Columbia, South Carolina (CNN) – Democratic Party officials in South Carolina voted Thursday to uphold the result of their controversial Senate primary even though the winner was Alvin Greene, an unemployed political novice who stands almost no chance of defeating Republican Sen. Jim DeMint in November.
Meeting in Columbia, members of the state Democratic Party executive committee voted by a 38-7 margin to reject a protest from former state lawmaker Vic Rawl, the establishment-backed candidate who unexpectedly lost last Tuesday's primary to Greene.
"They did the right thing," Greene said in a brief phone interview. "I am the best candidate for the United States Senate in the state of South Carolina."
Greene did not attend Thursday's hearing, despite entreaties from state party chairwoman Carol Fowler. Last week, Fowler publicly called on Greene to step aside after media reports brought a felony obscenity charge to light. Greene at the time told CNN he would not heed the request.
In arguments Thursday, Rawl's team called the election results suspicious and asked for a new primary vote, citing irregular voting patterns and potentially faulty voting machines.
"I believe this election mis-fired," said Walter Ludwig, Rawl's campaign manager.
Greene, who lives with his ailing father in Manning, captured the Democratic nomination by a nearly 20-point margin despite having no political experience or campaign apparatus.
Though he has no job, the 32-year-old Greene was able to pay the $10,440 required to get on the primary ballot, a circumstance that has some Democrats alleging Republican mischief.
Democratic officials heard testimony Thursday from a team of Rawl advisers, including an expert on voting machine problems, a computer forensics specialist and Rawl's campaign manager. Rawl's campaign also presented several voters who said they tried to vote for Rawl but saw the machines record votes for Greene.
The forensics expert hired by Rawl said it was possible the voting machines were tampered with and theorized that a hacker could have uploaded a "malicious code" into the machines to alter the results. But Rawl's team had no evidence that any machines were meddled with.
Ludwig, Rawl's campaign manager, rejected the theory that Greene picked up votes because he has an African-American sounding name in a state where the majority of Democratic primary voters are black.
South Carolinians with the last name "Greene" are more likely to be white, Ludwig argued, while people named "Green" are more likely to be black. He said that since Greene did almost no campaigning, few voters would have been aware of his race.
Ludwig said the Rawl campaign did not take Greene's candidacy for granted. "I was prepared to track his every move, but he made none," he explained.
He said the Rawl campaign is not alleging voter fraud.
Thursday's decision leaves few good options for Democrats, eager to extract themselves from the media circus surrounding Greene's candidacy. Greene will officially be certified as the nominee on Aug. 16, when the state party sends its list of candidates to the state election commission.
The best scenario, party officials say, would be for Greene to simply drop out of the race and spare Democrats further headaches, but Greene has not signaled any intention of quitting.
The executive committee could also re-convene again before August and refuse to certify Greene as their Senate nominee, a scenario one party official described to CNN as "the nuclear option."
Keeping a winning candidate off the November election ballot – particularly an African-American one – is an unpleasant prospect for Democrats.
But if Greene stumbles into further controversy - if the pending felony charges against him are pursued, for instance, or if it comes to light that someone other than himself paid his filing fee - Democrats would have cover to reject him.
Poor whiny baby Vic Rawl. Like a typical Democrat, when he couldn't win he instinctively moved to disenfranchise the voters. Please call AlGore, John Kerry and Al Franken for tips on how to get an election thrown; they all have great experience in this area...