to the State Ethics Commission and the Republican Party.

The misunderstanding on Mrs. Giddings' part arose, she contends, from a notice on Mrs. Sutherland's Web site that "Checks should be made out to Rebekah E. Sutherland," which she thought were to be deposited in Mrs. Sutherland's personal account.

She says she later discovered that Mrs. Sutherland had a separate campaign account and found out that it was legal for checks to be made out in her name for use in her campaign.

"It was an assumption on my part and I am sorry for it. But I have openly and directly apologized to her for my misunderstanding of the law," Mrs. Giddings said.

Mrs. Sutherland, however, notified GOP headquarters in Columbia on Friday that Mrs. Giddings' apology was "not an appropriate response."

Mrs. Sutherland earlier noted in a letter to Mrs. Giddings, dated July 20, that she maintains photocopies of every check submitted to her campaign and says she is "accountable for every penny" received into her campaign.

In that same letter, she charged Mrs. Giddings with actively working in the Kathryn Kling campaign.

"You told me in the last race that our Aiken County Republican Party Chairman must remain neutral during a primary," Mrs. Sutherland stated.

That is a charge Mrs. Giddings vehemently denies.

"There are precedents for party chairmen getting involved in primary campaigns, even in Aiken County, but I have not been actively involved in any campaign," Mrs. Giddings said.

At any rate, there is no statewide policy on the matter, said J. Sam Daniels, executive director of the state Republican Party.

"Henry McMaster, our chairman, has never gotten involved in a primary and neither has the state party, but the county parties are in and of themselves a separate organization and whoever is chairman can run it his or her own way," Mr. Daniels said.

Mrs. Giddings contends she has never distributed campaign literature for the Kling campaign, does not put signs in her yard for the candidate, and has not actively worked to help her campaign.

She also says that any candidate is welcome to come to her for advice but that she does not endorse primary candidates.

An article urging party members to vote for Kathryn Kling did appear in the August issue of the Aiken County Republican Party Line, for which Mrs. Sutherland cried foul. She said she received the newsletter July 20 though it was dated for August and discovered a large advertisement for the Kling campaign.

"I was very surprised when I received the newsletter because I was told a newsletter would not be published in July," Mrs. Sutherland said.

Mrs. Giddings said it wasn't an advertisement, it was an article, and she wasn't responsible for the format since she did not edit the newsletter.

She also noted that any candidate could have gotten an article in the newsletter if it had been submitted by June 15.

Pat Willis can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.