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State Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, defends his record in a press conference. Rankin faces John Gallman in Tuesday’s runoff for the District 33 seat. The press conference was held at the Island Vista Resort in Myrtle Beach on Friday. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

A Friday packed with politics started with friends of John Gallman’s ex-wife speaking out against him, segued into a news conference filled with local leaders endorsing incumbent Luke Rankin, and finished with Gallman releasing a statement blasting his opponent in the District 33 S.C. Senate race.

Gallman and Rankin will be on the ballot in Tuesday's runoff after neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote during the June 9 primary. No Democrat has filed to run, so Tuesday’s winner is a lock to be the next senator for District 33.

At 10 a.m., three friends of Gallman’s ex-wife Sarah Price spoke at a news conference called by state Rep. Alan Clemmons, R-Myrtle Beach.

Standing in front of the Coastal Law Group building on Oak Street, they discussed the allegations contained in public records that myhorrynews.com reported on Tuesday.

Court documents from Gallman’s divorce and custody battle contain multiple allegations of physical and emotional abuse from his ex-wife and daughter, as well as accusations that he is controlling and easily angered. The allegations are noted in affidavits, a guardian ad litem report, forensic interview notes and police reports.

“I am here today because I am furious about John Gallman running for the District 33 Senate seat,” said Kira Payne, a former neighbor who said in a guardian ad litem report that she was afraid of Gallman’s temper.

“Any candidate that has a history of domestic violence, bullying and erratic behavior has no place in any political position anywhere,” Payne said. “A man like John Gallman is not fit for this office. Electing John Gallman tells battered women and traumatized children around the state, ‘Your suffering doesn’t matter. Your lives and safety don’t matter. And your voice doesn’t matter.’”

Gallman has denied allegations that he’s an abuser and has a quick temper. 

Tiffany Dineen, who said she worked with St. Andrew Catholic School nurse Jenna Cunningham and has known the Gallman family for years, said parents were banned from coming to school to have lunch with their kids after Gallman began visiting the school.

“The children were visibly uncomfortable," she said. "And he would videotape children and teachers.” 

Gallman sued Cunningham for defamation over her statements in a guardian ad litem report. 

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More than a dozen women gathered at Coastal Law Firm in Myrtle Beach to speak out against domestic violence and John Gallman on Friday. Gallman has faced domestic abuse allegations when divorcing his wife as well as allegations of domestic violence involving his children. Gallman will face state Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, in Tuesday’s runoff for the District 33 seat.Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Dineen said Gallman has a tendency to blame others for his problems. She said she believes he wants the Senate seat in order to “bully and intimidate more people,” including family court judges, attorneys, school nurses and others.

“John Gallman is the most manipulative and vindictive person I know,” Dineen said, “which is why it is scary for me to speak out, but also why I felt compelled to do so. I will not stay silent any longer about violence or other threats to humanity and justice. It would be disastrous for our community to have this abusive man represent us in the state Senate.” 

Price’s friend and co-worker Amanda Loehr said she had personally witnessed Gallman’s “intimidation” of his ex-wife. 

“Children who have witnessed spousal abuse are also victims of abuse,” she said. “What is a little child supposed to think when they witness these actions from a man who is supposed to teach them how a husband should act?” 

Loehr also questioned Gallman’s decision to take his daughter to the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston for an exam and interview while he alleged, without evidence, that she was being abused. His daughter did not report abuse from her mother and stepfather, but later reported physical and emotional abuse by Gallman in another interview, according to court records.

“Once everything was presented in court, John was deemed unfit to have rights to his children,” Loehr said. “He has had all visitation revoked, related to his aggressive and reckless behavior toward his children and their mother. Is this the kind of man we want to represent us?” 

In October of 2019, a judge gave sole custody of Gallman's children to his ex-wife, criticizing him for the abuse allegations and his behavior toward some of the witnesses in the case. The judge ordered him to have no contact with the former couple's children. 

The event Friday morning was attended by TV station WBTW, The Sun News and Waccamaw Publishers, which owns myhorrynews.com and the Myrtle Beach Herald. 

Payne asked why there wasn’t more coverage. 

“People cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this serious matter,” she said. “Two great newspapers, The Sun News and the Herald, did their jobs took a bold stand by reporting the truth on Tuesday. But we are standing here on Friday and not many news stations have showed up to televise this.” 

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Kira Payne, a former neighbor of John Gallman, speaks as more than a dozen women gather at Coastal Law Firm in Myrtle Beach to speak out against domestic violence and Gallman on Friday. Gallman has faced domestic abuse allegations when divorcing his wife as well as allegations of domestic violence involving his children. Gallman will face state Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, in Tuesday’s runoff for the District 33 seat. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Two hours later, Rankin and his family were flanked by some of the biggest names in local politics for a news conference on the third floor of the Island Vista Resort. 

One by one, Clemmons, Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, state Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Georgetown, and state Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, R-Socastee, among others, stepped up to the microphone to offer endorsements of Rankin’s candidacy. 

Clemmons praised Rankin’s support for South Carolina’s voter ID law. Goldfinch touted Rankin’s support for the Second Amendment and gun rights. Blain-Bellamy, who appeared via webcam due to her battle with COVID-19, commended Rankin’s character. 

“I am the survivor of domestic violence,” Bethune said. “As a woman, as a mother, as a grandmother, as someone who is looked at as a leader in this community, I cannot support and will not support anyone who can beat their wife, and who cannot even have a relationship with their children because of their character. Luke Rankin is a man of character, and for that reason and for his record and the friend that he has been to me, he has my support and he has my vote.” 

Rankin complained of all the money spent in the race on radio and television ads which he said were misrepresenting his record, and called for Gallman to release his psychological evaluation.

“Yesterday I sent a letter to John Gallman demanding that he produce his court-ordered mental evaluation,” Rankin said. “As of this press conference, Mr. Gallman has not responded and has refused.” 

In an interview with myhorrynews.com prior to Tuesday’s story, Gallman said he was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation during his divorce proceedings.

“Mine came back fine," he said. "They were completed in December of 2016.”

Gallman did not commit to releasing the records in response to a query from myhorrynews.com, but his campaign provided a statement in response to Rankin’s news conference. 

“Luke Rankin will do anything in his power to distract voters from his terrible voting record,” Gallman said. “Luke Rankin should explain to the people of Horry County why he is so offended by his own terrible voting record, instead of hosting an entire press conference with my ex-wife’s father.”

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State Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, introduces his family in a press conference. Rankin faces John Gallman in Tuesday’s runoff for the District 33 seat. The press conference was held at the Island Vista Resort in Myrtle Beach on Friday. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Gallman continued, “Mr. Rankin is becoming increasingly unstable in his allegations as we draw closer to the 23rd run-off date, as he is realizing the people of Horry County are ready to term-limit his career in politics. Unlike Rankin, I will continue to fight for justice. For justice for the unborn, justice for ratepayers and the employees of Santee Cooper, and justice for the gun owners of South Carolina."

Rankin's divorce records are sealed, but he retained custody of his children. Rankin pointed out that his voting record is open for anyone to see.

“My real record is in black and white, published on the South Carolina Senate website for God and country to see,” Rankin said. “My opponent’s record comes in the form of police reports and court documents surrounding domestic violence.” 

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State Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, looks at some notes before a press conference defending his record. Rankin faces John Gallman in Tuesday’s runoff for the District 33 seat. The press conference was held at the Island Vista Resort in Myrtle Beach on Friday. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

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(3) comments

StarfishEnterprise

Do we just simply ignore the comments presented by women who were brave enough to come forward about spousal abuse or do we choose to ignore them because it doesn't fit a certain narrative?

reader

Wow what a shocking hit piece disguised as news. Is this really all about protecting the $ Rankin has brought to the chamber via the TDF tourism tax that pays for ads to benefit private industry. How is he going to vote to spend state COVID money on even more ads? Where is the money actually going? I was told case goes to Cola in suitcases. This can't be true. Are there going to be more $1,000 campaign donations made when this is all said and done? It is a sad day for our state. Doesn't the chamber pay for a FULL INSERT in your paper every WEEK. Let's not lose that ad $.

thom01801

If I heard this from any other sources other than the press I might feel differently bu I am sticking with Gallman. And as for the mayors Conways Mayor is a liar! and Myrtle Beach Mayor is a useless do nothing mayor

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