Category Archives: Democrats

Sheheen asks Moniz to spare us the nuclear waste, thanks

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This came in earlier today from Vincent Sheheen. Make of it what you will:

Sheheen to DOE Secretary: SC Is Not A Nuclear Waste Dumping Ground
Camden, SC – Today Vincent Sheheen urged Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to join him in preventing South Carolina from becoming a dumping ground for international nuclear waste, as the Secretary toured the Savannah River Site and visited the Aiken area.
The text of Sen. Sheheen’s letter to Secretary Moniz is pasted below.  View a PDF of the signed letter at: http://vincentsheheen.com/?p=594
July 28, 2014
The Honorable Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy
US Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave. SW
Washington DC 20585
Dear Secretary Moniz,
As you will no doubt see on your visit today, South Carolina is a beautiful state, blessed with tremendous natural resources and hardworking people. We are also proud to have the Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, which provides jobs in the community and does important work for our country.  But South Carolina is not a nuclear waste dumping ground.
I write today to ask you to join us in preventing German radioactive waste from being dumped in our state. We’ve been down this road before, and South Carolina won’t be fooled by promises again.
The federal government’s proposal to ship nearly 1 million highly radioactive graphite spheres from Germany to Charleston and then transport it to the Savannah River Site is deeply troubling. The proposal is unprecedented in its scope and size – and for the sake of the local families and businesses, for the sake of our state, the proposal should not move forward.
This German commercial nuclear waste was created by experimental reactors in Germany. The clean-up or storage of the radioactive by-product should be the responsibility of the German government. It’s not right for Germany or for the US federal government to throw this responsibility off to the people of South Carolina.
We know that once these highly radioactive graphite spheres are at the SRS they are going to stay here, likely forever. There is currently no disposal system at SRS – or anywhere in the United State for that matter – to handle the reprocessing of this waste. So, once it’s here, it will sit here. And sit here. And sit here.
Until we have made headway in dealing with the 37 million gallons of waste that we currently have at the SRS, we should not take on this burden from other countries. Our focus must remain on cleaning up the tanks at SRS remaining from its time producing plutonium.
These are tough issues that affect the people from Aiken to Charleston and around our state. Governor Haley refuses to speak out on this issue, but that does not mean South Carolinians support this proposal.
South Carolina is not a nuclear waste dump.  Please help us keep it that way.
Sincerely,
Sen. Vincent Sheheen
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Sheheen’s plan for roads (first, no gas tax increase, which is a BAD thing…)

Vincent Sheheen has presented his plan for fixing roads in South Carolina, and right off the bat, he loses me by saying he wouldn’t do the most obvious thing that needs to be done — increase the gas tax in order to pay for it all.

Here’s his release:

Sheheen Releases Plan to Rebuild Roads & Bridges
Gubernatorial candidate lays out plan to responsibly invest in infrastructure and restore safety after years of neglect
Camden, SC. – Today, Sen. Vincent Sheheen released his plan of action to rebuild roads and bridges in South Carolina. The plan lays out a responsible course of action to improve safety and efficiency of the state’s infrastructure immediately and for the long term.
Sen. Sheheen’s plan centers around four key components that will increase accountability and lead the state to responsibly invest in infrastructure without having to raise the gas tax: adopt a Fix it First approach to focus on repairing roads before building new ones; reorganize the Department of Transportation to save money, improve accountability, and be more efficient in choosing what gets repaired; issue bonds for an immediate one-time infusion of money to get investments started and create jobs; each year, automatically dedicate five percent of the General Fund and surplus revenue to rebuilding our roads.
This plan of action comes after three years of total neglect to South Carolina’s roads and bridges by Nikki Haley that have left only 15 percent of South Carolina’s roads listed as “in good condition,” left thousands of bridges so unsafe that they are classified as “functionally obsolete,” and made the state’s rural roads the most dangerous in the country according to a new study. The Governor has refused to release a plan on roads until after November’s election.
View Sen. Sheheen’s plan to rebuild roads and bridges, as well as his other ideas for how to improve leadership and accountability in South Carolina, at www.vincentsheheen.com. His book, “The Right Way: Getting the Palmetto State Back on Track” includes an entire chapter on improving transportation infrastructure and is free and also available online, here.
Honest Leadership & Real Accountability to Rebuild SC Road & Bridges
Under Nikki Haley’s administration, South Carolina’s roads, bridges, rail lines, and waterways are in desperate need of repair after years of neglect.
South Carolina had the fifth highest rate of traffic fatalities in the country, according to the US Census. Our rural roads are the deadliest rural roads in the nation, according to a new report released this month. In fact, only 15 percent of our roads are classified as “in good condition” with thousands of our bridges so unsafe that they are classified as “functionally obsolete.”
South Carolina’s families, businesses and taxpayers in general deserve so much better from their government. South Carolina needs honest leadership and real accountability to responsibly fix the roads and bridges – we need a Governor who will make infrastructure a priority.
As a small business owner, and an attorney who has helped families and small businesses grow and succeed, Vincent understands that economic activity depends on a good and viable transportation system. Having reliable roads and bridges is vital to growing the economy from within and attracting companies from out of state. Similarly, as the father of three boys and a native South Carolinian, Vincent knows how imperative it is for families to have safe roads and bridges. Taxpaying citizens should not have to fear for their safety while driving down a road in their town or across a bridge in their community.  And we shouldn’t be embarrassed when visitors come to our state by our dreadful highways.
Adopt a “Fix It First” Approach
South Carolina has the nation’s fourth largest state-maintained transportation network. Additions place an increased burden on an already overburdened maintenance program. If we can’t afford to maintain roads we already have, how can we afford to build new ones? It’s time for honest leadership and a common-sense approach where we fix our roads first.
Vincent’s plan of action
  • Issue an executive order to require the Department of Transportation to adopt the Fix it First rule he has promoted in the Senate.
  • Appoint a Transportation Director to be accountable and use the limited resources to secure the safety of the existing roads.
  • Set benchmarks on Fix-It-First projects to tackle our most crumbling roads first. Hold the DOT accountable to those benchmarks and provide monthly updates on projects to improve transparency.
Transform how we pay to maintain our roads & bridges. 
Currently South Carolina is heavily reliant on the gas tax, which generates about $500 million per year and accounts for 71 percent of all state highway funding. But the gas tax is a declining source of revenue as cars become more fuel efficient. Increasing the gas tax is not going to solve our transportation funding crisis. To succeed, the state must diversify funding and weave together sources to responsibly invest over the long-term.  Because of historic underinvestment in our roads we need to create an additional dedicated funding source and issue bonds to jumpstart needed investments.
Vincent’s plan of action:
  • Issue bonds to fund long-term investment.
    • The use of infrastructure is enjoyed by generations of our citizens. Just like a family takes out a responsible mortgage to buy a house for their long-term success, bonding is a responsible way to invest over multiple years in the future that will help families and businesses alike. The use of bonds would allow the state to inject a tremendous one-time infusion of funds needed to bring our roads up to standards while using other sources of revenue to maintain their integrity.
  • Dedicate five percent of General Fund revenue for roads.
    • As a state, we must decide that road funding is such a priority to deserve a portion of general tax revenue — especially surplus revenue. As governor, Vincent would put forth a budget to phase in the automatic dedication of five percent of the General Fund and surplus revenue to Department of Transportation to repair our roads and bridges.
  • Investigate other sources of revenue.
    • Honest leadership means bringing people together and considering many new ideas while building a bipartisan coalition to move forward and deliver results. As Governor, Vincent will explore potential revenue sources to pay for the repair of roads and bridges, including:
      • Lease rest areas to private businesses to establish gas and food sales at rest stops and generate new revenue.
      • Investigate an out-of-state truck tax to gather funds from those out-of-state who use our roads but don’t pay anything to maintain them. This will generate funds and make South Carolina more competitive with other states’ approaches.
 
Make the Department of Transportation more accountable
People expect and deserve a government that works and works well – and when it doesn’t, they deserve real accountability. South Carolina can fund its priorities by cracking down on waste, mismanagement, and incompetence to put politics aside and focus on getting results.
Vincent’s plan of action: 
  • Restructure of the state Department of Transportation to make the director answer directly to the governor
  • Abolish the DOT Commission to allow the legislature and governor to manage and set road funding and policy and to increase accountability.
  • Increase oversight from the legislature so that with new leadership we could have real accountability.
  • Combine the State Infrastructure Bank with the Department of Transportation to provide a consolidated and accountable approach to road improvements and maintenance.
View this release online, here.

Yes, restructuring DOT — as we failed to do in 1993, and again in 2007 (because, in both cases, the General Assembly did not want to reform DOT) — is a great idea. It’s a no-brainer, something that should have been done long, long ago.

And I commend Sen. Sheheen for presenting a plan, instead of playing the game that Nikki Haley is playing — saying she’ll have a plan for us, but only after the election.

But if announcing your plan before the election means you feel compelled to avoid the most obvious way of paying for your proposal, then something important is lost.

Again, we have a way to pay for roadwork. It’s the gasoline tax. It has been held artificially, ridiculously low for far too long. There’s no need to run all over creation trying to find some other way to pay for infrastructure when we have a way to do it already. It’s a particularly bad idea to cut into funding available for all the other functions of government that don’t have a dedicated funding stream (“automatically dedicate five percent of the General Fund”), to pay for a governmental function that does have a dedicated funding stream — a common-sense one tied to use.

Most effective anti-Haley ad I’ve seen

I missed this yesterday for traveling.

Months after those outrageous anti-Sheheen ads from the Republican Governors Association, its Democratic counterpart has put out the above ad. Here’s the release that goes with it:

NEW TV AD: Nikki Haley Put Her Career Ahead Of Children’s Lives

“Interview” Features Former State Social Services Worker Who Quit So She Didn’t Have To Cook The Books, Put Kids At Risk

 

WASHINGTON, DC—The Democratic Governors Association today launched a new television ad in South Carolina highlighting how Governor Nikki Haley has put her own political career ahead of children’s lives through her mismanagement of the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the subsequent coverups that left children in abusive and, at times, deadly situations. The ad, “Interview,” features Betsy Burton, a former staff attorney at DSS, who resigned rather than cook the books and put more kids at risk.

“Governor Haley has put her own political career ahead of the lives of South Carolina’s most vulnerable children,” said DGA Communications Director Danny Kanner. “Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time she has tried to cover up her gross incompetence – she withheld the fact that millions of South Carolinians had their personal financial information hacked on her watch and that children had been put at risk from a tuberculosis outbreak in public schools. But with the death of three children, enough is enough. It’s time for Governor Haley to start protecting kids instead of her own political career.”

Watch the ad herehttp://youtu.be/gRXO6f8BxV0

This is the first television ad that the DGA has aired in South Carolina, and is part of a significant six-figure buy. The ad comes far earlier in the cycle than when the DGA ran television ads in 2010. The Sheheen for South Carolina campaign ran a television ad earlier this year highlighting Governor Haley’s tragic handling of the situation at DSS.

Here’s background information on the tragic situation at Governor Haley’s DSS:

 

WLTX: “DSS Dropped The Ball In Hundreds Of Cases”. “When the South Carolina Department of Social Services accepts a case for investigation, state law requires it to begin that investigation within 24 hours. News19 learned about the law, and it’s importance to child safety, after an investigation earlier this year into the death of Robert Guinyard Jr., a Richland County boy who died despite multiple reports of abuse to DSS… Guinyard’s case was not initially referred to a DSS investigator. For cases that are, reports show DSS dropped the ball in hundreds of cases failing to comply with a state law DSS also includes in its policy manual.” [WLTX, 4/24/14]

Post And Courier Editorial: “Covering Up Systemic Problems”. “It is very troubling that Ms. Koller and her staff would obfuscate when circumstances warrant tough scrutiny and deliberate reforms. Children in DSS need the state to protect them, not to use them as twisted statistics. And covering up systemic problems certainly makes reform elusive. How do you repair DSS using misleading numbers?” [Post and Courier, 5/30/14]

 

Greenville News Headline, 2012: “Some Children Spending Less Time In Foster Care”. “The state Department of Social Services has stepped up the rate of moving long-term foster children back with their parents or to adoptive families by 50 percent in the past fiscal year, a trend that has drawn both praise and criticism. DSS increased the number of foster children moving into permanent homes from 789 in 2010-11 to 1,184 in the 12-month cycle that ended June 30… Faster movement through the foster care system is part of a national trend, but South Carolina had the second-highest percentage drop in the nation in the number of children in foster care between July 2011 and July 2012, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.” [Greenville News, 10/17/12]

  • Haley’s DSS Appointee Had Previously Used “Similar Tactics” – Raising Concerns Over “Stories Of Children Being Sent To Places They Shouldn’t Be Sent In Such A Short Timeframe.” “State DSS Director Lillian Koller, appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley in 2011, used similar tactics when she headed the social services agency in Hawaii and won national acclaim for her efforts. But not everyone is happy with the more rapid flow of neglected and abused kids through the system — particularly those who care for these children in group homes. ‘In theory, what we all want is for children to not be spending their lives in group care, or in foster care for that matter, unless it’s a permanent foster situation,’ said the Rev. John Holler, president of Epworth Children’s Home and member of the board of directors of the South Carolina Association of Children’s Homes and Family Services. ‘But the Department of Social Services is under such pressure to meet numbers because of federal mandates that any provider you talk to you hear the stories of children being sent to places they shouldn’t be sent in such a short timeframe.’” [Greenville News,10/17/12]

 

Koller Emphasized Speed And Statistics From The Beginning Of Her Time With The Agency. “The director of South Carolina’s social services agency wants to speed up the time it takes to find safe, permanent homes for the thousands of abused and neglected children put in the state’s care. It’s a goal the Department of Social Services has struggled to accomplish for years. But six months into office, director Lillian Koller is confident the agency can improve, and she insists it will do so dramatically. She has put her goals into concrete numbers. Koller has charged her agency with placing 50 percent more children now in foster care into a ‘safe, loving home for life,’ either through adoption or reunification with their biological parents. It’s a tall order. Over the last few years, adoptions of foster children have risen by 5 percent. Koller wants to hit the 50 percent goal by next June, and make progress toward it monthly.” [Associated Press, 7/31/11]

January 2014 Senator On DSS Oversight Panel Expressed Concern That Children Were Being Removed And Returned From Homes Too Quickly. “Several South Carolina state senators say they’ll try to make changes at the state Department of Social Services after looking into problems at the agency. ‘It is the whole system. I feel like our system is broken,’ Paige Greene told a special Senate DSS Oversight subcommittee Wednesday. She’s the executive director of Richland County CASA, the guardian ad litum program for abused and neglected children in Richland County… Oversight subcommittee member Sen. Joel Lourie, D-Columbia, said in some cases DSS is taking children out of homes too quickly while in other cases putting them back in their homes too quickly. ‘It leads me to question the whole way the management and the implementation and the process is working at all,’ he said.” [CBS – 7 WSPA,1/16/14]

 

Response to Child Death: “Social Services Had Received A Tip About The Child Being In Danger. But The Agency… Waited Seven Weeks To Follow Up.” “Social Services had received a tip about the child being in danger. But the agency said it could not find the child’s parents and waited seven weeks to follow up with the medical professional who issued the warning. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott held a news conference after the child’s death, criticizing Social Services for not telling law enforcement when the agency could not locate Bryson’s parents. In response, Social Services put in place a new policy to call law enforcement within 72 hours if it cannot locate a family.” [The State, 5/13/14]

Post and Courier Editorial: “Troubling” That DSS Oversight Committee Were Told “Misleading Numbers.” The Post and Courier opined, “It is very troubling that Ms. Koller and her staff would obfuscate when circumstances warrant tough scrutiny and deliberate reforms…And covering up systemic problems certainly makes reform elusive. How do you repair DSS using misleading numbers? For example, the Senate’s DSS Oversight Committee was first told that the average worker handled six cases at any time… So pressed at a later hearing on the subject, Ms. Koller conceded that the average was more. Far more.” [Post and Courier, 5/30/14]

  • “DSS Leadership Is More Interested In Producing Impressive Numbers Than In Providing Good Services.” “Then there is the issue of secrecy. Several coroners reported to the Oversight Committee that DSS was refusing to cooperate and provide information necessary for them to investigate deaths. DSS clients, including children, are correctly afforded privacy as a rule. But when they die, the rules change. It’s important to diagnose why and how it happened, and to use that information to improve DSS policy and practices… But a number of DSS employees and former employees have complained that the current DSS leadership is more interested in producing impressive numbers than in providing good services.” [Post and Courier, 5/30/14]

 

Worker Assigned To Child Who Died Had Caseload Six Times Higher Than DSS “Average” Shortly After Death. “Workers are required to see all of their children in a month. That means that the case worker with 96 children, working five days a week, has to see an average of 5 kids during a 7.5-hour day in order to meet her goal… DSS officials say they obtained the average of six by dividing the number of cases among workers statewide…  Five-month-old Bryson Webb died in his car seat on April 22, after he stopped breathing. DSS has said the agency repeatedly tried tracking down the boy’s family, who were allegedly living in different locations. But the worker assigned to Bryson’s family had 37 cases on March 2, according to a DSS document. ByMarch 9, the worker had 49 cases.” [Post and Courier, 5/27/14]

I would say it’s the most effective Sheheen ad I’ve seen. But since it’s not actually from the Sheheen campaign, I’ll say it’s the most effective anti-Haley ad I’ve seen…

SC, do you REALLY want Joe Manchin for president?

Here’s my latest new follower on Twitter:

Joe Manchin

 

It appears to be nothing more than a feed for reTweeting another called “Draft Joe Manchin.”

I had to follow a couple of the links provided even to find out who Joe Manchin was. From Politico:

IF HILLARY PASSES, MANCHIN FOR PRESIDENT? – Sen. Joe Manchin says a 2016 presidential run is “low on the totem pole,” but he’s not exactly ruling it out.

The West Virginia Democrat, a frequent critic of President Obama and perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the upper chamber, has already endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016. But if the former secretary of State takes a pass, expect to hear more about the former Mountain State governor – especially with former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, another possible ‘16 hopeful from a red state, making some off-color remarks about gays and prostitutes.

Some Twitter accounts have popped up in the past week with the handles @NH4JoeManchin and @Iowa4JoeManchin – though he hasn’t made trips to those early primary states. @DraftJoeManchin recently tweeted: “We think that Joe Manchin is the most gifted leader and the most unifying leader we could elect as our next President.”…

Told that Manchin’s politics would probably be too conservative to win his party’s nomination, he replied: “My politics are about as middle of the road and American as you can get. I keep saying I’m fiscally responsible and socially compassionate, and I think most Americans are.”…

So, in case you, too, run across some of these Tweets, now you know what it’s about…

What — no red M&Ms? Hillary Clinton’s list of demands

I wasn’t that interested that Hillary Clinton was paid $275,000 to speak at the University at Buffalo. What grabbed me was her other demands:

The potential 2016 presidential candidate’s agent requested that the university provide “a presidential glass panel teleprompter and a qualified operator,” that Clinton’s office have “final approval” of her introducer and the moderator of any question-and-answer session, as well as “the sets, backdrops, banners, scenery, logos, settings, etc,” and that the topic and length of the former secretary of state’s speech would be at her “sole discretion.”

These requirements are spelled out in a nine-page contract between the University at Buffalo and Clinton’s representatives at the Harry Walker Agency. The contract was obtained through the freedom of information law by the Public Accountability Initiative, a non-profit research and educational group….

What? No bowlful of red-only M&Ms? I guess every rock star has a different set of demands…

First the snakebite, now this: CVSC endorses McCulloch

This just isn’t Kirkman Finlay‘s week. First he gets bitten by a snake, now the CVSC backs his opponent:

Conservation Voters of South Carolina Endorses Joe McCulloch for Election to House 75

COLUMBIA, S.C. (July 3, 2014– The Board of Directors of Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC) has announced the endorsement of Joe McCulloch for election to House District 75.10438919_551578684954322_776524793762138046_n

“We were delighted to learn of Joe McCulloch’s decision to run again for elected office. We know he will stand up to polluters and protect South Carolina from the special interests who would turn our state into a dumping ground,” said Ann Timberlake, Executive Director of CVSC.

“I am honored to accept the endorsement of CVSC. They have been an outspoken and effective leader in holding elected officials accountable for their votes on conservation issues,” McCulloch said. “I will continue to be a strong advocate for the protection of our state’s s natural resources. I am proud to stand with CVSC.”

McCulloch will challenge incumbent Kirkman Finlay in a rematch of their 2012 race which was decided by just 308 votes.

Conservation Voters of South Carolina is coming off a primary election season which saw all 13 of its endorsed candidates earn victories.

About Conservation Voters of South Carolina

Conservation Voters of South Carolina is the only nonpartisan, nonprofit statewide organization holding elected leaders directly accountable for a safe, clean and healthy South Carolina.

CVSC on Facebook and Twitter

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It will be interesting to see how the CVSC’s won-lost record holds up through the general election. If this is part of a pattern of endorsing Democrats, that 13-0 record seems unlikely to hold up in the fall.

Tom Ervin won’t say how HE’D pay for roads, either

Well, we know that Nikki Haley wants to fix SC roads, but doesn’t want to say how she’d pay for it — at least, not until after the election.

Vincent Sheheen at least says he’d issue bonds for pay for part of our infrastructure needs. Beyond that, he’s vague. From his website:

South Carolina is too dependent on the “gas tax” and needs to diversify how it pays for roads and bridges. In addition to the $1 billion Vincent helped secure for road reconstruction in 2013, he believes we should continue using South Carolina’s bonding authority to make long-term infrastructure investments, dedicate more General Fund revenue from surpluses to roads, and look at new revenue sources to help make our roads safe again. All options must be on the table for discussion.

What I’d like to see from Sheheen an elaboration on what he means when he says SC is “too dependent on the ‘gas tax’,” and therefore must go on some grail-like quest for mysterious “new revenue sources.” I suspect what he means is that SC is simply unwilling, politically, to raise our extremely low gas tax. He certainly can’t mean that he thinks it’s too high.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Tom Ervin takes the governor to task for not saying how she’d pay for roads, and then declines to say how he would do it:

Greenville: Independent Republican candidate Tom Ervin issued the following statement:

Governor Haley’s “secret plan” to fund improvements for our roads and bridges is nothing more than a “secret tax increase” and another blatant example of her lack of transparency and accountability.20140525_0138-300x300

Call Governor Haley now at (803) 734-2100 and demand that she disclose the details of her secret funding plan.  When Nikki Haley hides the ball on funding, that’s her political speak for taxpayer’s having to foot the bill.  Haley’s secret plan shouldn’t surprise anyone.  It’s Haley’s lack of leadership that has forced a county-by-county sales tax increase to make up for her failed leadership.  This has resulted in a back door sales tax increase on top of her “secret plan” to raise taxes next year.

And I’m shocked about Governor Haley’s stated approach.  We are a legislative state.  For Haley to say she will “show the General Assembly how to do it” confirms just how irresponsible Haley’s approach is to our serious infrastructure needs.

If South Carolinians want to maintain or roads and bridges and invest in our infrastructure, it’s going to require a change in leadership.  When I am governor, I will work with our elected representatives to build a consensus for long term funding for our crumbling roads and bridges. And I’ll be honest with you up front that all suggested solutions are on the table for debate.  The legislative process is a deliberative process.  We already have a dictator in Washington, D.C.  We don’t need another one in Columbia.

Tell, me — in what way is the governor’s promise to come out with something after the election different, practically speaking, from “When I am governor, I will work with our elected representatives to build a consensus for long term funding?” Yeah, I get that he’s saying he’d respect lawmakers more than the incumbent does. But beyond that, he’s doing the same thing she is — declining to say what he would propose until after the election.

Are we supposed to read “And I’ll be honest with you up front that all suggested solutions are on the table for debate” as some sort of code that the one responsible plan, raising the gas tax, will be part of his plan? Maybe. But why not come out and say it? It’s not like he’d be endangering his chance of getting elected, because that chance does not exist. (When one is tilting at windmills, why not go for broke and propose the right thing, rather than being cagey?)

So, having surveyed the field, one thing I must say in Todd Rutherford’s behalf is that at least he’s proposing something, even though it’s a really bad idea.

Another centrist video message from an SC Democrat

There’s nothing terribly surprising about South Carolina Democrats gravitating toward the center — they’ve done it as long as I’ve been following politics in my home state.

But I’m definitely seeing a pronounced trend toward setting out those positions very definitely, so you make no mistake.

You saw the recent Tombo Hite video, stressing limited government and keeping taxes low (not lowering taxes, but keeping them low — a truthful distinction you won’t often hear from Republicans, who tend to pander to the erroneous belief that taxes are high in SC).

Now here’s one featuring Vida Miller from the Georgetown area, stressing “Community. Integrity. Responsibility.” Communitarian values that sound sort of conservative because they ARE conservative in the traditional sense of the word — as distinguished from all the anti-institutional bomb-throwers who call themselves “conservative” these days.

vida miller

But who’d sit still for a ‘Lincoln-Douglas’ debate today?

Lincoln_Douglas_Debates_1958_issue-4c

Rep. Bakari Sellers reacted to Henry McMaster’s victory in his bid for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor as follows:

Rep. Bakari Sellers challenges Henry McMaster to five Lincoln-Douglas style debates across South Carolina 

Columbia, SC - State Representative and Democratic Nominee for Lt. Governor, Bakari Sellers, tonight challenged Republican Nominee Henry McMaster to a series of five Lincoln-Douglas style debates to be held across South Carolina during this summer and fall.

“Now that the nominees have been chosen, it’s up to the nominees to let the people hear how they stand on the important issues facing our state. Voters should be able to listen directly to the candidates discuss and debate issues and decide for themselves who has the best vision to lead our state as our next Lt. Governor”, said Rep. Sellers.

Sellers said that there are clear distinctions between the two candidates and he hopes to draw those distinctions during the upcoming months. Sellers said, “My opponent represents the status quo and is a decades long career politician who has been running for office for close to thirty years. This election is not about what was South Carolina was, nor what South Carolina is, it’s about what South Carolina can be. We have an opportunity to retire the “good-ole boy network” in Columbia.  Fresh leadership and fresh ideas is what I will bring to our great state as our next Lt. Governor.”

Sellers pointed out that the voters chose a little known state representative named Nikki Haley in the governor’s race over McMaster in 2010. Sellers’ campaign slogan is “We can do better,” and he hopes that South Carolina voters believe that as well.

NOTES:

Rep. Sellers is from Denmark, SC and represents House District 90 which covers parts of Bamberg, Barnwell and Colleton Counties. He is also a member of the House Judiciary Committee. Sellers is a candidate for Lt. Governor. The campaign’s website is www.sellers2014.com.

Sellers offered this definition of such a debate:

In a Lincoln/Douglas debate, the person speaking in support of the issue, called the Affirmative, is allowed a six minute segment to construct their argument. The opposition, or Negative, then has three minutes to ask questions of the affirmative, followed by seven minute to state the Negative case and argue against the Affirmative. The Affirmative has three minutes to cross-examine, then is allowed four minutes to rebut, using evidence from both their argument and the Negative argument. The Negative is allowed a final six minutes to rebut, summarize and plead for support from the judges, followed by a similar three minute period for the Affirmative. Including preparation time, the entire debate round takes approximately 45 minutes.

Yeah, well, that’s not the way I remember it from the history books. Forty-five minutes would have been considered just warming up in those days:

Lincoln and Douglas agreed to debate in seven of the nine Illinois Congressional Districts; the seven where Douglas had not already spoken. In each debate either Douglas or Lincoln would open with an hour address. The other would then speak for an hour and a half. The first then had 30 minutes of rebuttal.

But who today would sit still for, and listen to, such a marathon? No one, that’s who. So yeah, a Lincoln-Douglas-style debate today would have to be greatly streamlined…

SCEA backs Sheheen for governor

Not a big shock or anything — the state education association supporting the Democrat — but I pass this release on for your perusal:

The SCEA Recommends Sheheen for Governor

COLUMBIA (June 17, 2014) – The South Carolina Education Association (The SCEA), the state’s oldest professional organization for educators, today announced its official recommendation of Senator Vincent Sheheen for Governor of South Carolina.

“Senator Sheheen is the best choice for South Carolina, particularly because of his leadership and advocacy on behalf of public education,” said Jackie B. Hicks, President of The SCEA. “He is a product of public schools in the Camden area, and both of his parents were professional educators. His children now attend the same public schools he attended as a boy. In addition, as an attorney and business owner, Senator Sheheen is keenly aware of the profound connection between quality public schools and our ability to sustain and grow a viable workforce.”

During his service in the General Assembly, Senator Sheheen expanded access to 4-year-old kindergarten, because he understands the importance of investing in early learning. Moving forward, Senator Sheheen will continue to work tirelessly on increasing early childhood education opportunities, improving K-12 education, and strategies to make college more affordable for all.

“He doesn’t just talk the talk,” Hicks said. “Senator Sheheen is actively involved in our public schools. In fact, he still volunteers his time reading to elementary school students. You won’t see him turning away millions of our own federal tax dollars for education. Not on his watch.”

Senator Sheheen also supports increasing South Carolina teacher compensation to the national average and developing a more equitable state funding formula that distributes education resources based on need, not zip code and property value.

“Our citizens deserve better leadership from the Governor’s Office,” Hicks said. “Vincent Sheheen is the right man at the right time for South Carolina.”

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Tombo Hite shows how you run as a Democrat in SC

There’s no one thing that’s particularly remarkable about this web video for legislative candidate Tombo Hite of Abbeville.

But it strikes me as a good example of how different it is to be a Democrat in South Carolina.

Strategist Tyler Jones brought this young attorney to my attention, saying:

Just want to forward you the new web ad for Tombo Hite, our House candidate in District 11 (Abbeville, Anderson). This guy is a rock star and has all the potential of any candidate I’ve seen in years. Keep your eye on him.

This district was held by a Democrat (Paul Agnew) until 2012 when a Democrat and a Democratic petition candidate split the votes and elected a republican, Craig Gagnon.

Yet, although according to that we should assume this is fairly safe territory for a Democrat, I’ve listened to this video twice, and if he mentioned being a Democrat, I missed it. (This is possible, because I was doing other stuff as I listened. But I know for sure he didn’t stress it.)

Then, there’s the fact that the first thing he wants you to know about him, policywise, is that he’s a fiscal conservative. Although he expresses that with a slight difference from Republicans. You have to listen carefully for it.

He says he wants to “get government out of the way and to keep our taxes low.” A Republican would want to lower taxes. Tombo is subtly telling you that our taxes are already low — which they are — and that he’s just going to keep them that way. (And indeed, I find his promise to fight a gas tax increase — an essential step to addressing our infrastructure problems — disturbing.)

After that, he sounds like a fairly typical Dem, SC-style. He wants to raise teacher salaries and revamp DSS.

And fight partisanship. So, good for him there. (Of course, if you’re a Democrat, you have extra motivation to want the General Assembly to be less partisan, so that maybe the majority will listen to you occasionally — not something that happens a lot in the House.)

Anyway, nothing dramatic here. I just thought I’d point those things out, for anyone unfamiliar with South Carolina Democrats and how they differ from the national variety.

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Tea Party seeming more and more an actual, separate party

Some time ago — and it’s frustrating me that I can’t put my hands on it at the moment — Brad Hutto gave a speech somewhere in the Upstate in which he announced that Democrats were in the driver’s seat in the SC Senate.

That startled some who heard it, but there’s a certain truth to it, if you consider how divided the Republican caucus is. There are only 18 Democrats in a body of 46, but it’s not unusual for the Republicans to split between, say, 16 regular Country Club, Chamber of Commerce Republicans, and the rest voting solidly Tea Party. (The numbers break differently, according to the issue.) That gives Democrats a solid plurality, when they stick together. (Which they don’t always do; you might even see Gerald Malloy teaming with a Tea Partier to hold up something other Democrats want.)

Democratic muscle can exert itself in some seemingly surprising ways — such as when John Courson became president pro tem based on Democratic support.

Anyway, we keep seeing signs that increasingly, Tea Partiers wear their “R” designation lightly, placing greater emphasis on their snake-flag loyalties.

A small example of that was in this release today from Lee Bright, in the wake of his getting crushed by Lindsey Graham:

Bright Campaign Falls Short – But Accomplished Much


Lee Bright and five other challengers could not hold well-funded Lindsey Graham under the needed 50 per cent threshold in South Carolina’s Republican Senate PrimaryTuesday night – but the insurgent campaign of the Upstate Senator did defy gravity – and Bright was the dominant challenger from wire to wire. While all the financial figures are not in yet, Bright for Senate will clearly have the best vote to dollars spent ratio.
 
Bright ended up with 15.4% of the vote, almost double his nearest competitor – Richard Cash.  He held Graham well under 50% in Spartanburg and Greenville Counties, and doubled up Nancy Mace in Charleston County.
 
“Our team and our volunteers worked extremely hard, and even though we fell short, we have a lot to be proud of,” said Bright, who added, “With Eric Cantor’s defeat in Virginia, some good things happened for the country on Tuesday, even if not in our race. We’re going to continue to fight for what we believe, and we understand that the fight for liberty never ends.”
 
Bright added that he was “humbled by the work of our volunteers – from making phone calls to making signs – these people kept me going. I am proud to have been in this fight with them.” Bright also said that he hopes “Lindsey Graham’s recent aversion to ObamaCare will continue, now that the Primary is over. We’re going to hold him to that.”

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See that? “With Eric Cantor’s defeat in Virginia, some good things happened for the country on Tuesday…”

It’s not at all surprising that he’d say that, but sometimes it’s instructive to stop and think, “He’s celebrating the defeat of his own (supposed) party’s majority leader.” And realize that Tea Party Republicans are getting less Republican each day…

What’s ironic is that Republicans who sympathize with the Tea Party are sometimes the first to call real, traditional Republicans “RINOs.” When of course, it’s the other way around.

SC Republican voters on Tuesday showed that they’ve picked up on that, in their utter rejection of Lindsey Graham’s challengers…

Sheheen’s first TV ad of 2014: The Sheriff

First, I have to say something to head off the confusion: That’s not me in this Sheheen campaign ad. That’s my twin, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

Just so we have that straight.

Anyway, I’m sure that I’m breaking this story, because the campaign sent this to me only minutes ago with the message…

Brad,

I wanted to send you a quick note to give you an exciting update! You’ve been one of our biggest supporters so far, and this campaign wouldn’t have achieved such success without you on the team. Because you’ve been such a great supporter, I wanted to make sure you’re the first to see our first television ad.

But here’s the reality – TV ads aren’t cheap and we need to raise $15,000 by midnight tonight to keep this ad on the air. Can you help us out? Click here to send an urgent donation before midnight >>

Click here to watch our first ad…

Your unwavering support of Vincent has helped us get to where we are today.

But now we’re down to the wire. We have to close our budget gap and keep this ad on the air. Nikki Haley and her extremist friends have already flooded our airwaves with misleading ads. It’s time for us to fight back….

… and so forth.

So, I’m special. But the Sheheen campaign must be in big trouble, because it sees me as one of it’s “biggest supporters,” and I’ve never given them a penny…

Endorsing Brad Hutto because ‘he’s not a felon’

Hutto

Knowing the editorial board as I do, I had to do a double-take this morning when I saw Sen. Brad Hutto’s picture on an endorsement editorial in The State.

Not that Sen. Hutto is a bad sort of fellow or associated with other bad sorts — his mother, a longtime devoted reader of the paper with whom I corresponded regularly when I was the EPE, is a lovely lady, and she is the first association that comes to mind when I see his name — but my general impression is that he is at odds with positions taken by the board more often than he is in agreement. Or at least when he is at odds, he’s very visibly so. Also, he’s very much a Democratic Party happy warrior, gleefully engaging in the sort of partisan behavior that tended to set our teeth on edge.

Cindi (I assume) dutifully sets out arguments as to why he should carry the Democratic standard against Lindsey Graham, including one of our default reasons for slightly preferring incumbents, as long as they haven’t misbehaved:

AS POPULAR as it is these days to praise the virtues of outsiders, of political novices, the fact is that there is always a huge danger in electing someone who has never been active in their communities or engaged in public life, much less held public office.

S.C. Democrats, of all people, should understand this, after their disastrous encounter with Alvin Greene, the unemployed Army veteran who defeated a respected retired judge in the 2010 primary to win the U.S. Senate nomination and went on to become a serious embarrassment to the party and a distant loser to Republican Jim DeMint….

But the next sentence spoke more directly to the reason Sen. Hutto got The State‘s nod:

The danger is even greater when the unknown outsider has a criminal record.

State Sen. Brad Hutto has neither of these problems. The Orangeburg attorney is not a felon, and he has served respectably as an outspoken (which is to say high-profile) member of the Legislature for nearly two decades….

“He’s not a felon” may seem to be faint praise, one likely to lead us to lament that the standard should fall so low. But as a bottom-line standard, it’s hard to argue with…

Beth Bernstein campaign kickoff

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I dropped by Rep. Beth Bernstein‘s re-election campaign kickoff on the way home this evening at the Tin Roof.

She had a pretty decent crowd — almost as many as I saw at the statewide stump meeting at Galivants Ferry last week. Which is a tiny group for statewide candidates, but a decent one for a House member.

And it was a diverse group, in the political sense. I saw longtime GOP operative Trey Walker (there as a USC governmental relations guy), Christian conservative Hal Stevenson (representing outdoor advertisers, not really himself), Michael Rentiers of Push Advocacy, and Rep. Rick Quinn, as well as a healthy number of Democrats and independents.

So, broad support, it seemed.

I don’t know anything about her general election opponent, Jeff Mobley, yet. If he’s having an event like this, I want to go to that, too. I haven’t heard from him, but he’s following me on Twitter, so…

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Video of Vincent Sheheen at Galivants Ferry

Well, the video finally uploaded after I went to bed last night. So here it is, the missing piece from my report from the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking.

This is almost the entire speech. I missed a line at the very beginning. It was something like, “Are y’all ready to win this?” — one of those lines designed to get the crowd to cheer, and they did cheer. I didn’t write it down because I was busy trying to get some still shots of him standing at the stump before switching to video.

As you can see, Vincent Sheheen made every effort to come across as a guy with a fire in his belly. But as I look back at it, he doesn’t seem all that comfortable with the effort.

His campaign is going to need something, something it doesn’t have yet, if he is to be even as competitive as he was four years ago, much less have a chance of beating Nikki Haley.

My report from the Stump Speaking

It was very warm -- a good day to be a speaker, and have a seat in the shade. That's John Land in the hat.

It was very warm — a good day to be a speaker, and have a seat in the shade. That’s John Land in the hat.

Well, to begin with, Fritz Hollings didn’t make it to the 2014 Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking, which he has been attending as long as I’ve been alive. He called Russell Holliday, who puts on the event started by her ancestors 138 years ago, late this morning to describe rather frankly an unpleasant side effect he was having from a new medication, and to explain he’d have to miss it.

Which was a disappointment. But there was still the keynote speaker, SC native and MSNBC commentator Jimmy Williams. And there were the candidates, with gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen at the top of the ticket.

But there was a serious lack of attendees. And on a less notable level, a lack of energy, and a lack of ideas. I hate to say this because I know Russell works very hard to bring this event off, and I’m here to say that she and her family did as good a job as ever. All the pieces were there — people just had to show up and inspire. The fault lay with the candidates. I just didn’t feel the same spirit that I’ve felt at earlier stumps. Sure, there was Fritz on those occasions, and there was usually another draw such as Joe Biden (see Fritz introducing him at this event in 2006), making SC Democrats feel that while they might be beleaguered here in South Carolina, they were part of something vital nationally.

To his credit, Vincent Sheheen showed more fire and energy than I’ve seen from him yet (if the video ever finishes uploading to YouTube, I’ll show you). But the substance was lacking. He ran through the usual litany of complaints about Nikki Haley (the Department of Revenue breach, her refusal to expand Medicaid) and then said he hadn’t come to talk about the last four years, but the next four — which raised my hopes.

“Without a vision, the people perish,” he said, citing Proverbs. But the vision was… skimpy. Four-year-old kindergarten, Medicaid expansion, fixing up infrastructure — each with about one sentence devoted to it.

And then, suddenly, the five-minute address was over.

OK, the Stump is a party, not an occasion for extended oration. Still, I was disappointed.

And the disappointment extended across the spectrum. When Sen. Brad Hutto strung together a series of populist bromides about how that Lindsey Graham needed to stop worrying about the rest of the world and fix some potholes in good ol’ SC — as though he were running for county council rather than the United States Senate — we had reached the nadir. One hopes. I didn’t stay for the last of the down-the-ballot speakers.

Rhetorically, I think the high point came at the beginning, when young Johnson Holliday of Russell’s clan quoted Texan Jim Hightower saying “Everybody does better when everybody does better.”

Now that I could go for. That was a concept that would have been worth enlarging upon.

Sure, I like the communitarian overtones, but think about it: The saying not only states what Democrats believe in, but in a way that it’s hard for Republicans to argue with, and that could appeal to independents (like yours truly). After all, it’s not all that far conceptually from the Republicans’ “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

The thing that will lift this country out of the doldrums, and SC out of the back-of-the-line status that has plagued it in one way or another since 1865, is growth — growth in jobs and wages as well as in profits, productivity and innovation.

Surely there’s someone in the Democratic Party — or some party — who could take a concept like that and run with it. If that happened, we’d have some Stump meetings that everybody would want to attend, like in the old days, when everybody was a Democrat, and this was the place to be every two years.

Editor’s note: As I finish this, YouTube is telling me there are another 85 minutes to go before the Sheheen video finishes loading. If it loads — and a long upload like this often ends in tears of frustration — I’ll share it with you in the morning. In the meantime, enjoy the stills.

 

Follow my coverage of the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking on Twitter this evening

Fritz Hollings at a previous Stump.

Fritz Hollings at a previous Stump.

Hey, y’all — I’m going to be on Twitter rather than the blog for the next few hours. I’m going to check out the 138th-anniversary edition of the Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking. Follow my comments @BradWarthen.

This venerable Democratic Party institution starts with music at 4:30 and speaking at 6, in case you’d like to come. Russell Holiday has written to me several times to remind me to come, so here I go. I don’t want to miss the chance to hear Fritz Hollings, who’s been attending the Stump for 60 years.

Here’s the last release I saw on the subject:

The families of Joseph Holliday and John Monroe Holliday announced today that MSNBC Contributor Jimmy Williams will be the Keynote Speaker at the May 12, 2014 Galivants Ferry Stump Speaking and former Senator Fritz Hollings will be the Special Guest Speaker.

A South Carolina native, Mr Williams graduated high school in Florence and is a graduate of the Citadel……. He is the Executive Editor of Blue Nation Review and is a 22 year veteran of Washington’s political scene and a regular MSNBC contributor. (bio below)

Senator Hollings will celebrate his 60 year anniversary of attending the History Stump Speaking…. He announced his bid for Lt. Governor in 1954 at the Stump and has been a fixture at the Stump until his retirement. The Stump celebrated 50 years of Stumping with Fritz in 2004 and are so pleased to celebrate 60 years in 2014.

Candidate for Governor, Vincent Sheheen and Lt. Governor candidate Bakari Sellers will speak along with 7th District Congressional candidate Gloria Tinubu… State, local and candidates for the US Senate will also speak……..(a complete list of confirmed candidates as of 5/5/14 is below)

The 2014 Stump will be held at Pee Dee Farms, the community’s century-old general store. Galivants Ferry, which is on the National Registry of Historic Districts, is located on Hwy 501 where it crosses the Little Pee Dee River. The Stump is listed in the Library of Congress as a Local Legacy and was nominated by Sen. Hollings in 2000. The Stump will follow the traditional festival format of bluegrass music starting at 4:30 p.m. The actual “speaking” will be begin at 6:00 p.m. featuring all local, state and federal Democratic candidates The public is invited to this free event. Chicken Bog will be available for sale…

Who knows? Maybe I’ll run into some of y’all. It’s happened before

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Maybe Gowdy can help me understand the ‘why’ on Benghazi

Alternate headline: “Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!”

You’ve no doubt seen the news by now that 4th District Congressman Trey Gowdy (you know him — he’s the guy who defeated Bob Inglis because Inglis, of all people, wasn’t “conservative” enough in the Tea Party year) will pitch for the GOP in the big game — that is, he’ll chair the select committee to investigate Benghazi, which a former White House staffer characterized recently with the immortal words, “Dude, this was like two years ago.”

As this was all breaking, I happened to watch the third season episode of “The West Wing,” “Ways and Means,” in which C.J. said:

Leo, we need to be investigated by someone who wants to kill us just to watch us die. We need someone perceived by the American people to be irresponsible, untrustworthy, partisan, ambitious, and thirsty for the limelight. Am I crazy, or is this not a job for the U.S. House of Representatives?

I don’t know what about this situation made me mention that. Unless the White House deliberately manipulated the House into doing this by releasing those emails.

Anyway, now that this is back before us, we ask the eternal question: Why?

Rep. Gowdy puts it this way:

“Twenty months after the Benghazi attacks, there remain unresolved questions about why the security was inadequate, our response during the siege itself, and our government’s interaction with the public after the attack. All of those lines of inquiry are legitimate and should be apolitical. Facts are neither red nor blue.

“While people are free to draw different conclusions from the facts, there should be no debate over whether the American public is entitled to have all of the facts. In a courtroom, juries are free to believe one witness over a hundred witnesses. But you cannot make that or any other credibility determination if you do not have access to all relevant witnesses, documents and other tangible evidence.

“Four of our fellow citizens were murdered, and a facility emblematic and representative of our country was attacked and burned on the anniversary of 9-11. Our fellow citizens are full well capable of processing the truth about the attacks and aftermath, and most assuredly entitled to hear it.”…

OK. If the hearings are going to focus on “why the security was inadequate” and “our response during the siege itself,” so that we might avoid such tragedies in the future, and make our embassies and consulates secure, let’s get started.

But where Republicans lose me is on the third thing, the thing they go on and on and on about: “our government’s interaction with the public after the attack.”

Frankly, I decided a long time ago that Susan Rice wasn’t the sharpest knife in the Obama administration’s cutlery drawer (although she looks awesome next to the kid who made the “Dude” crack). I was relieved when she didn’t become secretary of state, and disappointed when she became National Security Advisor. (As Sonny Corleone would say, “Nixon had Kissinger; look what I got.“)

I decided even longer ago than that that I had no interest in watching the Sunday morning political talk shows, and not just because I was busy going to Mass then. I figured out that if they made news, it would be on the wires (the Sunday shift has to write about something).

So what Susan Rice said on Sunday political talk shows doesn’t exactly rock my world.

Earlier in the week, I had seen reports that the administration had amended its initial assessment that the attacks were just about that horrendous anti-Muslim video. (Scout, I lost my link to that story, and you helped me find it, but I lost it again, so help!) I heard that within 24 hours of learning of the attack in Benghazi itself. I was satisfied.

If Susan Rice said something else, I’m not terribly surprised. But I’m not up in arms.

I find myself asking, “so what?” So Susan Rice tried to make the administration look good (if what Republicans keep saying is true). That seems to be pretty much in character for her.

I also find myself wondering why Republicans get so offended at the idea that the Muslim video triggered these attacks. It was causing demonstrations elsewhere. It just wasn’t crazy to think at first, however erroneously, it might have had something to do with Benghazi.

We know that expressions of disrespect toward the prophet on the part of private parties in the West had triggered violence in the Muslim world before. Why not now?

There’s some kind of dog whistle this issue blows on the right that is just inaudible to me.

But anyway, let’s collect those facts that are neither red nor blue, and figure out how to avoid this kind of deadly debacle in the future. But let’s not go on and on about irrelevancies that happen to scratch the itch of one end or the other of the partisan spectrum.