Dwight Drake’s running! What an election this is shaping up to be…

What an election year 2010 is turning out to be!

You know the wild rumors that led to me being asked whether I was running for governor, at the behest of Jim Hodges and Dick Harpootlian? Apparently, the candidate that rumor was really about was Dwight Drake. (UPDATE: Jim Hodges just told me he’s not backing Dwight or any other gubernatorial candidate — yet.) This is not as shocking an idea as it being ME, but it’s still pretty wild and surprising. Dwight’s done well — very well — working the corridors of power without being the front man, so this is quite a step for him.

Dwight dealt with the Legislature for Dick Riley, and has been doing the same for clients, ranging from Big Tobacco to the high school girl who sued over the stimulus (in that latter case, the aforementioned Dick H. was his co-counsel), ever since.

In fact, if you drew a spectrum of political figures in terms of their effectiveness with lawmakers and put Mark Sanford on one end, Dwight would be on the other. He’s the anti-Mark Sanford, whether you see that as good or bad.

FYI, here’s his bio from the official Nelson Mullins Web site:

Dwight F. Drake is a partner of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP in Columbia where his practice focuses on government relations, legislative issues, and disputes involving government contracts. Maintaining an active litigation practice, Mr. Drake regularly argues before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Since joining the firm in 1983, Mr. Drake has been at the forefront of every significant issue considered by the South Carolina General Assembly — from tort reform to the Economic Development Bond Act. Additionally, he has held numerous positions in firm leadership and management.

In 1981, Mr. Drake was named Lawyer of the Year in Government by American Lawyer, and he is widely recognized for his prominent role in governmental and political arenas. Mr. Drake has twice received The Order of the Palmetto, the highest honor bestowed by a Governor of South Carolina. Mr. Drake’s successful litigation practice led to his selection as a permanent member of the Fourth Circuit Judicial Conference, and his advocacy skills are valued by legislative and litigation clients alike.

Mr. Drake served as a member of the Hodges for Governor Transition Committee. Prior to joining the firm, he served as Executive Assistant for Legislative and Political Affairs for South Carolina Governor Richard W. Riley. Mr. Drake served as legal counsel to South Carolina Governor John C. West.

In 1972, Mr. Drake earned a Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law where he was president of the Student Bar Association and held membership in Phi Delta Phi and the National Moot Court Team. Mr. Drake earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Georgia in 1967.

Later today, I’m going to a fund-raiser for Jim Rex, and see what’s going on there. But it’s clear that this election is shaping up as the opposite of 2006 for Democrats. Then, no viable candidate stepped forward, and that party ended up with Tommy Moore. This year, you have have a statewide name in Rex, an idealistic young reformer in Sheheen, and the ultimate get-it-done guy Drake. Meanwhile, the party is keeping up a steady pounding on the likely GOP candidates, hitting them with Sanford like battleships softening up the beach with artillery before an amphibious landing.

2010 is going to be very different for South Carolina.

Oh, and just so you have all the details, here’s Dwight’s announcement:

Dwight Drake Announces Run for Governor to Get South Carolina Working Again

Drake Led Efforts to Bring BMW to State and Protect Public School Funding,
Will Keep Working for Jobs and Education as Governor

COLUMBIA – Dwight Drake, an attorney and experienced public servant with a long record of fighting for job creation and improved public education, announced today that he will run for Governor of South Carolina as a Democrat in the 2010 election. Drake announced his candidacy in a video emailed to voters across the state and posted at http://www.DwightDrake.com[NOTE FOR TV PRODUCERS: Broadcast-quality versions of the video are available for digital download at http://www.box.net/DrakeAnnouncement .]

“We need to get South Carolina working again,” said Drake. “The past eight years have been wasted, and South Carolina is now first in unemployment in the South.  Mark Sanford made a lot of news when he disappeared this year, but he’s been AWOL on jobs since the day he took office.

“I know from my experience working with two Governors who made education and jobs their priorities – John West and Dick Riley – and working to bring BMW to South Carolina, what it takes to create good-paying jobs in our state.”

Drake has been a tireless advocate on behalf of education and job creation in South Carolina.  He headed up the successful, bipartisan effort to attract BMW to locate in South Carolina and later to expand their operations in the state, resulting in more than 15,000 new jobs for South Carolinians.

Drake also helped lead Choose Children First, a coalition of business leaders, lawmakers, and supporters of public education who came together to defeat Governor Mark Sanford’s attempt to drain money away from public schools with a voucher program.

Most recently, Drake represented South Carolina students Casey Edwards and Justin Williams in their legal fight to force Governor Sanford to accept federal funds for economic recovery and to put that funding to work for South Carolina’s public schools.  Both students appear in Drake’s announcement video and speak about the work he did to make their victory possible.

Drake’s years in public service include serving as legal counsel to former Governor John West and as former Governor Dick Riley’s top legislative aide, where he helped pass landmark legislation, including the Education Improvement Act, as well as efforts supporting early childhood development and state government reform.

Drake’s first priority as Governor will be bringing jobs to the state, after years of neglect by Governor Sanford.

“The first thing a Governor should do when he wakes up in the morning is think, ‘What can I do today to bring good jobs to South Carolina?'” said Drake.  “And the last thing he should do at night is ask himself, ‘Did I do enough today on jobs?’

“My mother and father taught me always to tell the truth and do my best.  Well, the truth is we’re not doing our best in South Carolina.  That’s why I’ve decided to run for Governor.”

Dwight Drake is a native of Spartanburg County, where his father worked in the mills and Drake joined him to help pay for his college education.  He is a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, and he earned his law degree from the University of South Carolina.  Drake lives in Columbia with his wife Beth, a federal prosecutor, and their two daughters, Marshall, 12, and Eliza, 9.

Drake will hold a press conference call at 1:00pm TODAY to discuss the announcement of his candidacy for Governor.

21 thoughts on “Dwight Drake’s running! What an election this is shaping up to be…

  1. Brad Warthen

    Just taqlked to Jim Hodges, who says he is NOT backing Dwight at this point, although Dick is.

    The former governor says he has not decided which Democrat he will endorse, although withe stakes being as they are in this election, he expects to make an endorsement at some point.

  2. Wes Wolfe

    I was told Hodges started backing out of the plan when Drake was picked as the candidate. Looks like that’s true.

  3. martin

    My first response was negative. But, we absolutely have to elect someone who has a demonstrated ability to work with the Legislature if we ever hope to accomplish anything for this state.

    No more no-experience, just-say-no political manipulators (not even a real ideologue;) looking for a free ride; literally, a free (plane) ride.

  4. Randy E

    Jobs are obviously important but more jobs and telling the truth are all he offers for a vision?

    The vision thing can be overrated if you don’t play nice with others (see Sanford) but a lack of vision relegates you to being chief of staff.

  5. Randy E

    Who is DD? compliments of Heyward Harvin, either a son recently graduated from USC and budding politico attempting to make a name for himself or his daddy?

    Those connections certainly are dirty but Harvin was a field operator for Bill Richardon – talk about being dirty…

  6. doug_ross


    You obviously know of Mr. Drake. Is he someone you COULD endorse? Or do you not want to rule out any Democrat at this point because it’s a done deal that you will support whoever runs on that ticket?

    Would you cast a vote for Mr. Drake to be Governor of South Carolina?

  7. Lee Muller

    Brad, while you are a free man, able to write about the election without an employer lurking over your shoulder, why don’t you try to think outside the box of this as an athletic contest.

    The more sophisticated audience quit reading newspapers long ago because they tired of blow-by-blow stories in the horse race and football templates.

  8. Brad Warthen

    I like Dwight. I dislike a lot of the causes he’s worked for, but I like the man. I like him a lot more, for instance, than I did Tommy Moore. But I like Vincent, too. And Jim Rex. And Henry McMaster. Remember, Henry stuck with my man John McCain when everybody was writing him off for the GOP nomination. And he’s been a good AG. I’m somewhat less impressed with the other GOP candidates, but this is early.

    You could say I’m sort of like George Wolfe. I spoke with George today about all this, and he noted that he has sent money to both Henry McMaster and his partner (at Nelson Mullins) Dwight Drake. He likes them both. So do I, in different ways. But there’s no question that Dwight is VERY vulnerable to the kinds of charges that Vincent is already leveling at him. Between the two, Vincent has far more claim to being a reformer.

    Oh, and here’s another tidbit to factor in: I heard tonight that Harry Ott is going to jump in. I heard that at the Jim Rex event at Bud Ferillo’s house. Don’t know whether it’s true or not yet.

    Rex, by the way, said he’ll make a final decision whether to run for gov by the first or second week in September. But he was sounding like a candidate.

  9. Randy E

    Doug, you’ve been on this blog long enough to know that Brad sides with repugnantcans plenty of times (see his fawning over McCain last year).

    Brad, liking the man as a person is not germaine. His causes speak volumes about his priorities and philosophy. This applies to Benjamin and his “business experience” with pay day loans. What vision does Dwight offer aside from “jobs”?

    Rex never articulated a vision as candidate nor as superintendent for education. The media (including Warthen) let him off the hook by allowing him to simply be the anti-Floyd and by focusing exlusively on school choice.

    I’ll have to agree with the posts Doug is about to write. Rex wants to improve education but admits he needs to be governor to do so. There is something terribly wrong about this reasoning. I’ll defer to Doug for the time being.

  10. doug_ross


    I think Rex’s record on education speaks for itself. He has zero chance of being governor because he has done nothing in his current position except position himself to run for governor. What I read (but cannot confirm) is that he would get very little support from the teachers in this state based on his performance. I don’t hear the same loyalty to Rex that existed for Inez. He’s toast before he even hits the ground.

    As for Drake, I had no idea who he was until today. I imagine that goes for 99.9% of the state (i.e. those who aren’t inside the State House or in the press room). For that reason alone, I’d say he has zero chance also, nevermind all the concerns that are being expressed about his clients.

    Neither of those two guys bring any type of “it” factor to the race. They’re going to need someone with some personality to overcome the built-in advantage Republicans have in South Carolina.

    I fear that Andre Bauer has a better shot than anyone simply because South Carolina voters don’t spend a whole lot of energy on trying to pick the best candidate.

    And, really, it doesn’t matter who sits in the Governor’s office. It’s a figurehead position with no power. The only way this state will see any positive change will be when we see term limits for legislators. Til then, they may as well prop up Strom Thurmond to sit in the Governor’s chair.

  11. Randy E

    Will Hodges endorse someone while lying I-20 as a symbol of how he’s once again protecting the state?

    Doug, I haven’t been keeping up but hasn’t Thurmond met his term limit?

  12. Bart

    doug, I share your concerns about Andre’ Bauer. After meeting and spending time with the man, unless there is another level, much deeper, he would be a disaster and probably as much a distraction as Sanford is now.

    The other guys other than Rex, I know very little about since they are in the Capital Circle —-. Propriety prevents me from spelling out the last word.

    Maybe an empty chair in the Governor’s mansion would be the best answer. Leatherman the RINO would like it. He couldn’t carry his own county when he ran for the Democrat nominee for governor years ago, so this would be his opportunity. I think Thurmond is otherwise preoccupied.

  13. Brad Warthen

    We can all say disparaging things about Andre — I certainly have. But just watch — his supporters will appear like magic, and they’re ardent. The way they pop up on Election Day, time and again, is remarkable.

    This is why I think Sanford should resign and let Andre step in. Then we’d get a good look at him. And he would NOT stand up well under the scrutiny. But if Sanford doesn’t resign, and Andre gets to run in a herd of other candidates, he won’t get nearly the attention he would as interim governor, and those surprise supporters of his could push him over in the primary. Then, as much harm as Sanford has done to his party, a Republican still has a slight advantage, particularly one who is so demonstrably alienated from Sanford. So Democrats could nominate their very best candidate — whomever you see that as being — and he could still lose to Andre.

    But if he becomes governor know, with the press and natural opponents bristling with freshly sharpened knives, and eager to indulge their newfound interest in dissection, will be all over Andre, past and present. And even though I think the young man has matured and gotten smoother in the last couple of years, I still don’t think he’ll bear up under anything like the examination that Sanford is now being subjected to routinely. And I think the state of revolutionary vigilance would stay rather sharp in those initial months, and by the time the primary contest is engaged in earnest, Andre will be in a weakened condition.

    Then, on the other hand, if I’m wrong completely and he turns out to be a pretty decent governor by comparison, then that wouldn’t be the end of the world. But I don’t think we need to concern ourselves about such an eventuality, because it won’t break like that.

    That’s probably enough prophesying from my belly button for tonight; I think I’ll hit the sack.

  14. Brad Warthen

    By the way, I got an e-mail from Dwight this evening. He wants me to call him tomorrow at my convenience. I have engagements at 8 or so, at 10:15 and at noon, but I should be able to get him between those times. I’m interested to hear what it’s about.

  15. Randy E

    Can you ask him how education plays a role in job creation (given that his vision for SC is “jobs”) with a follow up of how he plans to improve education? Given that Rex, the current superintendent of education, believes real change must start with the governor hence Mr. Drake would be the agent of change.

  16. Lee Muller

    It’s funny to see those who have been on the payroll of the status quo all their lives proclaiming themselves as “agents of change”.

    It was only a matter of time until the lobbyists got tired of promoting professional politicians, and decide to eliminate these puppets by putting themselves into office.

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