Pretty much everybody is celebrating the pending departure of Lee Bright from the S.C. Senate – the governor, the state Chamber’s political entity, and liberals everywhere. So many people had so many reasons to want him gone that I hadn’t even noticed how much the conservationists disliked them, as they reminded me last night in claiming credit for his defeat:
Dear Conservation Voter,
We just received the news – VICTORY!
CVSC endorsed candidate, Scott Talley, has defeated anti-conservation Senator Lee Bright with approximately 51.3% of the vote.
That’s right – “Mr. No” is gone. The worst Senator in South Carolina on conservation issues – and one of the worst in the country – has been defeated.
CVSC played a big part in Talley’s victory. We implemented our most ambitious election strategy in our history, knocking on over 21,000 doors, making over 7,500 phone calls, and sending 120,000 pieces of mail for Talley.
Our work paid off – we elected Scott Talley and defeated one of the worst legislators in the country on clean air and clean water issues.
“CVSC has been an unstoppable force in this election. Almost every voter I spoke with had been contacted by CVSC in some way. I cannot thank them enough for helping get us across the finish line. I look forward to working with CVSC to protect the South Carolina we all love,” shared Senator-elect Talley at his victory party.
We had a plan to win and executed it with precision. I could not be prouder of our team and for all of you who supported our efforts. Since April, we have spoken with thousands of voters across the Upstate on the need to elect Scott Talley and were welcomed in almost every conversation we had with voters.
Our proven strategy of face-to-face contact with voters made the difference. We plan to use the skills we honed this election cycle to expand our efforts and incorporate them into our ongoing advocacy work.
This is how we will protect the South Carolina we love.
Please join me in congratulating our field team for a hard-fought race and congratulating Senator-elect Talley on his victory!
John F. Tynan, Political Director
By comparison, the state Chamber, response was understated. They just posted this oh-so-brief statement from Chamber chief Ted Pitts:
“The results are clear, the majority of the people two weeks ago and again tonight wanted new conservative leadership in Columbia. The business community looks forward to working with Senator Scott Talley.”
Which almost sounded like they didn’t have a dog in the fight, but they did.
But whether Bright’s demise should be credited to the Chamber, the CVSC, or the governor dropping a house on him, everyone in Munchkinland is pleased.
Meanwhile — and this was the real news of the night — three other incumbent senators lost their positions Tuesday night. The real shockers were Republicans Larry Martin and Mike Fair, but there was also Democratic Creighton Coleman, with whom I am not as familiar (a quick search shows that I’ve only ever mentioned him once on the blog, and that was only as one name in a list of lawmakers endorsing Vincent Sheheen in his bid for the gubernatorial nomination in 2010.
Fair was phlegmatic about his loss:
“It was a bad night for incumbents, but I don’t know why,” Fair said, before calling Timmons to congratulate him. “I got clobbered. It wasn’t even close. … With the margin of victory that big for Mr. Timmons, I think the constituency here has had enough of me.”
But does “a bad night for incumbents” really describe it? I think he comes closer with the “I don’t know why.”
We should resist the temptation to boil everything down to universal formulas that explain everything. I don’t think last night’s results lend themselves to the kind of simplistic analysis that we’ve seen applied to the Brexit result, trying to tie it all into the same anti-establishment sentiment that has aided Donald Trump and Bernie Sander on this side of the pond.
Think about it — if Tuesday’s results were due to anti-incumbent, anti-establishment impulses, how do we explain the ouster of Bright?
Lee Bright was the kind of candidate the pitchforks-and-torches crowd loves. Note his chosen tagline above: FIGHT THE ESTABLISHMENT. And the forces lined up against him were as Establishment as can be — yet the voters went along with getting rid of him. Seriously, pause and ponder that: Republican primary voters, who these days supposedly immediately rebel against anything the Establishment indicates it wants, meekly went along with the pooh-bahs in District 12 yesterday.
All of this leads up to my own anti-simplistic analysis — voters tend to vote as they do in particular races for reasons specific to those individual contests, which usually have little to do with sweeping movements. I tend to be dismissive of interpretations such as “Voters wanted Republicans to run the Congress,” or “Voters were in an anti-incumbent mood.” Such things can be factors, but usually their effect is exaggerated.
Bottom line, I suspect Mike Fair was ousted for the last explanation he offered: “I think the constituency here has had enough of me.” And since I don’t live in his district and haven’t made a study of it, I can’t begin to tell you why that is. Since Mr. Fair doesn’t know, how could I? Nor can I explain to you with any degree of confidence why Sen. Martin’s voters were tired of him, or recite the completely different reasons Sen. Coleman’s constituents dumped him.
Pundits like to give you those sweeping explanations because it makes them sound like they know more about what’s going on than they do. (This is related to why they try to shoehorn everything into simple dichotomies: left-right, Democrat-Republican, black-white, winner-loser and so forth.)
I’m not going to do that. To cite one of my favorite Twain quotes, “I was born modest; not all over, but in spots….”
But while I can’t blithely give the why, I can give you a simplistic assessment of what was good and bad news for South Carolina: Bright’s departure is wonderful news — if there was a wrong side to an issue, he embraced it. On the whole, losing Martin and Fair is bad for South Carolina — particularly Martin. Nothing against their opponents because I know nothing about them (maybe they’ll turn out great), but on the whole those two guys have been positive problem-solvers in the Senate.
Creighton Coleman? I have no idea. He just never made an impression one way or the other…