With next year’s race for governor beginning to take shape in recent days, I got to thinking back to the moment when Henry McMaster lost me.
Speaker Jay Lucas and the rest of the GOP leadership in the House, eventually joined by the GOP-led Senate, had shown courage in stepping up to pass a bill that reformed our Highway department and, for the first time in 30 years, raised the tax on gasoline in order to pay for road repairs.
Lawmakers had hoped, after two governors in a row who were more about anti-government posturing than governing, that they would have a pragmatic partner in McMaster, someone who was serious about South Carolina’s needs and how to address them.
They were wrong. And they were bitterly disappointed.
I remembered reading at the time that that disappointment was eloquently expressed in a floor speech by an unlikely spokesman — my own rookie representative, Republican Micah Caskey. I missed his speech at the time. But I went back and watched it this week. Here it is. If you watch it, you can see why one observer responded this way, according to a reporter with The State:
Overheard on the House floor after @MicahCaskey‘s speech: “Damn!”
— Avery Wilks (@AveryGWilks) May 10, 2017
Freshmen just don’t say things like this to their own party’s governor. But Micah did.
The relevant part of the speech — after Micah pays his respects to his new colleagues and notes this is his first time to take the podium — starts at 5:50.
His one prop, and the object of his scorn, was a copy of McMaster’s veto message, delivered the night before. Some excerpts:
“What this is,” he says of the letter, “is not leadership.”
“Its intellectual dishonesty is only outweighed by its intellectual bankruptcy.”
“The governor surely had an opportunity to lead on this issue. He knew there was a problem. He could have done it…. He didn’t do it.”
“He chose to remain silent. He chose not to act. He chose not to lead.”
“Had he put forth an idea, we could have gone from there…”
“I don’t like raising taxes… I didn’t want to have to vote ‘yes’ for this bill… but I did, because that’s what leadership requires: Admitting reality and stepping forward and addressing it.”
“What it is not is cowering below, hiding behind political pablum, waiting on somebody else to fix it because you were worried about your own career.”
Waving the letter aloft, he said “Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a serious message. This is not a serious proposal. This is not a serious alternative to what it is that ails South Carolina today. It is not. It is not.”
“What this is… this… is politics. South Carolina doesn’t need more politics. South Carolina needs serious answers to serious problems.”
Of the alternative the governor suggested, Caskey said: “We’re gonna bond out road paving over 20 years for something that’ll depreciate in 10. That’s his idea.”
“That’s not a serious answer.”
“What I am saying in my vote to override the veto is that this (holds up the letter), this is not good enough. We need more leadership.”
He tells his colleagues that however they vote, “I know you’ve been engaged. You led.” Unlike the governor.
He concluded by saying that a vote to override would say, “We deserve better. We deserve leadership. And you can take this message…”
(He crumples it and tosses it aside.)
… and keep it.”
After Micah’s speech, the House voted 95-18 to override the veto. The Senate followed suit, 32-12.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m proud to have Mr. Caskey as my representative. This video helps illustrate why.
Rep. Micah Caskey throwing away the governor’s letter at the end of his speech.