AP NEWS

Democratic Superintendent candidate has felony conviction

October 16, 2018

ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) — The Democratic candidate for Education Superintendent in South Carolina, Israel Romero, has a felony conviction that may mean he is ineligible to be elected.

Romero was found guilty of practicing law without a license in Greenville County in 2009 and was sentenced to five years in prison, which was suspended when he served 90 days in jail and one year of probation, according to online court records.

The arrest warrant said Romero represented himself as an attorney in a federal immigration case, according to the Anderson Independent-Mail , which obtained the document.

The newspaper reported Tuesday that at least one of five academic degrees Romero said he has cannot be substantiated.

Romero didn’t respond to messages from the newspaper or The Associated Press. His lawyer in the felony case would not comment about the case to the AP.

State law prohibits candidates from running within 15 years of a felony conviction and said that political parties must not certify to run any candidate who does not meet the requirements for an office.

The Democratic Party does not run background checks. It instead has candidates sign a statement of intent saying they are qualified, which Romero signed, said Trav Robertson, chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

Political parties also have received conflicting court opinions about certifying candidates, with Republicans once sued for certifying a candidate whose eligibility was in question and Democrats sued for refusing to certify a candidate with questionable qualifications, Robertson said.

Romero did not face any opposition in the June primary for the Democratic nomination. He has said in campaign materials he is a retired teacher originally from Honduras.

Romero is facing Republican Education Superintendent Molly Spearman, who is seeking a second term.

The Anderson newspaper also reports that Romero lists five academic degrees including a juris doctor from La Salle University in Pennsylvania. The university’s registrar’s office said it has never offered that degree.

The newspaper asked about his education before finding out about his felony conviction, and Romero said voters are more concerned about his position on issues than any of his degrees

“Real people ask about real situations and real issues, and they have been asking me a lot, and as far as I know, they are satisfied with my answers,” Romero said.

Romero’s felony conviction isn’t changing Robertson’s vote for the Democrat.

“He seems like a very humble and very unique individual who wants to do right by the people of South Carolina,” the state Democratic Party chairman said.

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick said the failure of Democrats to investigate their candidates shows a lack of respect for the state’s voters.

“I’m not sure what it takes to pass the test to be a Democrat nominee, but apparently it’s a low bar,” McKissick said in a statement.

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Information from: Anderson Independent-Mail, http://www.andersonsc.com