A shameless plug, and another
batch of candidate tidbits
By Brad Warthen
Editorial Page Editor
SHAMELESS PLUG: Tune in to ETV tonight at 7 to see the five GOP candidates for state education superintendent questioned by Yours Truly. Now, on to our column….
Our endorsements for the June 13 primary started running last week (see the link below). But candidate interviews continue. Here are some tidbits from last week’s guests:
Monday, 9 a.m. A retired Navy captain and computer whiz, Ken Clark is one of the most perceptive, knowledgeable, hard-working, honest and forthright people in the Legislature. He’s facing a candidate who knows virtually nothing about even his own top issue, but is backed by out-of-state money that wants to destroy public education in South Carolina. Rep. Clark should win in a walk. If he doesn’t, we should all worry: “(I)f they succeed in knocking over three or four or five of us, think of the power they will have over the Legislature.”
11 a.m. “Naturally, I am a quiet man, and I think there are advantages to being a quiet man,” said Rep. Joe Brown. “I act like a committee chairman and not like a jackass.” He said he’s all about “constituent service” (using political power to do small favors for individuals), and isn’t interested “in running my mouth a lot in the General Assembly.” Mr. Brown derides the can-do energy of attorney Chris Hart: “My opponent says I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that, and I’m gonna do the other.” After 21 years in office, Mr. Brown says that’s just inexperience talking.
2 p.m. When our next candidate had left, I had to ask a colleague: “What do you think? Valium?” I hadn’t seen such a meek, mild and deferential candidate in years. And this was John Scott (at least, I think it was), normally Mr. Cocksure. The old John Scott was always right, and other views were smugly dismissed. This new guy is so agreeable that if I had asked him to hand over his wallet, I think he would have done it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; it was just weird. I hope he’s OK.
5 p.m. But the title for most cautious candidate goes to Harold Driver, running for Richland County Council. When we asked questions that applied, he pointed to answers he had written out ahead of time (I think they were responses to questions our newsroom had sent him) rather than take the risk of speaking aloud. When we asked questions not covered on the sheet of paper, he objected. The bus system? “It’s hard to answer questions when you’re not informed.” Homelessness? “I don’t want to answer any questions that are gonna damage my campaign, because I feel like it’s going real good.”
Wednesday, 10 a.m. Could we do a better job of channeling limited resources and improving our public universities if we had a board of regents to set priorities? “We probably could,” said Florence Mayor Frank Willis. But “what do you lose?” His community loves Francis Marion University. Other communities love the colleges the Legislature has given them. “Those people will fight you,” he warned. Apparently, if elected governor, Mr. Willis would not fight back. So we would continue to scatter 79 middling campuses across a state that doesn’t have a single one in the nation’s top tier.
11:30 a.m. We have this trick question. Well, it’s a trick question to some. If you paid attention in poli sci class, it’s like Tee Ball. Kirk Cox, candidate for Lexington County Council, knocked it out of the park. Question: “If you know your constituents feel one way on an issue, but after studying the facts you reach a different conclusion, how do you vote?” Mr. Cox was confused at our having to ask. “I’m not going to take a poll,” he said. “We do have a representative form of government, right?” Indeed. Sorry to insult you.
12:30 p.m. Since becoming secretary of state four years ago, Mark Hammond has been working to modernize and streamline the office. But he wants to keep the 1895 model for selecting the officeholder. He thinks voters should still have to pick the secretary of state, even though 95 percent of them probably couldn’t begin to tell you what he does. “This is just a gimmick of my opponent,” he says of letting the governor appoint instead. Never mind that this newspaper has advocated that idea for at least 15 years.
1:30 p.m. Why did Thomas Ravenel, most recently seen running for the U.S. Senate in 2004, enter the GOP race for state treasurer at the last minute? “I like (state Sen. Greg) Ryberg,” but “I feel like he can’t win.” Why? “I didn’t think he’d get off his wallet,” he explained. “I felt like (former Rep. Rick) Quinn was gonna win.” And as those who saw Messrs. Ravenel and Quinn go at each other in last Sunday’s debate know, that wouldn’t suit him at all. Sen. Ryberg’s off his wallet now, to the tune of $2 million of his own money, but Mr. Ravenel is spending right back at him. (Asked if he would promise not to quit mid-term to run for the Senate again, he would say only, “I promise not to spend 36 of the next 40 years as treasurer.”)
Thursday, 11:30 a.m. “I’ll frame it this way,” Valerie Ingram said as to why she’s after Kit Smith’s seat on Richland County Council. Some people complain to her that “they were treated poorly” when they appeared before the council. Which people? “Business people and agencies….” Such as the sheriff’s department? Yes. Ms. Ingram works for the sheriff.
1 p.m. “I’m very straightforward,” said Kit Smith, “and sometimes I’m not that tactful.” As for Sheriff Leon Lott, “He’s a good politician… and a good sheriff.” Her differences with him are over management and budget issues. She frets about a conundrum that lies at the core of S.C. politics: You can’t demand justification for a budget increase without it being seen as a personal attack. Many of her comments reflected an idea that she admits sounds odd coming from a Democrat: “I think we rely too much on government in this town.”
Friday, 10 a.m. The lieutenant governor couldn’t keep his appointment, for obvious reasons. He has my sympathy, and so do his opponents: It’s awfully hard to run against a man who has to rest in bed the next three months. Let Mike Campbell so much as say “Andre Bauer” and folks will holler, “Stop picking on the man! He’s been in a plane crash!” An interesting situation.
For our endorsements, go to http://www.thestate.com/mld/thestate/news/special_packages/endorsements/.