An openly gay Republican in South Carolina’s state House is facing a challenging primary next week, facing accusations from challengers that he “misled” voters.
State House Rep. Jason Elliott was first elected in 2016, with news of his sexual orientation becoming public only after he won the primary in his conservative Greenville district — home to the hostile, anti-LGBTQ Bob Jones University, no less.
Elliott says he assumed people knew he is gay, and that he’d never taken any steps to hide it from his friends and colleagues.
But that’s not how Elliott’s two primary challengers see it, both having accused the state lawmaker of misleading the voters in his district. Elliott faces his challengers in a primary election next week, on June 12.
Challenger Brett Brocato ran against Elliott in 2016. In the past, he’s accused the lawmaker of misleading voters, but has backed away from those assertions lately.
Challenger Samuel Harms, an attorney and a past chair of the Greenville County Republican Party, is making Elliott’s sexual orientation his top issue. Literally. In response to a Greenville News questionnaire asking for his top priority in the election, Harms wrote, “In the last election, why did Jason Elliott publicly announce that he is proud to be a homosexual right after the polls closed?”
Harms hasn’t elaborated much on his position, responding briefly to requests for comment saying, “I think Jason Elliott misled the district voters.”
And it seems the only issue Harms has with Elliott is his sexual orientation. Asked by The Greenville News how he would have voted differently on any issue, Harms responded simply, “I do not support gay marriage.”
Despite the negative attention, incumbent Elliott says his sexual orientation isn’t an issue for his service and leadership.
“I get that being the first to accomplish something generates attention,” Elliott told The Greenville News, “but my orientation has zero impact on my ability to fight for and deliver conservative results for Greenville. Frankly, my orientation never comes up in Columbia within the Statehouse. It rarely comes up anywhere, and when it does, it is most often and almost exclusively an issue for my political opponents.”