South Carolina Republicans are drawing fire from the South Carolina Freedom Caucus for pushing a pro-abortion former Democratic House leader as the state’s next circuit court judge for the 5th Judicial Circuit.

James Smith, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and the former Democratic leader of South Carolina’s House of Representatives, is described by one Planned Parenthood affiliate as a “vocal supporter and advocate for Planned Parenthood.” The former lawmaker was endorsed by Planned Parenthood Votes! South Atlantic (PPVSAT) in May 2018 when he ran for governor of South Carolina.

The pro-life group, Citizens for Life, has said that it will score against the legislators who vote for Smith.

Smith was also a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump’s tariffs and voiced his support for Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In South Carolina, members of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Circuit Court are elected by a joint public vote of the General Assembly. reports that “Smith has earned the support of a majority of ‘Republican’ lawmakers in his bid for a S.C. circuit court judgeship.”

The Daily Signal reached out to multiple Republican members of the South Carolina Legislature who did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

According to The State, the seat that Smith is seeking has historically been held by a black judge, “representing Richland County’s large Black population.” Smith is challenging African American attorney Justin Williams, a former assistant solicitor for the 5th Judicial Circuit and an insurance defense lawyer.

Members of the South Carolina Freedom Caucus, which is opposing Smith’s appointment, tore into the former Democratic House leader in statements to The Daily Signal.

“This judicial race highlights exactly why South Carolina desperately needs both a reformed judicial system and more reform-minded, true conservatives in the South Carolina General Assembly,” said South Carolina State Freedom Caucus Network Director Evan Newman.

“The fact that a pro-Planned Parenthood, former Bernie Sanders-supported Democrat candidate for governor is the chosen candidate by the Republican establishment is laughable and should serve as a warning to all ‘red’ states that just because someone has an ‘R’ by their name, doesn’t mean they are actually representing your values,” he added.

The SCFC’s vice chair, state Rep. RJ May of Lexington, described Smith as a “Planned Parenthood-endorsed, Trump-hating, Biden-loving liberal.”

“No wonder the South Carolina General Assembly is consistently ranked the most liberal Republican Legislature in all of America,” he added. “It’s time for judicial reform, it’s time to clean house.”

State Rep. Adam Morgan of Greenville, the SCFC chair, also slammed the Republicans in the South Carolina Legislature.

“The same ‘Republicans’ currently pushing James Smith’s appointment to the bench are also the same ‘Republicans’ who reappointed a liberal justice who struck down the Heartbeat bill,” he said, referring to former South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn, who struck down the state’s law protecting babies with a heartbeat.

He added: “This is just the latest damning evidence that the Republican establishment in SC is no different than the Liberal Democrats.” 

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