Category Archives: South Carolina

What I told Andy Brack about the primaries

Andy Brack of Statehouse Report was working on a piece for today about the primaries and sent me some questions.

Well, y’all know how I hate to write anything, however impromptu and off-the-cuff, without publishing it.

So here are his questions with my answers:

1.  What did you learn and what are your takeaways from the primaries?

Andy Brack

Andy Brack

While it can be political death in a South Carolina Republican primary to openly oppose Donald Trump, telling everybody he’s your best buddy isn’t a sure road to success. Ask Mark Sanford about the first, and Henry McMaster about the second. McMaster is in a remarkably weak position for an incumbent.

2.  What do the results in the 4th district tell you about the November election?

Can’t say. I didn’t follow it. It seems beyond belief that anyone would vote for Lee Bright for anything, but apparently it happens. It looks like we all might be missing Trey Gowdy this time next year.

3.  Do you expect the governor’s race will be between McMaster and Smith, as I do?  What hurdles does Smith have to winning?  What would keep McMaster from winning?

I don’t know if Henry’s going to make it or not. Everybody seems to be ganging up on him at this point. Smith’s one hurdle is being a Democrat in a state where many white voters seem congenitally incapable of voting for someone with a “D” after his name. McMaster’s problems are his association with the Quinns, his Old School image, the fact that he wasn’t elected to the position, and the possibility that at some point his slavish devotion to Trump — at times, the relationship seems to be all he can say about himself — could become an albatross for him.

4.  Can you measure the impact of Trump on SC politics in general right now?

I sort of answered that on Question 1. But while we know the impact in a GOP primary, it remains to be seen what the effect will be in the general election.

5.  Anything else stand out?

While there were some sour notes Tuesday — Bright’s success, Archie Parnell’s success despite all, and Sanford losing for the wrong reasons — I was deeply impressed by the wisdom shown by the voters Tuesday, especially here in the Midlands. As I said on Twitter, “I’m just so pleased. From @JamesSmithSC ‘s landslide to utter rejection of Templeton to weak support for McMaster to the easy victories of @MicahCaskey and @NathanBallentin to the crushing of Dan Johnson, results were exactly what you’d expect in a rational universe. About time.”

The Three Musketeers (plus Beth Bernstein)

Joel Lourie, James Smith, Beth Bernstein and Vincent Sheheen pose before portrait of the late Sen. Isadore Lourie.

Joel Lourie, James Smith, Beth Bernstein and Vincent Sheheen pose before portrait of the late Sen. Isadore Lourie.

Joel Lourie texted me  this picture taken at the Lourie Center on the day of the primaries.

My reaction: “The Musketeers and their lady friend. And your Dad!”

Back when Joel and James Smith were first in the House in the ’90s, I used to refer to them as “the Hardy Boys,” partly because of their youth (Cindi Scoppe and I referred privately to Smith as “young James” and of course we knew Joel’s father before we knew him) but because they were inseparable allies, always working together, whatever the issue. On more than one occasion, I’d be interviewing one when he got a phone call from the other one.

Then, about the time Joel moved to the Senate, the duo became the Three Musketeers with the addition of Vincent Sheheen.

Then, starting sometime before Joel’s retirement from the Senate, Beth Bernstein became part of the group.

I don’t have a nickname for the four of them, but Joel does. Noting that back in the ’70s his Dad Isadore and other Richland County Democrats used to refer to themselves as “the Home Team,” Joel titles this photo “the New Home Team with the original coach.”

Whatever you call them, they’re a happy crew after the results of Tuesday’s voting came in…

Henry can’t get a break: Templeton, Bryant endorse Warren

From Warren's Facebook page.

From Warren’s Facebook page.

Well, here’s some bad news for Henry:

Greenville businessman John Warren received a major boost Tuesday in his quest to unseat Gov. Henry McMaster in the Republican primary runoff for governor, landing the endorsements of Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson and Mount Pleasant labor attorney Catherine Templeton .

McMaster got only 42 percent of Tuesday’s GOP primary vote, forcing a runoff. Warren, Templeton and Bryant received a combined 56 percent. Warren finished second, and is hoping his former rivals’ backing could push him over the top.

“What you are seeing right now is unification of the conservative party — the conservative part of the Republican Party,” Warren said Thursday at a press conference. “We’ve had tough battles over the past several months in the campaign, but we are unified. And we all agree that Governor McMaster is not the right person to lead our state.”…

This particularly has to be painful to an old-school Republican like Henry, a believer in Reagan’s 11th commandment. Remember how dutifully Henry lined up behind Nikki Haley after the upstart took the nomination from him in 2010?

As for Henry being “not the right person to lead our state,” I wonder whether any of these “conservatives” will remember that in the fall if Henry is their standard-bearer…

Speaking of remembering, I was cleaning out email today and ran across this from one week ago:

CATHERINE TEMPLETON CALLS ON JOHN WARREN
TO COME CLEAN ON LAND DONATIONS

Warren Avoided Paying Over $120K in Taxes

(COLUMBIA, S.C.)  Over a three year period, John Warren avoided paying more than $120,000 in taxes. Warren refuses to explain how he did it. Therefore, conservative buzzsaw and Republican gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton is today calling on John Warren to immediately disclose to voters the specifics of his tax avoidance scheme.

Warren said he donated two pieces of property in Horry County and outside of Charlotte. A search of property records yielded no results under Warren’s name, adding mounting evidence to the idea Warren established a complicated tax avoidance syndicate.

According to news media reports, tax returns indicate Warren and his wife claimed more than $715,000 in non-cash charitable donations on their federal tax returns from 2014 to 2016. While those returns included no details, The Charleston Post & Courier reported Warren received $122,500 in tax refunds as a result of the donations. The newspaper also reported that details about the land were redacted.

“This appears to be the kind of tax dodging loophole that lets the rich get out of paying their full share of taxes,” said Templeton campaign manager R.J. May III. “John Warren claims to be an ethical businessman. But the curious nature of these land donations leads to more questions than answers. Voters and reporters should be alarmed the Warren campaign refuses to release the details.”

May also noted that Warren has accepted the maximum $3,500 campaign donation from Frank Schuler, president of Ornstein-Schuler, which facilitates these complicated tax avoidance schemes. Additionally, Schuler is president of Partnership for Conservation organization and treasurer of the Partnership for Conservation PAC. The PAC has a history of donating to liberal senators and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“While Warren claims to make ethical decisions, his land donations and close ties with Schuler could suggest otherwise. John Warren needs to explain these dealings to the people of South Carolina,” May said.

###
But I guess she’s OK with that stuff now, though…

James wins it all! And that’s just the start! These may be the best primary results I’ve ever seen in SC, all around!

I dropped by Smith HQ this afternoon and the front room was empty -- everybody was out working. And they did a great job!

I dropped by Smith HQ this afternoon and the front room was empty — everybody was out working. And they did a great job!

Don’t know what to say, except I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. In fact, I don’t remember a primary election EVER when I was so pleased with the results across the board. By my standards, everything clicked just right:

  • James Smith wins it all in a landslide! 62 percent with 75 percent reporting! No runoff or other folderol! It turns out that Democratic voters (and smart people who crossed over to vote for James) in South Carolina aren’t nuts after all, despite those anxiety-causing polls. On to November!
  • Catherine Templeton is out of it! So I guess Republicans aren’t nuts, either. Perhaps they’re beginning to recover from their malady of 2016.
  • A weakened McMaster came out on top, but faces a runoff against an unremarkable unknown most of us still don’t know (which is way better than being in a runoff with the “buzzsaw”). Which just couldn’t bode better for James in the fall — and a guy with a D after his name needs EVERY break he can get! Which is great news for South Carolina.
  • Micah Caskey seems to be cruising to a big win, so I need not feel guilty for not having personally helped him by voting in his primary. Way to go, Micah (it was that sign in my yard that did it)!
  • Byron Gipson seems to be easily beating Dan Johnson, so I worried about that unnecessarily, too. Maybe. It’s not all in yet by a long shot…

Finally, an actual great day for South Carolina at the ballot boxes…

landslide

Have you voted yet? How did it go?

quail hollow

As you know, there are two candidates I particularly want to see elected this year — James Smith and Micah Caskey. And as you may have noticed, in recent days I’ve been more anxious about James than about Micah — after all, Micah received 97.6 percent support at a recent county GOP meeting.

So I chose a Democratic ballot at Quail Hollow precinct this morning. I felt a bit weird doing so, since not a single Democratic candidate had posted any signs in front of the polling place, as you can see above. In fact, it occurs to me that the closest sign for a Democrat to this location might be the one for James in my yard, 1.6 miles away.

But I wasn’t quite alone — I was the 15th to choose a “DEMOCRATE” ballot, as it was hand-lettered in red magic marker at the sign-in table. (You can’t expect folks in Lexington County to know how to spell every weird, exotic word in the dictionary, can you?) And as it happened, only 44 had chosen a Republican ballot. Which was weird — my precinct going only three-fourths Republican. One of the poll workers told me it seemed a lot of my neighbors had voted absentee.

This, of course, raises the stakes on who those few voters were. Was it only the extreme partisans who would go for a Phil Noble because James is too sensibly centrist, or support a woman who is proud of being a purely destructive force (which is what is meant by “buzzsaw”)?

On my way in, there were two people standing in front of the entrance where candidates or surrogates are allowed to campaign. The young woman smiled at me, but didn’t say anything (was I glowering at her or something?). The young man said, “Mr. Micah Caskey thanks you for voting today!” I said, “Well, I like Micah very much,” which seemed to please him although he probably noticed how noncommittal it was.

(Man, I hope Micah wins big. If he even comes close to losing, I’m going to feel really bad.)

As a result of not having to vote on them, and no longer having to make an endorsement decision, I never made up my mind on a couple of hot races (or at least, they should have been hot) in the Republican primary. Since I didn’t have to, I just didn’t do the legwork:

Attorney General — I like both Alan Wilson and Todd Atwater. I don’t damn Alan for his Quinn association (I don’t do simplistic, or at least not usually), and I think he’s been a pretty decent AG. And I like Todd as well. I just didn’t focus enough to force myself choose between them.

Lexington County Council District 8 — Incumbent Ned Tolar has two or three opponents. I’ve seen a lot of signs for him, and for opponent Glen Conwell (the guy who got all that money from Lou Kennedy of Nephron). I tried doing a little web research on the candidates, and found virtually nothing. I’d have tried harder if I’d been voting in that one.

Anyway, have you voted, and if so, how did it go? I see that there were lines in some locations, even though there were not at mine…

I voted

Where do nice guys finish? Watch James Smith to find out

James greet

James Smith greets supporters in Lancaster on the day of the announcement that Mandy Powers Norrell would be his running mate.

I appreciate my friend E.J. Dionne, who is also a nice guy, bringing this to my attention:

It’s the tale of how a little old lady who served as food critic for a newspaper in flyover land was lampooned by the “sophisticates” on the coasts because she unabashedly gave a rave review to an Olive Garden… then was defended by the late Anthony Bourdain.

Bourdain wrote of the then–88-year-old Marilyn Hagerty of Grand Forks:

“She is never mean — even when circumstances would clearly excuse a sharp elbow, a cruel remark,” he wrote. “In fact, watching Marilyn struggle to find something nice to say about a place she clearly loathes is part of the fun. She is, unfailingly, a good neighbor and good citizen first — and entertainer second.”

Bourdain added that the book “kills snark dead.”

“This is a straightforward account of what people have been eating — still ARE eating — in much of America,” he wrote. “As related by a kind, good-hearted reporter looking to pass along as much useful information as she can — while hurting no one.”

So you can see how the “snarkologists” would give her unmitigated hell. How dare she be a genuinely nice person?

Which brings me to James Smith.

This past week, the three candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor or South Carolina had their final “debate” — an occasion for Phil Noble and Marguerite Willis to snarl, slash and attack James Smith in their desperation (which continues to puzzle me) to tear down the only member of their party who has the slightest prayer of winning the election in the fall.

A number of people — some of them the sort who were just then starting to focus on the race (which is ominous) — thought Smith didn’t come out of the debate well — his opponents kept scoring hits on him, and he failed to deflect the hits and didn’t fight back. (Doug hates that kind of thing. Possibly others do as well.)

It didn’t strike me that way, but then I know James, and I knew that his opponents were making innocent things out to be scandalous. For instance, he has been friends with Rick Quinn, and he was Alan Wilson’s attorney at one point. These are both things that I’ve written about approvingly here in the past, because it shows the kind of guy James is — someone who doesn’t dismiss people because they belong to another political party. You know, exactly the quality you need in a Democrat who wants to get anything done as governor, seeing as how the GOP dominates the Legislature.

His opponents were doing this because with the kind of blind partisans who might (if misled sufficiently) choose them over Smith, it is a prima facie sin to be friends with Republicans. At this point, the snarlers would protest that the sin was the taint of scandal attaching to Quinn and Wilson — but the evidence of his association is from a time years before even the slightest hint of scandal wafted in their direction.

So what’s he going to say? Protest that he was friendly with them then, but not now? An opportunist would leap at the chance to do so. But that’s not James Smith.

James Smith is the kind of guy who offers nothing but positive reasons why he wants to be governor and would make a good one. He’s not interested in slashing out at anyone, or tossing anyone to the wolves.

He could, if he possessed a different sort of character. There are plenty of things he could say about the two spoilers (who will never be anything more) attacking him. I’m picturing, for instance, a pretty devastating ad with one Democrat after another stating clearly precisely what they think of Phil Noble, based on their dealings with him.

As for Marguerite Willis, I can think of a number of ways he could undermine her, but this one would do: He could, for instance, ask her to explain why she said, in their first debate back in the winter, that workers should not have the right to organize into unions. While running for the Democratic nomination, mind. It stunned me at the time (I’m no great fan of unions, but surely people have the right to join them), but the amazing thing is that no one has asked this corporate lawyer to explain that answer — not then, not now.

Unless I’ve missed it. If this has happened, I’d appreciate a link.

Can you imagine what Ms. Willis or Noble, who attack him without letup because the NRA doesn’t hate him, would be doing with such an advantage?

But Smith does not. Because he’s just not interested in doing that.

I imagine that in the fall, James will have some critical things to say about his Republican opponent — because then, there will be substantive differences on policy to discuss. But he’s not interested in playing a gotcha game to get his party’s nomination.

Which raises the question — do nice guys finish last, or does a guy who’s only interested in presenting the positives about himself, and not looking for ways to attack his opponents, have a chance in today’s poisonous political atmosphere?

To find out, watch James Smith on Tuesday.

Phil Noble reaches out to his base… in Alabama, of course

noble ad

I’ve wondered here a number of times: Who, in South Carolina, is supporting Phil Noble for the Democratic nomination for governor?

I asked it each time he brought forth another prominent out-of-state Democrat to endorse his campaign. I kept perusing his website for lists of supporters. I looked at his donor list, and found one South Carolinian I’d heard of — an impressive one — and I was going to reach out and interview her about it… and then realized she had given to James Smith, too. She was just promoting democracy in general.

Anyway, a friend in Alabama shared with me the above full-page ad from The Anniston Star, saying “Have no idea who he is, but it does seem like something out of the ordinary.”

Not if you’re Phil. If you’re Phil, of course this is where you look for support…

OK, Micah, NOW you’ve gone and disappointed me

At least he's not in the picture the Templeton campaign sent out! Maybe it's not true!...

At least he’s not in the picture the Templeton campaign sent out! Maybe it’s not true!…

How’s this for irony? Just as I was sticking up for my representative today — again — this release was going out — and I just now saw it:

SC Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, State Reps. Bill Hixon, and Micah Caskey & Military Vets Endorse Templeton
Momentum Keeps Building for Templeton

(COLUMBIA, S.C.)  Conservative buzzsaw and Republican candidate for governor Catherine Templeton secured a long list of major endorsements Tuesday. State Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey (R-Aiken), Representative Bill Hixon (R-Aiken), and Representative Micah Caskey (R-Lexington) all threw their support behind the buzzsaw at two separate press conferences in Aiken and Lexington….

AAAARRRGGGHHHH!!!

Take a breath… count to ten…

I was talking with a mutual acquaintance over the weekend who speculated that Micah had early on wanted to support Ms. Templeton, but just hadn’t been able to do so on account of, you know, the campaign she has run.

What happened?!?

What happened?!?

I almost yelled, “Shut your mouth!” But then I realized that Micah is a freshman who has boldly confronted his party’s governor, so of course he would want an alternative to Henry. He’s made a semi-powerful enemy.

In any case, I left the conversation pleased that of course, of course, Micah wouldn’t endorse the “buzzsaw.”

And now this.

As I read it… I had skipped the headline… I first read “Shane Massey,” and I thought, wow, I’ve had a lot of respect for that guy, so this is disappointing… (Shane, come back!…)

And then, WHAM! Right between the eyes.

Whatever… Do y’all remember when Micah first ran two years ago? How I had been thinking of running myself (on the UnParty ticket), but decided not to when I met him because I was so impressed with him? I’ve told that story a number of times, and each time I recall that there was only one topic that came up during our conversation that we disagreed on (which is phenomenal; I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of people I know in politics I can say that about) — and I couldn’t remember for sure later what that one thing was.

Well, I don’t have to. From now on, I can say this is the thing we disagree on. And it’s a biggie.

Oh, I’m not going to take the sign down. He’s still a great representative. Just not as great as he was this morning…

Caskey wadding up the governor's veto message and throwing it away last year.

Caskey wadding up the governor’s veto message and throwing it away last year.

Another stupid attack on Micah Caskey

carry back

Another mailer came from that same group attacking my rep, Micah Caskey.

Again, it relies entirely upon an assumption that voters are mentally feeble.

This time, the accusation is that Micah doesn’t support “2nd Amendment rights” because he didn’t vote for a “constitutional carry” bill.carry 1

I don’t know what Micah thinks about “constitutional carry” and don’t really care. The other Caskey, our resident 2nd Amendment guy Bryan, sees no need for such a provision in South Carolina, which is a “shall issue” state. In other words, if you can own a gun, no one can refuse to issue you a permit.

“Constitutional carry” is the kind of litmus test issue that shows how far gone alleged “conservatives” are today. Once, when real conservatives roamed the Earth, you’d get attacked if you didn’t support a balanced budget amendment. Now, you have to support the kind of hyper-pro gun legislation that is only important to the kind of people who like to freak out the citizenry by carrying a weapon down a city street simply to assert that “I got a right to!” (I know those aren’t exactly the same thing. I’m just thinking there’s probably a lot of overlap there.)

At least, with these people that’s the standard. To the extent that they can be said to have standards.

My favorite bit: “He may talk a big game, but…” You mean, like, when he mentions (which he seldom does) carrying a rifle into combat in Iraq as a United States Marine, stuff like that?

Another good part: “I don’t need the government’s permission to defend myself!” That’s right, you don’t. And you never have. Which underlines how unnecessary that bill was.

Anyway… I’m going to ignore that and take comfort from this straw poll that the Lexington County GOP did at their June meeting. Nathan Ballentine proudly tweeted it out because he got 72.9 percent.

Micah Caskey got 97.6 percent. Sounds like he might have earned the right to “talk a big game…”

De4_RDlUYAAAXTx

Marquerite Willis’ race-baiting radio ad (and the debate, too)

Cynthia Hardy, Jim Felder, me and Jon Parker on the radio Sunday night.

Cynthia Hardy, Jim Felder, me and Jon Parker on the radio Sunday night. At this moment I’m apparently making a terribly cogent point that requires hand gestures, even on the radio.

(Editor’s note: I wrote this last night, but am just posting it today because of problems with the sound file. WordPress will take an MP3, but not a WAV.)

Did y’all watch that Democratic gubernatorial debate tonight? I didn’t get to see most of it, but I heard a good bit on the radio while I was driving first to a program at my youngest grandchildren’s school, then over to my parents’ house to check on my Dad (he had a fall recently, but is doing better), then home. A few seconds after I turned on the TV, it was over.

I did pull over a couple of times to Tweet about what I was hearing. I Tweeted this at the end:

Speaking of unpleasantness…

Sunday, I was a guest on Cynthia Hardy’s show on the Big DM (you can watch the show here). Before the show started, Cynthia asked whether Jim Felder and I had heard the “race-baiting ad” — as she said some had called it — that Marguerite Willis was running. I said no, and she played it for us.

Give it a listen. And (let me know if you had technical difficulties.)

When it was done, I said, “So… I suppose she’s playing that mostly on the country stations…” As soon as I said it, it occurred to me that my joke might fall flat, although Jim Felder laughed politely.

That’s really something. And it’s totally consistent with what I heard of the debate, which at another point caused me to Tweet:

But that ad was something — grossly unfair, misleading and desperate. But the issue remains, will she and Noble manage to inflict enough damage on a good man so as to ensure a GOP victory in the fall? Because surely the two Democratic challengers are bright enough to know neither of them would have a chance in a general election…

John Courson resigns seat, pleads guilty. So NOW what?

The empty space in the State House underground lot. I shot this in early April .

The empty space in the State House underground lot. I shot this in early April . It’s been vacant a LONG time.

Sen. John Courson has entered a guilty plea and resigned his seat in the Senate.

This is a sad day, as I — like most people who have interacted with him over the years — have always liked and respected him, so this is very disappointing.

If you want comments from someone who is pleased by this situation and will talk with satisfaction about how the senator “got what he deserved,” I refer you to our own Doug Ross.

For me, this is an opportunity to bring up a number of things I’ve been thinking about in the last few days:

  • First, whither the Pascoe investigation? John Monk reports that Courson has “agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation into public corruption in the S.C. State House.” Is there an ongoing investigation? Because it doesn’t seem to have “ongone” anywhere in the last few months, ever since charges were dropped against Richard Quinn, Rick Quinn was allowed to plead to a misdemeanor, and the special prosecutor David Pascoe criticized the judge for not sentencing Quinn fils to prison, even though he, Pascoe, had allowed him to plead to a charge that did not warrant prison. Since then, the probe has seemed to be in limbo. Is it coming back to life now?
  • If it does come back to life — or is perceived to be doing so — what does that do to the governor’s race? Does it affect the primary a week from tomorrow? To what extent will the incumbent’s primary challengers try to make hay from this resurrection of the topic, trumpeting McMaster’s long association with Richard Quinn? To what extent will that work? (We’ll discuss later what effect all this might have on the gubernatorial race in the fall, if McMaster is the nominee.)
  • Will this cause the attack on James Smith that did not happen two weeks ago to happen now? I’m still puzzled that the rumored attack did not materialize when expected. Did the attackers have an attack of conscience (I’m trying to consider ALL possibilities, you see)? Will this tempt them to do their dastardly, unfair worst? Given some things I’ve seen happening in the Democratic contest lately (more on that later), very little would shock me.
  • What, if anything, happens in the GOP race for attorney general? Several months ago, it looked like this was going to be a knock-down-drag-out, with the Pascoe probe as the topic dominating everything else. Pascoe was telegraphing like crazy that the public official he most wanted to go after next was incumbent Alan Wilson. Todd Atwater decided to give up his House seat (now being sought by Paula Rawl Calhoon, whose ad you see at right) to challenge Wilson against that background. But with the Pascoe investigation in suspended animation recently, Wilson has been able to run a pretty conventional incumbent re-election campaign, stressing positives in his record rather than going on the defensive. Does today’s development change that dynamic?
  • What exactly did Courson plead guilty to doing? According to John, he had been charged with “misconduct in office, criminal conspiracy and converting campaign money to his personal use by taking kickbacks.” But the report says he has owned up to one count of “misconduct in office.” Since the converting campaign money to his personal use part was a separate charge, does that mean that is dropped? So what has he pled guilty to?
  • If the investigation is “ongoing,” who might be targeted that we don’t even know about? No one who knew Courson would have expected his name to come up (of course Doug knew, something that I type just to save Doug the trouble), so anybody could be a target.
  • Who will be running for Courson’s seat? I know of one person who’s highly likely to run, whom I won’t name until I get confirmation. But beyond the who, exactly how does this unfold? I assume there will be a special election, but does it occur before the election we’re having anyway this year? That Senate district has already gone a full session without representation, so what would be the hurry now, with the General Assembly practically done for the year?

Those are my first thoughts. Others will no doubt occur to me.

Chamber endorses 15 incumbents with primary opposition

The Chamber of Commerce is playing it safe — which doesn’t mean they’re not right about some of these endorsements:

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce PAC, which supports pro-jobs candidates for the General Assembly, today endorsed 15 members of the S.C. House of Representatives who are running for re-election.chamber_pac_logo_2-1

Each Chamber PAC-endorsed candidate has joined the business community in the fight to make South Carolina the most competitive state in the nation for business development.

“The business community is proud to announce its support for these House members,” said Chamber President and CEO Ted Pitts. “They have strengthened our workforce, delivered tax relief, invested in our infrastructure and reduced the regulatory burden – and, when they are re-elected, we look forward to working with them to keep South Carolina on the move.”

The following House members have earned the business community’s support in June’s primary elections based on their performance on the S.C. Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative scorecard.

  • State Rep. Nathan Ballentine (District 71, Richland and Lexington Counties)
  • State Rep. Micah Caskey (District 89, Lexington County)
  • State Rep. Sylleste Davis (District 100, Berkeley Country)
  • State Rep. Greg Duckworth (District 104, Horry County)
  • State Rep. Craig Gagnon (District 11, Abbeville and Anderson Counties)
  • State Rep. Jackie Hayes (District 55, Darlington, Dillon, Horry and Marlboro Counties)
  • State Rep. Phyllis Henderson (District 21, Greenville Country)
  • State Rep. Joe McEachern (District 77, Richland County)
  • State Rep. Samuel Rivers (District 15, Berkley and Charleston Counties)
  • State Rep. Mike Sottile (District 112, Charleston County)
  • State Rep. Kit Spires (District 96, Lexington County)
  • State Rep. Eddie Tallon (District 33, Spartanburg County)
  • State Rep. Jay West (District, Abbeville and Anderson County)
  • State Rep. Brian White (District 6, Anderson County)
  • State Rep. Ronnie Young (District 84, Aiken County)

At this point, Doug or someone is bursting with indignation at the idea of endorsing all these incumbents! Understandable.

Although the ones with whom I’m most familiar — Nathan Ballentine and Micah Caskey, for instance — are ones I’d pick, too. And if I knew more, I’d likely back quite a few of the others, too.

Unfortunately, our parties have become so corrupted by our system of reapportionment that incumbents seldom, if ever, draw primary opposition that a sensible person would seriously consider. Challengers tend to be extremists trying to pull their respective parties even farther from the sensible center, perpetual candidates who time and time again have been rejected by the voters.

The latter is the case with Micah Caskey, for instance. I forget how many times Billy Oswald has run in the past — sometimes as a Democrat, sometimes as a Republican. If I recall correctly from meeting him long ago, he’s a nice guy (and I have no reason to believe he’s involved with this perfidy), but voters have repeatedly rejected him. And I see no reason they should change their minds after the strong freshman performance Micah has turned in.

In fact, he’s done such a good job that even if he had really strong opposition — such as, say, Tem Miles, whom Micah faced last time — I’d definitely be for giving Micah another term. He’s more than earned it, and I expect more good things from him.

All of that said, there must be SOME incumbents the Chamber doesn’t want to see re-elected. But being the Chamber and therefore risk-averse, those folks aren’t being listed. Because, you know, then the Chamber would be making enemies among folks who will likely be re-elected anyway.

I’d sort of like to see the other list, the one whose existence this one implies: In other words, the incumbents whom the Chamber didn’t endorse despite their having primary opposition. That list would be interesting. I might see if I can infer who those folks are if I get some time later….

 

So, is anyone paying ANY attention to the races for governor?

Sorry about the picture quality. ETV's online video doesn't have an HD option...

Sorry about the picture quality. ETV’s online video doesn’t have an HD option…

I sort of hesitate to post about the Democratic gubernatorial debate last night, since not one of y’all commented on the GOP one the night before.

I wonder: What was the viewership of those debates? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it was probably lower than the deeply shameful turnouts we get in the actual primaries.

As Cindi noted in her column earlier this week, just 14 percent of registered voters bothered to vote in the state primaries two years ago, and 16 percent in 2014.

Really. Let that sink in. While it’s sinking, reflect that for a huge number of state offices, the primaries ARE the election, with no alternative offered in the fall.

If my guess is correct, and even fewer people watched the debates, that means even among that select few, a lot of people will be voting on June 12 with minimal information about the candidates. Which means that they’ll be voting blind. And while in this race, if not in others, there will be a choice offered in the fall, if it’s between, say, Catherine Templeton and Phil Noble, we are really up a creek.

But let’s not dwell on that.

If you DID watch the Democratic debate, or both of them, what did you think? My own opinion of the three Democrats in no way changed — James Smith is the obvious choice among them, and I’ve yet to see his two challengers offer any reason why they would be better nominees. In fact, they consistently offered evidence to the contrary — although I will say that this debate wasn’t nearly as vapid, to use Republican Micah Caskey’s term, as the GOP one.

Beyond that, just to start things off (or to attempt to start things off), I’ll offer some faves from among my real-time tweets:

Y’all know me. I like to end on a positive note. Throw everybody a bone, why not?… :)

Thoughts on last night’s GOP debate?

GOP debate

Actually, it seems a bit jarring to use any form of the word “thought” in relation to that sorry spectacle. My Republican representative put it well:

There just didn’t seem to be much thinking going on on that stage. In fact, I found myself wondering whether, after all these years, even the GOP base has gotten sick of hearing the same pandering cliches stated over and over, ad nauseam.

Of course, there were exceptions to the right-wing cliche thing:

Old times there are not forgotten. At one point during the debate, someone asked me about McGill, “Is that the one they call Foghorn Leghorn?” No, no, I replied — you’re thinking of Henry. Although even he doesn’t have as firm a claim to that as Fritz Hollings. Of course, with Fritz, you never had the feeling someone was pulling a “Chatty Cathy” string. Fritz always spoke his mind.

My most popular tweet during the debate — 15 likes, which isn’t much by usual standards but I think this was a fairly low-viewership event — came with a typo, I’m embarrassed to say (and with Twitter, once there’s been a like or a retweet, I always hesitate to delete and start over). Substitute “rude” for “ride:”

Lynn Teague had an apropos reaction to that:

Indeed.

In retrospect, I felt a little bad about this one, as I worried it may have been misunderstood:

I didn’t mean to say our lieutenant governor is crazy. I mean he’s got the extreme territory staked out. He’s pretty out there. But at least he’s an extreme conservative, instead of, say, a “buzzsaw,” which means there’s some legitimacy to him, or at least consistency.

Did I have anything positive to say about anybody? Yes, I did:

So good one there, Henry. Nice to hear someone talking about an actual problem that exists in our state, instead of nonexistent things such as “sanctuary cities.” Of course, we know who talks the most about those.

My nominees for lowest point in the debate:

Henry talking about how proud he is to be helping Trump patrol the border down in Texas.

Catherine Templeton expressing her eagerness to execute some prisoners.

You may have your own favorites. Suggestions?

In any case, I didn’t hear anything that made me want to go out and take down my James Smith sign

You can be ‘bold,’ OR you can be ‘conservative.’ Choose.

Just caught Catherine Templeton’s latest ad. At the end, she says:

It’s time for a governor as bold and conservative as the people of South Carolina.

Um… you can’t be both of those things at the same time. You can be bold if you choose. Or you can be conservative instead. You have to choose.

Otherwise, words have no meaning. And who wants to live in a world like that?

“Bold and conservative” is as nonsensical as, well, “conservative buzzsaw.” Again, you can be one of those things, but not both…

Cath

Lynn Teague on the Legislature’s unfinished business

When I saw this Tweet yesterday, it gave me an idea:

In my church, we confess every week as follows: “I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do…”

That last part is where I, personally, fall down the most. So I take it seriously.

I asked Lynn if she would write us a blog post on what our lawmakers “have failed to do.” She kindly obliged, and here’s her report:

What Remains at the State House

The General Assembly just canceled their scheduled return to Columbia for May 23-24 to work on unfinished business. The conference committee on S. 954 and H. 4375 has been scheduled for Wednesday, but there will be no meeting of the whole House and Senate until the end of June. What haven’t they done? What should they be doing before the days dwindle down to a precious few?

Lynn Teague

Lynn Teague

Their work for the remainder of 2018 is defined by the sine die resolution, passed before their departure from Columbia on May 10. Under that resolution, they can return to deal with the state budget, anything related to V. C. Summer, legislation to make the state tax code conform to changes in the federal tax code, bills that have been passed in both houses and are now in conference committee, and some local legislation. They have given themselves until November to do this. That is far too late for some of the remaining bills.

First, the state needs a budget. The government won’t shut down if the budget doesn’t pass by July 1, but it would surely be better to let agencies know what they have to work with at the start of the fiscal year. The budget also includes important provisos that are there in part because the General Assembly failed to pass other needed bills. Legislators should be working now to resolve their differences on those.

What else should legislators do when they return? They must surely bring our tax system into conformity with changes in the federal tax code, either by reconciling H.5341 and S. 1258 in conference or by writing a new bill. This is an area in which failure to act could be costly for South Carolina’s citizens.

And then there are the utilities. Of course, the utilities, which everyone said were the sole focus of the 2018 session. And yet, bills to resolve both short-term and long-term issues arising from the catastrophic failure of V. C. Summer remain to be passed. Some of the delay can be attributed to differences between House and Senate. Some can be attributed to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that was not inclined to haste. I wouldn’t say that they were slow, but substantial parts of the Greenland ice sheet collapsed between meetings. So now a significant amount of work remains to be done.

S 954 is best known for the ongoing battle between House and Senate over the amount of a temporary rate suspension, whether 13% or 18%. With each passing day, we pay more to SCANA for something that we aren’t getting because this isn’t resolved. However, in the long term the more important aspect of this bill is the PSC schedule, which would give all participants certainty of a schedule to resolve the complex issues surrounding SCANA and its exorbitant rates. This schedule is especially important given SCANA’s stonewalling of discovery requests from intervenors and the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) at the PSC, delaying the ability of stakeholders to examine material evidence.

Other surviving utility bills include H.4375, amending the Base Load Review Act (BLRA) that made the V. C. Summer catastrophe possible. Retroactive repeal would be lovely, but is pretty surely unconstitutional. The most important elements of H. 4375 are preventing future use of the BLRA and introducing a definition of prudency, a central concept in evaluating whether SCANA’s costs at V. C. Summer were legitimately incurred. Another bill, H. 4379, creates a consumer advocate and removes the serious conflicts currently embedded in the ORS mission statement. The first two of these bills are on the agenda for the Wednesday conference committee, but H. 4379 is not yet in conference. Legislators must be working to resolve their differences on these bills before proceedings at the PSC and in the courts move further forward.

Those are the absolutely necessary bills for June. We are sure that legislators expect to dig in and move fast when they return to Columbia, but there is a lot to do. November is too late for much of it. July is too late for some of it.

Two other important utility bills, H. 4377 and H. 4378, were never heard in Senate Judiciary subcommittee, but nevertheless could and should be taken up under the sine die resolution. No one has indicated any intention to do this, but it is possible and needed so it is worth mentioning. H. 4377 makes important changes to strengthen the qualifications of members of the PSC and improve their access to information. We need that. PSC members shouldn’t be just representatives of local areas there to look out for local interests, they must be technically and legally competent to address the complex issues before the PSC.

H. 4378 revised the membership of the powerful State Regulation of Utilities Review Committee (PURC) that oversees the whole regulatory system. It gives the Governor appointments to this important body and ensures that legislators are not a majority on the committee. We badly need this. However, at present H.4378 does not go far enough. We should also prohibit members of PURC, their immediate families, and the businesses with which they are associated from receiving income, donations, or gifts from any regulated monopoly. At present they can receive all of these benefits from the industries that they oversee. This should end, now.

So, with all that time until November, there is no good reason for the General Assembly not to take up these other bills and actually reform our regulatory system.

Lynn is more diplomatic about all that than I would be, but she sure knows her stuff, and I felt a post from her would be far more informative than one from me…

Archie Parnell’s shameful secret (which hasn’t shamed HIM enough to get him to bow out)

headshot

Well, I guess I feel pretty foolish for having given Archie Parnell a hard time for not shaving his beard.

But you know why political consultants will tell you to do that? So that voters won’t wonder what you’re hiding.

It turns out Parnell has been concealing something far, far worse than a weak chin:

Top South Carolina candidate refuses to quit congressional race after abuse discovery

Archie Parnell, a Democratic congressional hopeful who earned national attention after nearly winning in deep red South Carolina last year, is resisting pleas to withdraw after his campaign staff discovered that he physically abused his ex-wife in the 1970s.

In divorce records obtained by The Post and Courier, Kathleen Parnell said the marriage deteriorated after two years in 1973 because of “unwarranted accusations” from her husband.

In October 1973, Archie Parnell, then a University of South Carolina student, was locked out of some friends’ apartment to protect Kathleen Parnell, who was staying there. At 2 a.m., Archie Parnell used a tire iron to break a glass door, the complaint said. He made more unspecified accusations to Kathleen Parnell before striking her several times. She said she was beaten again later that evening.

After the “acts of physical cruelty,” Kathleen Parnell said she feared for her life and did not want to stay married. She obtained a restraining order against Archie Parnell after seeking the divorce, according to court documents. The divorce was finalized in early 1974….

When this came out his campaign manager immediately quit, saying “He has no business running for Congress and he never did.”

But Parnell himself won’t quit.

I feel ridiculous for having to say this, but he should. A man doesn’t hit a woman. Ever. Even when it was a long, long time ago.

Oh, and by the way — his party agrees with me:

SCDP CHAIR STATEMENT ON ARCHIE PARNELL
Columbia, SC –South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson released the following statement on Monday after the Post & Courier reported that he physically abused his then-wife in 1973:
““In light of this sad revelation, Archie Parnell has no choice but to withdraw from the race for the 5th Congressional District. His actions, though long ago, directly contradict the values of the Democratic Party.”
###

Et tu, Publix? (And more embarrassing news from SC)

0XqKUFxH

Mike Fitts brought it to my attention first:

Then, to my horror, I discovered that The Washington Post was also prominently playing this deeply embarrassing South Carolina story:

South Carolina grocery censors graduation cake inscription

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A South Carolina woman isn’t happy a grocery store censored her honor graduate son’s cake, which was supposed to include the Latin phrase “Summa Cum Laude.”

Cara Koscinski told The Washington Post a cake online from Publix that was supposed to say “Congrats Jacob! Summa Cum Laude class of 2018.”

She says the online message box did not like the word “cum,” the Latin word for “with.” The computer marked it as a naughty word and substituted three hyphens….

Yeesh.

It’s not that I’m saying everyone should have at least two years of Latin the way I did (although, of course, they should). I’m saying that to be ignorant of what cum laude means indicates that not only did you not graduate with honors, but you don’t even know anybody who maintained a 3.0 or better.

Some good news: I looked back a few minutes ago, and that story was no longer being played as prominently on the Post as it had been this morning. Whew.

But here’s the bad news: THIS is now the very top story under the Post‘s National heading on my iPad app:

A short circuit unlocked cells at a South Carolina jail. Now two murder suspects are on the loose.

Two men facing trials for brutal murders managed to overpower a jail guard and escape into the trees outside a small town in South Carolina, authorities say, after a short circuit caused their cell doors to automatically open.

Tyshon Demontrea Johnson and Curtis Ray Green fled the Orangeburg Detention Center on Saturday — initially escaping with an accused carjacker from the same cell block. The third inmate has since been recaptured, but a manhunt had not found Johnson and Green by late Monday, leaving the jail’s frightened neighbors demanding to know how its systems could so utterly fail.

It was not the first time that a cell door at the 1960s-era facility released an inmate because of a malfunction: Last June, a man serving a sentence for a probation violation noticed that his door had failed to lock, according to WRDW, and he enjoyed a few hours of freedom before police caught him in an alley.

Oh, boy…

embarrass

 

Another perfectly good blog post, ruined by gratuitous, over-eager journalistic enterprise

Grabbed this from Meg's Twitter feed. Hope she doesn't mind...

Grabbed this from Meg’s Twitter feed. Hope she doesn’t mind…

Dadblastit!

I’ve been giving key personnel at the Post and Courier unmitigated hell for having ruined a perfectly good, really fun blog post that I was almost finished writing when they had to stick their noses in:

This is what had me ticked off:

And what did I get from Andy Shain, the Columbia bureau chief? A bunch of sass:

And his boss, Executive Editor Mitch Pugh, was no better, thoroughly enjoying my pain:

I fired this back at Andy:

Fortunately, I was then able to taunt them a second time-a with this:

But enough of my fulminations. Some of you may wish to comment on the substance of the breaking story.

Frankly, I’m surprised she went with a guy with such a mainstream pedigree, given her desire to be seen as a destructive force, an “outsider buzzsaw,” yadda-yadda. The answer to the standard South Carolina question, “Whose his Daddy?,” is respected former federal appeals judge Billy Wilkins.

And his uncle is even more establishment — our former speaker and ambassador to Canada, David, a throwback to the days when South Carolina Republicans voted for people with names like “Bush” instead of “Trump.”

So maybe she’s not quite the rebel she wants Trump voters to think she is. Or maybe she was just excited to hear that he was a “Young Gun.” Because, you know, she likes guns. Or likes us to think she likes them, anyway…

That 2010 picture was an expression of something good, and rare, in our politics

My original caption on this picture was, "Dogs and cats, living together -- Republican Rick Quinn and Democrat James Smith at the Benjamin victory party."

My original caption on this picture was, “Dogs and cats, living together — Republican Rick Quinn and Democrat James Smith at the Benjamin victory party.”

Remember the night Steve Benjamin was elected mayor back in 2010? It was a heady evening, and a lot of people, including people you might not expect, were excited about it.

There were the usual suspects, of course. A lot of black voters were thrilled to have had the chance to elect the first black mayor of a major South Carolina city, only 15 months after seeing Barack Obama become president. And even though this was a nonpartisan election (as all elections should be), it was quite natural that white Democrats would be happy, too. Steve had been their party’s nominee for attorney general several years earlier, and had also served as an agency head in Gov. Jim Hodges’ administration.

But Benjamin’s appeal was much broader than that. There were some very prominent Republicans at his celebration, and they were as happy as anybody. In all my years in South Carolina, I had never seen these people at the same victory celebration:

But the best part of all? Seeing the happy Democrats (James Smith, Anton Gunn, Boyd Summers, etc.) and Republicans (Rick Quinn, Butch Bowers, Kevin Hall — at least, I heard Kevin was there) together there, and hearing the chant, begun by the mayor-elect, of “ONE Columbia.”

Reminds me of that awesome night in that same building when the people chanted “Race Doesn’t Matter!” in celebrating the Obama victory in the SC primary…

(By the way, if you’re not all that involved in politics, you might not know just how Republican Butch Bowers and Kevin Hall are. They were law partners at the time, and their clients included pretty much every statewide elected official in the state — all Republicans, of course — as well as much of the congressional delegation. We’re talking big-time GOP lawyers and movers and shakers behind the scenes.)

What I meant by that observation about Obama’s SC victory was, it was almost like people at the Benjamin thing were chanting, “Party doesn’t matter.” And you know what music that would be to my ears, feeling as I do about parties. I definitely got caught up in it myself, in a way I wouldn’t have back when I was at the paper:

It was pretty awesome being in the room when Steve made his victory speech. I was right up front, and when I congratulated him, I got one of those regular-guy combination handshake-hugs — which was also embarrassing for a serious journalist, but I was happy for him. In fact, I was caught up enough in the moment to Tweet this, which DID actually post, during his speech:

This is awesome. I’m happy for Steve, for everybody in this room, and for Columbia…

And I meant it. It was a big moment. I mean, the man had tears coursing down his face as I sent that out. And if you didn’t get a contact high from being in that crowd, you’ve got ice water in your veins….

So, in that atmosphere, with everyone enjoying the moment, I ran into James Smith and Rick Quinn at the same time and said something to them like, “This is not a sight you see every day. I’ve got to get a picture of this!”

So that political Odd Couple, in the spirit of the moment, gladly posed for me, and then went back to the celebration.

Why were so many different kinds of people happy about this result? Well, Rick’s motive was pretty clear — his Dad’s political consulting business had worked to get Benjamin elected. But the next question is, Why would the Quinn’s — as solidly identified with Republican candidates as anyone in South Carolina — work for this Democrat, even in a nonpartisan election?

I can’t answer that precisely because I don’t think I ever asked. But it seemed natural to me that such lines were crossed. My impression at the time as to why his support was so broad was because his message had been so unifying. Check out my shaky video from his victory speech, which he started out by repeating his campaign slogan: “We are ONE Columbia.”

His campaign had been about pulling together a fragmented community — not just split by party and race and class, or by town and gown or government and private sector, but by the fact that government itself here is the most fragmented I’d ever seen in my career when I arrived at The State to become governmental affairs editor in 1987. I came here from Wichita, Kansas — a city of about the same size at the confluence of two rivers, with a deep cultural split between the east and west sides of the water. Sound familiar? But it was easy for Wichita to move forward together because it was one city in one county with one school board and so on.

The economic community of Columbia is split not only between two politically incompatible counties, but into about 10 municipalities, seven school districts, and a confusing array of little special purpose districts that provide services cities and counties should provide (Richland County Recreation Commission, anyone?).

Benjamin had spoken of all of that as ONE Columbia, with optimism about what we could do together, with eloquence and Kennedyesque vigor (vigah?), and people were pumped about it.

So it was a night when it looked like it was possible to sweep aside all the usual garbage that divides us and causes so many of us to become depressed at the mere mention of the word, “politics.”

Speaking of all that garbage — that’s what causes me to bring up the subject of that night eight years ago.

I hear that someone is about to use MY photograph of James with Rick Quinn — without my permission, of course — to attack, to smear, to malign James Smith, to damage his chances of becoming governor, or even of getting his party’s nomination in the June 12 primary.

The photo couldn’t possibly damage him among people who know him or his record or his character. No, this would be a smear based on exploiting and manipulating voter ignorance, an attempt to generate this sort of reaction: I don’t know that James Smith, but he sure seems to be buddy-buddy with that Rick Quinn, and while I don’t recall exactly what Quinn DID, I’ve heard he’s some kinda crook or something! I better find somebody else to vote for…

Or, the hoped-for reaction could be as simple and stupid as this: That Rick Quinn’s a Republican! That James Smith must be one, too…

If this attack emerges, and it’s anything like what I’m hearing (I hope the rumors are wrong) it will be an expression of the things that make our politics ugly, relying on such things as blind partisanship, mistaken impression, damning a person for incidental association rather than for anything he ever did….

Will Folks predicted something like this would happen several months ago, having gotten wind of a group that was prepared to spend a lot to try to take down James Smith’s candidacy, by trying to make him appear to be something he’s not. I don’t know if what I’m hearing about now is the same thing. We’ll have to see when it emerges.

The thing is, James Smith is that rare thing in politics — a guy who not only looks like a Boy Scout, but really is one. He’s always been a clean, honest, diligent public servant. To try to suggest he is something else would be disgusting. And it would be especially appalling if a photo of mine was misleadingly used to do that.

I just hope what I’ve been hearing is wrong…

Steve Benjamin on that heady night in 2010 when he was elected mayor.

Steve Benjamin on that heady night in 2010 when he was elected mayor.