S.C. Democrats Uphold Greene's Primary Win

South Carolina Democratic Party officials have upheld a surprising U.S. Senate primary win by an unemployed military veteran, nixing a protest lodged by their favored candidate that could have required a new vote. Political unknown Alvin Green will continue to be the party's nominee.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Can't get enough of this story. The story of Alvin Greene, the mystery candidate in South Carolina who unexpectedly won last week's Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. The losing candidate filed a protest with the state Democratic Party to have the election thrown out, as we heard yesterday. Last night, the party's executive committee held a lengthy hearing on this subject. NPR's Don Gonyea reports from Columbia, South Carolina.

DON GONYEA: The meeting took place in a large nondescript hall on the outskirts of Columbia. More than 60 members of the executive committee filed in. Spectators grabbed chairs in the back of the room. State Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler opened things up with the question on everyone's mind.

State Senator CAROL FOWLER (Democrat, South Carolina): First, I want to ask if Mr. Greene is in the room - Mr. Alvin Greene or his attorney.

GONYEA: He was not there. Alvin Greene, the unemployed unknown who racked up an easy victory in last week's vote, despite having run no campaign, who raised no money, and who left people wondering why he'd spend the required fee of $10,400 to get his name on the ballot.

Greene's story has, in 10 short days, become a political oddity of legendary status. For his opponent, though, Vic Rawl, it's evidence of a deeply flawed election. Truett Nettles represented Rawl at the hearing.

Mr. TRUETT NETTLES (Attorney): We're going to present evidence today, that the votes cast and the tally produced by the electronic voting machines is not valid, it is not true, and it does not reflect the wishes of a majority of the voters.

GONYEA: Nettles dismissed pundits claims that Greene won because Rawl hadn't worked hard or that Greene had an advantage because his name appeared first on the ballot. And Rawl's campaign manager Walter Ludwig answered the claim that African-Americans voted for Greene in disproportionate numbers because he's black.

Mr. WALTER LUDWIG (Campaign manger, Vic Rawl): How would voters know Mr. Greene was black? He made no campaign appearances. He attended no Democratic events. His picture appeared only in a couple of newspaper stories in the entire state and on the South Carolina Democrat Party website.

GONYEA: No one yesterday raised the charge that was made last week - that Alvin Greene was actually put on the ballot as part of a GOP plot. The core of Rawl's case, yesterday, hinged on a faulty vote count. Witnesses included two experts in statistics and computers to make the case that the kind of touch screen voting machines the state uses are fraught with problems.

Perhaps there was out and out fraud, perhaps poor maintenance or maybe a glitch in the software. Still, it was mostly a theory. Rawl's team hadn't been allowed to inspect the machines, so there was no hard evidence of specific problems. During a break in the hearing, party member Audrey Snead reflected on all she'd heard.

Ms. AUDREY SNEAD: Now, if you could prove to me that it was fraudulent. But we don't know that the result is wrong. See that's what I'm saying. I don't know that. I don't think he really should be the senator, but I don't know what to do about it.

GONYEA: After a brief closed session, a motion to reject candidate Rawl's protest was immediately put forth. And while many said they sympathized with Rawl, there was concern that throwing out last week's vote could set off a lengthy legal battle. Here's how committee member David Vanderberg(ph) put it.

Mr. DAVID VANDERBERG: This thing is like a dog chewing on its own tail. It could just keep going in circles for a long time. And we don't have the time for that.

GONYEA: A vote was taken. It wasn't close. Meaning the still mysterious Alvin Greene stays on the ballot.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Columbia, South Carolina.

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