I went by the Music Barn off Senate Street last night for Joel Lourie’s going-away party as he prepares to leave the S.C. Senate after 18 years in the Legislature.
I didn’t get there in time for the speeches (I stopped by another event first), but I was there in time to see that there was a good-sized, bipartisan turnout. By bipartisan I mean: I’m pretty sure I saw Speaker Jay Lucas across the room, although I can’t swear to it because I didn’t get to speak to him. Veteran Republican operative Trey Walker was on hand. I was told Susan Brill, the Republican running for Joel’s seat, was there, but I missed her. John Courson was one of the hosts, according to the invitation I had received.
And I had a good, interesting chat with one Republican senator in particular. More about that in a moment.
And then there were scads of Democrats, of course, starting with the other two musketeers, James Smith and Vincent Sheheen. And Beth Bernstein and Darrell Jackson, both co-hosts, and Mia McLeod, who’s also running for Joel’s seat, and Nikki Setzler, and Todd Rutherford, and a fairly long list of Dems who don’t hold office, like Phil Bailey and Trav Robertson.
Some highlights, for me:
- Good golly Miss Molly was-a even there, too. By which I mean Cindi Scoppe, But when I spotted her from behind, I had to go up and get her to turn around to be sure, because Cindi Scoppe does not DO social events, aside from her annual cake party. She works 24 hours a day, and therefore lacks the time. Or the inclination. She doesn’t follow pop culture, for instance, because it’s not to the point — in what way will it contribute to her next column, she wants to know? And the answer is, in no way, because she’s not going to write about anything frivolous. So I was deeply impressed, and I hope Joel was, too, because it was quite a compliment for her to show up. But then she and I both think a lot of Joel.
- Also interesting is who she was talking to — the aforementioned Republican senator, Katrina Shealy, who has been such a valued ally of Joel’s in trying to reform DSS’ Child Protective Services. Other things, too, probably, but that’s the one that first comes to mind. Since this was the first time I’d spoken with her since we endorsed Jake Knotts instead of her, I thought it would be wise to start over, so I introduced myself. She introduced herself back. I said, “You’ve been doing a fine job.” She said “I bet you never thought you’d say that.” I came back with, “Aw, now, that wasn’t about you. That was about Mark Sanford.” As if, you know, that would make her feel better. We went on after that to have a fairly pleasant conversation, although she mostly spoke with Cindi and I missed a lot of it on account of loud background music and my Meniere’s.
- I’ll spend this bullet on a digression: Some of you may not understand that endorsing Jake Knotts was something that the editorial board of The State would never, ever have done under my direction. Right up until we did it, that is. And we did it because Jake had dared to stand up to Mark Sanford, and Sanford was promoting Ms. Shealy as his candidate, and we took exception to the governor and his out-of-state supporters trying to remake our Legislature in their image. I say “we” endorsed Jake. Truth is, I insisted upon the backhanded endorsement, and Cindi had to write the thing (I wrote a column to go with it, in which I noted, “We are not comfortable with this. We’ve had some terrific arguments about it on our editorial board. It was not one of your quick decisions, shall we say.”). Cindi has never really quite forgiven me for that. So, when I said after the senator moved away that I hoped Cindi would find something nice to say about Katrina in her bid for re-election, because after all Cindi really owes her after what she did to her, Cindi didn’t laugh at all. Which is strange, because I’ve always thought irony to be a rich source of humor. But seriously, I’m pleased with how Sen. Shealy turned out, and I wanted everyone to know that the Knotts endorsement was never Cindi’s fault.
- As I said, I missed Susan Brill but spoke briefly with Mia McLeod. That’s going to be an interesting contest in the fall. I spoke about it at some length with Trav Robertson, who is helping Mia some with her campaign, and he was very upbeat. When I said Susan was a strong candidate and they had their work cut out, he came back with the fact that Obama won the district with 55 percent of the vote — and in 2012, mind you. So yeah, the Democrat has a bit of an edge, but I suspect the Republican has a chance. We’ll see.
At this point I should reflect on Sen. Lourie’s career in the Senate, but I think I’ll do that in a separate post. This one turned into too much of a Hedda Hopper-style name-dropping piece. Suffice it to say that the Lourie era, which includes his father’s time in the Senate, has been one worth celebrating. Joel has done his late father’s memory proud with his honorable, principled service to his constituents and the people of South Carolina. I can hardly think of a time when I strongly disagreed with anything he advocated, and that’s unusual.