A number of South Carolina Republicans are facing backlash for endorsing pro-abortion former Democratic House representative James Smith for the state’s 5th Judicial Circuit court judgeship. Smith, who was the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2018, has been characterized as a “vocal supporter and advocate for Planned Parenthood” by the organization’s South Atlantic affiliate, Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic.
His Republican endorsers are being critiqued by the South Carolina Freedom Caucus and the pro-life group Citizens for Life, which has declared it will mark down lawmakers who vote for Smith. In South Carolina, members of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and Circuit Court are elected through a combined public vote from the General Assembly.
Smith’s prospective appointment has stirred discourse around South Carolina’s judicial appointment process and the state legislature’s collective ideology. The Freedom Caucus argues that the judicial race underlines South Carolina’s need for judicial system reform and more conservative, reform-focused representatives in the General Assembly. They believe Smith’s endorsement by the Republicans indicates a divergence from supposed conservative values.
State legislator Adam Morgan, the chair of South Carolina Freedom Caucus, voiced his disappointment in the state’s Republican lawmakers, accusing them of being no different from Liberal Democrats. The Republicans endorsing Smith have been ridiculed by South Carolina Freedom Caucus as “the most liberal Republican Legislature in America”.
Smith is reportedly vying for a traditionally African American-held seat, representing Richland County’s significant Black population. He competes against African American attorney Justin Williams, previously an assistant solicitor for the 5th Judicial Circuit and an insurance defense lawyer.