Strom retires; Democrats caught by surprise
In spite of all the clues that Sen. Strom Thurmond is aging, the Dems haven't had the foresight to groom a candidate to run for his seat. Republicans, on the other hand, have anointed Lindsey Graham as the heir apparent. Graham is not an intellectual or political heavyweight; his claim to fame is putting a fork in Bill Clinton during the impeachment hearings.
Democrats have floated lots of names, the latest being that of retiring College of Charleston President Alex Sanders. The former judge and state legislator may be the Democrats' best hope for a credible candidate. He is known for his quick wit and populist charm, and has broad appeal that would cross party lines.
Richard Quinn, Charlie Condon's gubernatorial campaign manager, says that while Sanders is a "brilliant and well-read bon vivant, he is not ordinary enough to run for statewide office."
Dance with the ones that brung ya
Gov. Jim Hodges is increasingly seen as a one-term governor. His zeal to pass the lottery led him and some party leaders to cut deals with Republicans at the expense of electing Democrats. The lottery passed but the Democrats took a licking in the House and ultimately lost control of the Senate for the first time since Reconstruction.
After winning with the support of the traditional Democratic base—workers, women, environmentalists and minorities—Hodges has failed to champion any of their causes and instead has pandered to the Chamber of Commerce.
Hodges' recent appointments to the DHEC board are a good example of bad politics. Hodges ignored suggestions from environmental groups and filled the three open seats of the seven-member board with business-friendly reps. His appointments include a member of the Manufactures Association, the Home Builders Association and the insurance industry. Hodges ignored the environmental community's long-standing effort to insure that DHEC board members have some expertise in the agency's mission to protect our health and environment.
Still, liberal elements in the Democratic Party are pleading with disaffected members to remain solidly behind Hodges lest we end up with a real Republican as governor.
The dissatisfaction surfaced at the Democratic Party's May Convention. Party Chair Dick Harpootlian was challenged by Beaufort County party activist Betty Arron. "I pledge to build the party from the bottom up, not from the top down, as it the current practice," she said. Arron, who served 10 years in the Georgia legislature, was defeated on a voice vote. The number of disgruntled Dems who walked out of the convention after the vote bodes ill for the governor, who clearly has forgotten who brung him to the dance.
The three scariest words?
When Attorney General Charlie Condon was plotting his next political move, he was shocked to find that his old mentor Richard Quinn would not support his bid for U.S. Senate. Quinn ran both of Condon's successful campaigns for attorney general. Quinn Sr. (not to be confused with his son, who holds a House seat) is a Republican hired gun with an impressive track record.
Quinn turned Condon down because he had already agreed to run Lindsey Graham's campaign for Senate. Graham and Quinn developed a relationship working on John McCain's presidential bid, while Condon supported Bush. Quinn advised Condon that a Lowcountry Republican was his party's best shot at the governor's race, and Condon hired Quinn to manage the task.
Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler is also running for governor. His major claim to fame is the giant cow that he uses to promote his family's dairy business. Political pundits agree that Peeler is stunningly dull but cannot possibly be as dim as he appears. Peeler is well positioned as the corporate candidate with the most financial support.
Former U.S. congressman Mark Sanford is the wild card in the Republican deck. He comes across as the yuppie millionaire-next-door. By some accounts, his wife, Jenny, wears the ambition in the family and has decided she wants to be first lady. Sanford can pull in the swing votes, along with a bunch of Democratic defectors, and would be the Republican's best bet in the general election. But first he must win the primary, unlikely because that will be decided by the party's right wing, which Condon is courting hard.
The three scariest words? Gov. Charlie Condon.
While the House Republican leadership claimed it didn't have time to debate the racial profiling bill or the pay equity bill—legislation that would benefit the women and minorities who make up more than half the state's population—lawmakers found time in the waning days of the session to pass a bill that struck a compromise on the number of red drum fish that can be taken daily. Debate centered on whether the limit to protect the threatened species should be one fish or three fish, and a "two fish compromise" was struck.
Will Hodges come clean?
The governor's Commission on Campaign Finance Reform issued the results of its study in March but that information has yet to be released to the public. The governor apparently doesn't know what to do with the report, which calls, among other things, for politicians to give up their addiction to money.
Hodges created the commission after he vetoed a Republican bill that would require individuals to report spending more than $500 on a candidate. The video poker millionaires who supported Hodges were not required to report their expenditures, and Hodges was seen as protecting his sources.
In an attempt to maintain the political high ground, Hodges said the bill he vetoed didn't go far enough, and he charged his commission to come up with "cutting edge" reforms. But when the commission concluded that public financing of elections was the route to real reform, Hodges sat on the results. The governor's office says that Hodges wants to get the budget and the lottery behind him before he addresses the report. The governor's spokesperson said that reformers "will be surprised" with the governor's position.
We hope the surprise will be that Hodges has realized "clean elections" (with campaigns funded by voters rather than corporate interests) could be the popular issue he could champion to get reelected.
Meanwhile, Hodges has set the record for fund-raising in office. By April, his campaign reported $2.5 million in the bank, more than any South Carolina candidate has ever raised this early in a campaign.
Herb Kirsh (D-York) said that adding a $20 fee to marriage licenses to fund domestic violence programs would "send a bad sign to couples who want to get married." Apparently oblivious to the fact that South Carolina ranks first in the rate of violence in the home, Kirsh said that couples should have their minds on love, not war, at such a blissful time.
House Speaker David Wilkins said that it was "blackmail" for black senators Robert Ford, Darrell Jackson and Maggie Glover to block House legislation if that body didn't take up the bill against racial profiling that the Senate passed. Failure to pass this bill is a "slap on the face of 1.2 million black South Carolinians," Ford said.
The bill would simply require all cops to report all stops. It has bipartisan appeal (Even W. says racial profiling is bad) and might pass, but Wilkins wouldn't allow the bill on the floor. The time that Wilkins spent pontificating on not being blackmailed could have been spent voting on the bill. Wilkins said that to do so would "send a bad sign."
B&C in the sky with diamonds
Burroughs and Chapin, the Myrtle Beach megadeveloper that wants to turn a swamp into a "Green Diamond," is a case study of how money drives politics. The proposed multi-billion dollar development on the Congaree River just outside of Columbia is being promoted by nearly every influence-peddler in town. Republican operative Tony Denny was recently added to the bipartisan list of shills for the company that reads like a Who's Who of local power brokers.
B&C has spread so much money around, there may be no one left to vote for them. Two of the seven members of Columbia City Council have recused themselves from voting on the project because of business links with the company. And Mayor Bob Coble had to get a ruling from the state Ethics Commission that his law partners contract with B&C does not pose a conflict on interest for him.
B&C's most recent hire is Joe Grant, the lobbyist for the city of Columbia. Grant will be paid by one client to convince another client that he's really representing their best interest.
Red, White and Green?
Rep. Jake Knotts (R-Lexington) was named by Lips years ago as "Redneck Emeritus" of the legislature, and he continues to live up to the billing.
Knotts took the side of environmentalists recently in a fight to hold AT&T's feet to the fire for its bad environmental record. Knotts opposed the company's bid to open a new plant in Richland County because it had walked on a toxic mess it had created in Lexington County. Knotts has been pushing a bill that would require DHEC to consider a company's past environmental record before granting a permit. When he was accused of being a tree hugger, he took a step back, puffed up and said, "I only hug girl trees!"
His Republican primary opponent in his last House race, Alan Ray, has sued Knotts for slander, claiming he has falsely accused him of being gay. Ray says that Knotts' assertions are damaging his personal reputation and his hairstyling business. Family Values
The United White Klans recently posted notice on its Web site of a July 7 rally at the Laurens County court house. It promised that the noon rally would be followed by a private event that "will konklude with a traditional cross lighting." Imperial Wizard Thomas Pou and his klavern are from Mississippi. The Wiz asked those planning to attend to observe the rules:
Men Will be Boys
The memo from the House "men's caucus" and the recent debate between the state's party heads about whether Republicans or Democrats are the true party of "girls and beer" are stunning examples of how Bubba just don't get it. But they do help clarify why women in South Carolina are less likely to hold political office and the most likely to be killed by their husbands than anywhere in the country. The lack of respect starts at the top.