GOP dark horse steps forward

This just came to my attention, and in keeping with my efforts to begin chronicling the 2010 gubernatorial election (because the sooner we can get a new governor, the better), I share it with you:

{BC-SC-Governor-Nelsen, 2nd Ld-Writethru,0320}
{Furman professor plans GOP bid for SC governor}
{Eds: UPDATES with quotes, details from Nelsen, Bauer. ADDS byline.}
{Associated Press Writer}=
   COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – A Furman University political science professor announced plans Thursday to be the first GOP candidate to formally enter the 2010 race for South Carolina governor.
   Brent Nelsen says he'll file paperwork Friday to set up his Nelsen for Governor Committee and launch a series of economic summits around the state that aim to come up with plans to increase employment and spur economic development.
   Nelsen has never run for political office and said he wants to put into practice some of the things he has taught. He wouldn't say how much he expects to raise in the next six months to wage a credible campaign in a primary that most expect will cost millions to win.
   "I'm going to have enough money in the next six months to make a run for this," Nelsen said. "I'm not going to put a dollar figure on it."
   Republican Gov. Mark Sanford is limited to two terms and leaves office in 2011. His tenure has been marked by high jobless rates – at 9.5 percent in December, South Carolina had the nation's third worst unemployment rate.
   Other GOP candidates flush with campaign cash and with better-recognized names in state politics have said they're interested but not yet ready to announce plans. Attorney General Henry McMaster is interested but isn't expected to enter the race before spring. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Thursday he's probably running, but is too busy for now to announce his intentions. U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett has begun lining up advisers for a possible bid.
   Democrat state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden already has filed 2010 campaign forms so he can begin raising money, making him the only other candidate formally in the race for governor. Other Democrats considering bids include House Minority Leader Harry Ott of St. Matthews and state Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Prof. Nelson isn't quite as viable a candidate as the subject of my Sunday column, Vincent Sheheen. Nor, and this is more to the point, as viable as the most active GOP candidate-to-be, Attorney General Henry McMaster. But I pass on this report nonetheless, so that you might make of it what you will.

For more on Dr. Nelson, I refer you to this piece he wrote for us recently, which appeared on our Saturday Online Extra on Jan. 17:

S.C. GOP must reform itself
The S.C. Republican Party is in trouble. If the party fails to seek new ideas and reach out to new voters, its dominance of state politics will end. It’s time to start a new debate within the party.
    Ironically, Republicans still look strong. The party holds eight of the nine elected state offices. Republicans control the state House and Senate by comfortable margins and have both U.S. senators and four of six U.S. representatives. Just as important, South Carolina remained “McCain red” in a presidential election that saw big gains for Democrats almost everywhere.
    But scratch the surface, and significant cracks appear in the GOP’s foundation. The most obvious problem is the dysfunctional relationship between the Republican governor and the Republican Legislature. To be fair, Columbia’s broken politics stems from a state constitution that hamstrings the governor, denying him the power to implement a coherent policy. But Gov. Mark Sanford has been unable — or unwilling — to employ the customary gubernatorial tools to shepherd his proposals through the Legislature. That Legislature is indeed overly protective of its anachronistic privileges, but he often uses that resistance as a pretext for political posturing of his own, rather than engaging opponents in a search for common ground. The party has gotten away with this petty bickering, but the state now faces the third-highest unemployment rate in the country, declining competitiveness and poor educational performance. Someday voters will notice.
    And Republicans face a cascade of worrying electoral trends. Only 54 percent of South Carolinians picked John McCain for president, down 10 points from Ronald Reagan’s vote in 1984. McCain’s showing is no anomaly but another point marking a rather steady decline for Republican candidates (not counting the three-way elections of 1992 and 1996). In the 2008 contest, the Republican vote dropped in 43 of 46 counties. Declines averaged 3.6 percent but were even greater (4.4 percent) in the 11 largest counties.
    The worst news comes from important demographic categories. In 2004 George Bush won every age group in South Carolina, including 18-29 year olds; John McCain managed to win only those 45 and older. Fifteen percent of African-American voters voted for Bush in 2004; only 4 percent chose McCain. Hispanic voters are too few in South Carolina to analyze, but Hispanics increased their share of the electorate from 1 percent in 2004 to 3 percent in 2008. Nationally Obama won 61 percent of the Hispanic vote, and South Carolina was probably no different.
    Is all lost for S.C. Republicans? Absolutely not — but the party must adjust to the new realities. Republicans must reach beyond white, married, religious voters — a shrinking base. To avoid becoming the next red state gone blue, Republicans must attract more young people, minorities and not-so-religious whites. Accomplishing this without losing the GOP’s conservative base will be tricky, but not impossible.
    Here are three suggestions.

— First, the party must stress what it is for rather than what it is against. It is no longer enough to be against government, taxes, gun control, abortion, gay marriage and immigration. Uncommitted voters want to know the alternative. Republicans should focus on establishing the conditions necessary to “human flourishing.”
Strong government should establish clear boundaries for behavior and then stand back and allow responsible citizens to act freely. Public officials must identify the social causes of poverty and low educational achievement and work with churches and neighborhood organizations to strengthen families and their communities.
We need politicians who can find compassionate ways to balance the need for employers to gain access to hard-working labor, citizens to feel comfortable in their neighborhoods and immigrants to realize the American dream. Governments cannot make humans flourish, but they can make the necessary room for this to happen. That is a conservative vision.
— Second, Republicans must reconnect with young adults, Hispanics and African-Americans. Many in these groups are social conservatives who fail to see in Republicans a concern for the economic and cultural issues important to minorities. Republicans must convince these voters that the party is committed to
the flourishing of all South Carolinians.
— Finally, the party must stop fighting and start solving problems. Education, enterprise and environment might be three places to start. The state must dramatically narrow the education gap between the richest and the poorest; it must regain its globally competitive position; and it must manage responsibly the natural beauty of this state.

    If S.C. Republicans focus on human flourishing and government that works, new supporters will help reverse the party’s decline.

Dr. Nelson chairs the political science department at Furman University. He is a lifelong Republican.

8 thoughts on “GOP dark horse steps forward

  1. Lee Muller

    Nothing concrete in Mr. Nelson’s article.
    He is talking in generalities, near bromides.
    If he is just another moderate or liberal hiding behind vague slogans, he should stay home. Otherwise, he needs to give details about where he stands on specific issues, and how he intends to reduce this bloated, corrupt government that is driving away employers.

  2. P Morrison

    Finally, a candidate who is going to step up and take the economic crisis this state is in head on! I’m in the upstate and have had the pleasure of knowing Brent Nelsen for years and he is a man of upmost integrity. He also cares greatly about this state, its people, and its future.

  3. TJ

    Work their way up in a corrupt SC good ole boy system where all the politicians just rotate jobs with each other? Hasn’t really worked for us in the past.

  4. Lee Muller

    We certainly don’t need career politicians who WORM their way up. That is the first mark against Mr. Sheheen.
    We also don’t need unknowns like Barack Obama who are manufactured candidates for a machine, who talk vaguely to make people feed enthused. The lack of details about the political stands of Brent Nelson are his biggest negative.

  5. JP Sibley

    I know Brent Nelsen. He is an elder in my church and a man of integrity and leadership. He is well respected by even his opponents (politically) at Furman University. I don’t want to lose him as a neighbor in the upstate and I’m not sure I would ever wish Columbia on anyone. But Brent has a passion to take his work ethic and vision for good government to the place it can best be used. And in SC — that’s Columbia. Maybe an “unknown” in SC is exactly what we need.

  6. Lee Muller

    Thanks for the input, Mr. Sibley, as to the character of Mr. North. That is important.
    Having run as an “unknown” before, let me repeat again that he has no chance of winning without a having his ideology known.
    This country is in the grip of socialist revolutionaries who do not intend to leave anything for the next generation. Wishy-washy benchwarmers like Lindsey Graham and John McCain surrendered the field to more resolute opponents.

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