The lead story in the latest print version of Columbia Regional Business Report was about the S.C. Chamber of Commerce’s historic decision to endorse a candidate in the governor’s race — specifically, Vincent Sheheen. I can’t link you to the full piece because for some reason it’s not online. But Mike Fitts shot me a copy of his piece to save me all that nasty typing as I give you this excerpt:
Chamber weighs in on governor’s race
Executive summary: Frustration with Gov. Mark Sanford has helped prod the S.C. Chamber of Commerce to give its first gubernatorial endorsement, to Vincent Sheheen.
By Mike Fitts
There was one overriding factor that prompted the S.C. Chamber of Commerce to make an endorsement for the governor’s race for the first time: the gridlock around the current occupant.
A large majority of the members of the chamber’s board, which is made up of more than 50 business executives from across the state, thought that it was time for the chamber to do its first endorsement in a statewide race. The view that Gov. Mark Sanford had failed to get things done for eight years was a major driver in that decision, said chamber CEO Otis Rawl. The business community “didn’t make much headway” with the governor’s office during his term, he said.
“Our board didn’t want that to happen again,” Rawl said…
Here are some things that interested me about the piece:
- The fact that it was for the first time. That hadn’t fully registered on me. It seems to me a reflection of business leaders’ realization that sitting on the sidelines has led to stagnation in South Carolina’s political leadership. Rather than let another do-nothing governor get elected on the base of ideological slogans, they wanted to act to get some real leadership.
- Although I’d read it before, I was struck again by the vapid immaturity of the Haley campaign’s response: Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey had said to the AP: “The state chamber is a big fan of bailouts and corporate welfare, so it’s no surprise that they would prefer a liberal like Vincent Sheheen over a conservative like Nikki Haley.” I wonder if Nikki opened her secret meetings with business people with those words. If she truly believed in transparency, if she really wanted to let those people know what her campaign stood for, she would have. A response like this confirms that the Chamber chose wisely.
- A factor in the Chamber’s decision was that Sheheen, rather than resorting to ideological slogans, had more specifics about what he’d do to build our state’s economy: “Sheheen offered better answers on keeping the state’s ports successful, building up the state’s infrastructure and improving the state’s workforce, which is vital to keeping such employers and Boeing and BMW happy, Rawl said.”
- Sheheen also made the case — and this should truly be the measure of this campaign — that unlike Haley, who has built her brief career on fighting against the Legislature, he could actually get his plans acted upon: “It’s OK to rail against the good ol’ boy system, Rawl said, but a governor has to be able to get legislation thru the General Assembly.”
- Then there’s the execrable Act 388, which distorted our whole tax system — putting an excessive burden on businesses and renters, and shifting the load for supporting public schools onto the volatile, exemption-ridden sales tax — for the sake of the subset of homeowners who lived in high-growth areas. Vincent did what he could to stop it; Nikki voted for it.
- The vote of confidence by the Chamber’s board was huge and dramatic. They didn’t even wait for the GOP runoff to be over before 75 percent of them voted to support Sheheen in the fall. As for the broader membership, there has been “scattered pushback” from some individual members, but nothing to make the Chamber leadership (which has not been given to taking such risks) sweat. Which is truly remarkable with such a broad, conservative membership as the Chamber’s.
Finally, the thing that got the Chamber to take this unprecedented step was the fact that this election is so pivotal, a fact that I started writing about before I left the paper (which is normally LONG before I would focus on something like this). South Carolina simply cannot continue to drift while our elected leaders play ideological footsie (when you go to that link, scroll down to “Sanford on Fox 46 times”) with national media. We have to get serious. That’s a conclusion that the Chamber has reached as well.