Greenville engineer Brett Brocato is mounting a write-in campaign for S.C. House of Representatives District 22 in order to prevent Republican Jason Elliott from becoming the first openly gay legislator in South Carolina.
A campaign flyer posted to Brocato's Facebook page says that Elliott is "uniquely unqualified to defend the family" because he is gay and because he is a divorce attorney. Brocato said he was approached by a group of conservative Christian district residents who urged him to run "so people with conservative sexual values would have an alternative"
Elliott won the Republican primary in June, defeating incumbent Rep. Wendy Nanney, primarily focusing on Nanney's absence record in the State House and fiscal issues like infrastructure and roads repair. Elliott did not make social issues, including issues of the LGBT community, a focal point of his campaign. District 22 includes Wade Hampton Boulevard, parts of the Eastside and ultra-conservative Bob Jones University. Many of Elliott's stances on issues, including abortion and gun rights, align with the conservatism of that constituency.
Brocato said that he had heard from multiple people in district 22 that they had not known Elliott was gay, and that some in the district would prefer their state representative not be gay. Brocato, a married father of three with another child due in January, is running to be that alternative, he said.
Brocato had previously thought of running for the State House, but "maybe five years in the future." That timeline was pushed up earlier this month when he was approached to launch a write-in campaign. His platform is not solely concerned with sexuality and "family values;" he is also deeply concerned about the state taking on debt to fund road and infrastructure improvements, and is opposed to raising the gas tax.
No Democrat or third-party candidate has filed to run in that district. Until Brocato's write-in announcement this month, it appeared Elliott would sail to victory without any opposition. Elliott had $2,737.45 cash on hand in campaign funds as of August 19 and had raised more than $61,000 for his run at that point, according to filings to the S.C. Ethics Commission. Brocato has no records publicly available on the commission's website, but is required to file a report within 10 days of raising or spending his first $500.
Reached Monday morning, Nanney said she did not know much about Brocato's write-in campaign but intended to "stay out of it," declining to give support to either candidate. Neither Brocato nor Elliott immediately returned requests for comment.