The dispute between York County Republicans and County Councilman Paul Lindemann has quickly unraveled into a standoff that could fester through the fall election.
County GOP leaders told The Herald on Wednesday they will issue a formal call for Lindemann's resignation tonight during their monthly meeting.
But Lindemann reiterated his commitment to seek re-election and lashed out at the party for what he called a rush to judgment.
"Our party does not do well with controversy," he said Wednesday. "In facing the fire, they want to step to the side and let the coals burn out. I'm the exact opposite. I will face adversity."
Party moves swiftly
The call to resign comes less than a week after Lindemann was arrested in Columbia and charged with driving under the influence. Two motorcyclists told police that Lindemann's black 2008 Audi A4 nearly ran into them several times on Harden Street.
An officer smelled alcohol coming from Lindemann, 29, who also had slurred speech, according to police reports.
"The best thing for him to do is step aside and deal with the situation at hand," said party activist Joe St. John. "This has nothing to do with him being innocent or guilty. This is about him taking personal time to deal with this issue and the charges that he's facing."
County Republicans cannot remove Lindemann from office or make him withdraw from the Nov. 4 general election. However, when they meet at 7 tonight at Thursday's Too restaurant in Rock Hill, they will vote on a resolution that urges the first-term councilman to resign and get help for his personal issues.
Lindemann, owner of a real estate investment firm called Ocean Blue Properties, said dozens of supporters have sent e-mails urging him to press forward with the campaign. He plans to fight the DUI charge with the help of Columbia criminal defense attorney Joe McCulloch.
In an interview with The Herald, Lindemann acknowledged two previous DUI arrests in 1998 and 2000. But he brushed aside suggestions of an alcohol problem.
"My wife and I will have a glass or two at dinner, whether we're out or at home," he said. "It's a normal thing. In Italy, they drink when they're 5 years old. It's not like it's a problem. I don't know where the party comes up with accusations like that."
Lindemann said he hopes to attend tonight's meeting if he can return in time from an afternoon business appointment in Spartanburg. However, he was unsure if he wants to speak.
Fellow council member Joe Cox of Sharon, a Republican, joined the call for Lindemann to step down, saying that elected officials "are held to a higher standard."
Party has no legal authority
Unless Lindemann changes his mind, the party's options appear limited.
South Carolina law allows a party to name a substitute candidate only if the candidate on the ballot first agrees to drop out. Candidates can withdraw for health reasons, family emergencies or business conflicts. A request must be approved by the county election commission, which determines whether it meets legitimate, non-political reasons.
A substitute can be named as long as the candidate's withdrawal comes more than two weeks before voting day, according to state law. Lindemann faces Democrat Marion Davenport and Green Party candidate Bryan Smith on Nov. 4.
Gary Baum, a spokesman for the state Election Commission, could not recall any candidates listing DUI charges as a reason for dropping out.