Y’all, an endorsement involves CHOOSING…

And sometimes, the hardest choices are when you like everybody.

You saw the other day that Steve Benjamin endorsed Andy Smith to replace his erstwhile protege Cameron Runyan.

Well, SC Equality PAC set out to do endorsement interviews, and couldn’t choose between the two candidates they talked to:

SC Equality PAC’s Endorsement for the Columbia City Council At-Large Member Election

Columbia, SC.  The mission of the South Carolina Equality Political Action Committee (PAC) is to elect fair-minded people to public office who oppose all forms of discrimination but especially against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) communities.

We have had an opportunity to personally and rigorously interview two (2) candidates who are running to be the next at-large member of the City of Columbia City Council. We invited all persons who are running for this at-large seat to interview with us but only two candidates responded – Howard Duvall and Andy Smith.

We asked both Duvall and Smith their overall vision if elected, plans for campaigning, and how strongly, if at all, they support the rights of LGBT communities and citizens across a wide range of issues from marriage equality to transgender identity rights.

We were very pleasantly surprised that both candidates demonstrated a genuine, personal commitment to upholding and further advancing the rights of all LGBT citizens in the City of Columbia across various dimensions of quality of life and citizenship.  We also were quite pleased that both candidates articulated a strong vision of progress for the City of Columbia and the equal seat at the table that LGBT citizens must occupy as part of that progress.  They bring unique talents, experiences, and deep ties to Columbia communities and would be outstanding public servants.

Therefore, we are taking the unique step of endorsing both Andy Smith and Howard Duvall for this city council race; for they are both candidates who meet all of our criteria for endorsement and thus we urge the LGBT community and our many allies to see either of their candidacies as in the best interest of LGBT communities.

Andy Smith is well-known by many LGBT leaders in Columbia given his leadership as the Executive Director of the nationally-recognized Nickelodeon Theater on the city’s downtown Main Street.  Andy has experience in electoral politics for in 2006 he served as the campaign manager for Robert Barber’s run for SC Lieutenant Governor.  As a native of South Carolina, Andy has deep ties to this state and the City of Columbia.  He has a very progressive vision about serving the needs of LGBT citizens in Columbia including the city and its Police Department having an LGBT Ombudsman as modeled after the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.  Andy also wants to ensure that the city do all it can to expand ordinances that protect the rights of LGBT citizens while serving as a faithful ally while SC Equality and others lobby the General Assembly to enact Hate Crimes legislation among other measures.  Andy has both a deep and abiding commitment to the LGBT community and a love for the city of Columbia.  He wants Columbia to continue to advance as a not only a progressive city but as an attractive and affordable city where balanced job creation and economic development occur.  He has demonstrated his commitment to such via the Nickelodeon Theater.  In the past ten years, the Nickelodeon has grown from a several hundred thousand dollar operation to a now $5 million organization that has spurred economic development, commercial investment, and patronage in and around its mainstream corridor to the tune of about $1 million. It also has demonstrated that it is a good neighbor in many ways, including it’s media education program with C.A. Johnson High School, it’s outreach program to LGBT youth, and it’s working with local homeless shelters to create an inclusive downtown neighborhood.

Howard Duvall has been described by the Free Times newspaper as, “a candidate with a wealth of experience in dealing with municipal government.”  For 20 years, Duvall served as the Executive Director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina; the state’s premiere organization for advising and researching issues related to the best governance of cities and towns.  He also has direct experience serving in elected office for he has both served as a member of the City Council and as the Mayor of the Town of Cheraw.  But in our extensive interviews we also discovered that Howard has a deep commitment to fairness and equality for all citizens, most especially LGBT Citizens.  Along with the heartfelt story that Howard shared with us about seeing the unjust personal battles persons in his family had to wage because they were LGBT, he has worked within the Episcopalian Church to expand its welcoming of not only lesbian, gay, and bisexual parishioners but transgender persons as well.  He is genuinely committed to maintaining Columbia’s image as a progressive and inclusive city by upholding and further expanding city ordinances that protect LGBT employees and other citizens.  Howard wants to bring his wealth of insights about the best practices of municipal government to the Columbia City Council to ensure even-handed job creation and economic development; the further development of a progressive tax system; and creative ideas about updating the aging infrastructure of the city.

In the wake of the terrible storms and great floods of 2015, we join with both Andy and Howard to encourage persons to get involved to aid families and businesses who are in great need as well as to assist in efforts at recovery and rebuilding.

It is for all of these reasons that we take this unique opportunity to strongly endorse these two leaders who will be good for the LGBT community and good for the City of Columbia overall.

The mission of the South Carolina Equality Political Action Committee (PAC) is to elect fair-minded people to public office who oppose all forms of discrimination but especially against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities. 


Come on, y’all! Belly up and choose! Sheesh. Amateurs…

30 thoughts on “Y’all, an endorsement involves CHOOSING…

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Thinking about endorsement decisions in which it was hard to decide because we liked BOTH candidates, the first thing that popped into my head was the House District 79 race between Bill Cotty and Anton Gunn back in 2006. As I wrote then:

    This is one of those races that make you wonder why we can’t spread political talent out a little more evenly in this state.

    Incumbent Republican Bill Cotty, who was targeted by anti-public school forces and whom we gladly endorsed back in the June primary, is up against talented young newcomer Anton Gunn, whom we also were happy to support back in June.

    If only one of them were running in some other district where the choices are a lot less appealing. But only one of these two men can be elected….

    We really liked Gunn, but went with the incumbent, Cotty — who won, although I believe that was his last term. It just got too tough for moderate Republicans after that…

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    I have no problem with their saying either is a great candidate from their perspective. I appreciate that they did not express an opinion they didn’t actually have.
    I wish Andy Smith had run for district rep, assuming that were possible, because Howard Duvall is the perfect candidate—you cannot beat his experience and knowledge. I fear the vote may be split, and Runyan may win anyway. John Adams supposedly has traction in Leona’s district–the one Kirkman Finlay represented, but they cannot win citywide.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I think a lot of people in this majority-Democratic city see that as the “grumpy white folks who wish the city had partisan elections so they could vote for the Republican” district.

        Or am I exaggerating?

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Yes. The rich, right-wing white folks who wish they really lived in Forest Acres, unlike the rich left-wingers who live in Shandon and parts west.

      2. Kathryn Fenner

        That district’s interests and approaches to taxation and spending are not aligned with the rest of the city. Moe has some of those people in my district now, but we still are more communitarian than District Four.

        1. Mark Stewart

          You mean like put the water & sewer fees back into the system? Don’t subsidize retail real estate development? Don’t buy the Palmetto Compress building for more than twice its actual value? Don’t give Council members full pension and benefits after three terms in office?

          I’m on board with all of those, personally – even though I would want to live further west in Cola.

          But then that’s the district that likely shot down the strong mayor proposal; and that posture I would never have supported. Of course, some people in District Three also were opposed to the strong mayor referendum…

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Ground Zero of the stop the strong mayor was Kit Smith’s house on Edisto in Wales Garden.

            Most people in Shandon, and parts west agree with what you said, except for the strong mayor part, too. They also support funding the arts, other civic good that the Lake K people just want to pay for a reserve for themselves.

            And PCW was a great deal–the city got its money back and a fun project that will add to our quality of life, etc., is underway. I would have supported the same for Bull Street if the valuable historic properties were the question, not new construction of a private baseball stadium, etc. It does seem that Hughes is finding his way to preserving a lot more of the old stuff that he was required to do.

            While I do not love all the big stuff being thrown up around me, I have to hand it to the mayor–Main Street is alive again, and I never would have thought it possible.

            1. Mark Stewart

              I like Wales Garden. And Main Street. And art as an expression of civic pride and involvement.

              I also believe that, one day, Columbia will see itself as the urban center of S.C. and stop with the penny ante gamesmanship & self-serving political impulses and find a way to pull together. It’s a pipe dream, I know, but in other places and other times such broad-minded political leadership has flowered.

  3. Phillip

    I agree, Kathryn, Runyan could win because of the split anti-Runyan vote. The only way that doesn’t happen is if anti-Runyan voters are so motivated that they’ll go to the polls in larger numbers (in elections that traditionally have comically low voter turnout in Cola). They go to a runoff, though, if nobody hits 50%, isn’t that right? In that case, it’ll be Runyan against one of the challengers. And then Runyan will lose. Or am I wrong about a runoff?

    1. Phillip

      Meanwhile, I see that Free Times kind-of broke its no-endorsement policy with a blistering anti-Runyan op-ed from Dan Cook in the issue out today.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yes, and that “anyone but Runyan” approach has the same lame effect of the PAC’s non-endorsement. And the tortured reasoning makes me dizzy:

        Free Times is not going to tell you who should get your vote; it is the longstanding policy of this newspaper not to make political endorsements. The reason for this policy is simple: We play it straight with politicians and with candidates, and we don’t want to give either elected officials or aspiring ones fodder for accusing us of bias. “You endorsed my opponent” is an easy excuse for officials and candidates to trot out when they want to dodge the scrutiny of the media by claiming that a particular media outlet can’t be trusted to play fair….

        What stuff. If you don’t want Runyan re-elected, pick somebody.

        As for the old “we don’t want to seem biased” dodge — that’s ridiculous. People are going to accuse you of that no matter what you do. Rather than have people accuse you of imaginary bias in a vacuum, STATE your honest preference, and let people judge the fairness of your news coverage armed with that information.

        Be honest. Don’t pretend to some sort of detached purity.

        In this case, the argument swallows its own tail. What, you’re not concerned that Runyan will see you as biased? You don’t care about that? You just want to make sure all the right-thinking people know you’re against HIM, but not against any of the people that they might like?

        Come on. Man up. State a preference.

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      Well, the Free TImes released a poll today that shows Duvall way out-polling Runyan, and the rest trailing behind that, with only half of likely voters having an opinion, fwiw. Margin of error was 4.7%. If Duvall has this much pull vs. an incumbent, and the other half of the likely electorate not immediately defaulting to the incumbent….
      Also, a lot of people believe the Mayor’s endorsement of Andy Smith sis Andy Smith no favors.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    “I fear the vote may be split, and Runyan may win anyway.”

    Which is precisely why, if you want him out, you endorse A candidate, rather than endorsing everybody who talks to you…

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      Again, I don’t want anyone to express opinions they don’t have. Say what you believe to be true, wise, just, etc. Don’t then gin up something just to check boxes.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        But voters have to make a choice. The newspaper that endorses provides a service by showing one way to make that choice thoughtfully. We shouldn’t urge people to vote (something most papers piously do) without being willing to do the same hard work of choosing that all the voters have to do. It’s a copout.

        If you’re going to state opinions (and if you’re not, that’s a whole other level of copping out), you really should endorse, as I wrote awhile back:

        Amen to that. I’ve said the same many times: Every day of every year, newspapers publish their opinions on every policy issue under the sun — which is a fine thing in theory, but the fact is that in a representative democracy, a newspaper’s readers can’t do anything about most of those issues. The one time they all get a say is at election time, when they choose the people who actually will act on those issues.

        To opine about these issues the rest of the time (and if you don’t think newspapers should express opinions at all, then that’s another issue for another day), and then fail to point out which candidates are most likely to enact the policies one favors, at the critical moment when readers all have a decision to make, is both lazy and cowardly….

        That said…

        Don’t do it unless you do it right.

        I called Dan Cook today to make sure there were no hard feelings (and there weren’t), and he explained that one reason they don’t endorse is that they don’t have the staff to do the legwork to do it right, and I said that that’s one good reason not to.

        Then he asked whether I was endorsing in this race, and I said no, for that same reason. I interviewed Cameron awhile back, and wrote about it. And I interviewed Tige Watts and wrote about it. Then he dropped out, and I interviewed Howard and wrote about it. Then I interviewed John Adams, and didn’t get around to writing about it, and then there were all these other candidates, and…

        Well, I’m just not nearly well-informed enough to endorse. It all sort of got away from me.

        Also, I’m ambivalent about endorsing as a blogger. The endorsement of Brad Warthen, blogger, is not as meaningful to ME as the endorsement of the editorial board I once led, a smart group of people who went through a fairly arduous discernment process, together, before arriving at a consensus. That, to me, was a more respectable process than anything I might do alone.

        Not that I’ll cop out — I’ll tell you what I think, and I told Dan: I think it’s fairly clear that Howard Duvall is the most qualified candidate. I have a huge beef with him over strong mayor, and I believe the trick he pulled off of delaying the vote was rather unsavory. But it does demonstrate political skill on his part, which is important in a councilman.

        I don’t think anyone else is in his league, from what I’ve been able to gather without an arduous interview process.

        But I’m reluctant to give that the formal imprimatur of the word “endorsement…”

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        As for checking boxes…

        There were a couple of times as editorial page editor that I forced my people to make a choice rather than cop out and I came to regret it. Too forced, and I wasn’t happy with the result.

        There were a couple of other times, though, that we did not endorse because it was too hard, or because we just wanted to diss everybody, and I don’t feel great about that, either…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Oh, and I’m not thinking of the one that people, especially Democrats, think I would regret — endorsing Joe Lieberman, who got about 3 percent of the vote a couple of days later.

          I’d do that again in a heartbeat…

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Well, sure, lots of people confuse endorsing with predicting.

            Frankly, if Howard weren’t running, I’d gladly vote for Andy Smith, then John Adams–heck Joe Azar isn’t actually half bad. Nammu Muhammad seems awfully nutty, but maybe I’m just being racist. He still better than that sanctimonious weasel Runyan.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Yeah, in my last couple of election cycles at the paper, I used my blog to help people understand the difference between endorsements and predictions — by doing predictions on the blog.

              I don’t really approve of predictions; I find them kind of silly. Their only value is to show off your perspicacity to readers. I was far more interested in saying what SHOULD be, and why, than in playing a parlor game about what WOULD be.

              I didn’t want to do them in the paper. The blog was less official, more off the record, so I did it there, just so people could see the difference…

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              My last set of predictions at the paper. I was right on everything but Mike Montgomery, and I had said I was worried about that one:


              • Obama will win the presidential election — the real one (electoral college, with at least 300 electors) as well as the popular vote. He’ll win it decisively enough that we’ll know by midnight. BUT McCain will win in South Carolina, probably 55-45. We endorsed McCain.
              • Lindsey Graham will easily win re-election. No prediction on the numbers; I have no idea. In fact, I’m only doing numbers on the presidential, because I really have no idea on any others. We endorsed Graham.
              • Joe Wilson will win against Rob Miller, but it will be close. We endorsed Wilson.
              • Jim Clyburn will have a blowout victory over his GOP opponent. We endorsed Clyburn.
              • John Spratt will win with a margin somewhere between Wilson’s and Clyburn’s. We endorsed Spratt.
              • Nikki Setzler will survive the challenge from Margaret Gamble, and thanks to the Obama Effect, it will be the first time it helped him to be a Democrat in 20 years. We endorsed Setzler.
              • Anton Gunn will beat David Herndon, but it will be fairly close. We endorsed Gunn.
              • Joe McEachern will cruise to victory over Michael Koska. We endorsed Koska.
              • Chip Huggins will roll right over Jim Nelson, who will NOT benefit appreciably from the Obama Effect. We endorsed Nelson.
              • Nikki Haley will win big, again in spite of Obama. We endorsed Ms. Haley.
              • Harry Harmon will again be Lexington County coroner. We endorsed Harmon, although we again made the point that this should NOT be an elective office.
              • Elise Partin will — I hope I hope — win the Cayce mayor’s office (this is the one I have the LEAST feel for, since we’ve never endorsed for this office before). We endorsed Ms. Partin.
              • Gwen Kennedy, despite being best known for a Hawaiian junket the last time she was on Richland County council, will ride the Obama Effect to victory over Celestine White Parker. We endorsed Ms. Parker.
              • Mike Montgomery should prevail (note my hesitation) over challenger Jim Manning, who seems to be running as much as anything because he felt like there should be a Democrat in the race with Obama running. We endorsed Montgomery.



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