So, is anyone paying ANY attention to the races for governor?

Sorry about the picture quality. ETV's online video doesn't have an HD option...

Sorry about the picture quality. ETV’s online video doesn’t have an HD option…

I sort of hesitate to post about the Democratic gubernatorial debate last night, since not one of y’all commented on the GOP one the night before.

I wonder: What was the viewership of those debates? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it was probably lower than the deeply shameful turnouts we get in the actual primaries.

As Cindi noted in her column earlier this week, just 14 percent of registered voters bothered to vote in the state primaries two years ago, and 16 percent in 2014.

Really. Let that sink in. While it’s sinking, reflect that for a huge number of state offices, the primaries ARE the election, with no alternative offered in the fall.

If my guess is correct, and even fewer people watched the debates, that means even among that select few, a lot of people will be voting on June 12 with minimal information about the candidates. Which means that they’ll be voting blind. And while in this race, if not in others, there will be a choice offered in the fall, if it’s between, say, Catherine Templeton and Phil Noble, we are really up a creek.

But let’s not dwell on that.

If you DID watch the Democratic debate, or both of them, what did you think? My own opinion of the three Democrats in no way changed — James Smith is the obvious choice among them, and I’ve yet to see his two challengers offer any reason why they would be better nominees. In fact, they consistently offered evidence to the contrary — although I will say that this debate wasn’t nearly as vapid, to use Republican Micah Caskey’s term, as the GOP one.

Beyond that, just to start things off (or to attempt to start things off), I’ll offer some faves from among my real-time tweets:

Y’all know me. I like to end on a positive note. Throw everybody a bone, why not?… 🙂

30 thoughts on “So, is anyone paying ANY attention to the races for governor?

  1. Mark Stewart

    Among this gang of eight there is only one who could ably serve.

    That’s really what keeps the primary voters away…

  2. JesseS

    I’m one of those guys who prefers his media via audio (it’s generally good for filtering out my own superficial biases), so I listened to both on the radio. All I heard was “I agree with you, but you are wrong because of [insert ad hominem attack here]”. That’s the nature of primary debates and as I get older, I keep thinking that primaries are the single most broken aspect of our democracy. It’s worse than gerrymandering and lobbying. It breeds apathy and contempt before anyone really gets out of the gate. Trump didn’t get his foot in the door because of gerrymandering. He got in because he was the neon orange offering in a buffet of beige.

    For the Republicans I’m not sure if anyone made me groan as much as Henry and that’s saying something given that he was sharing a stage with Templeton. I’m sure Gov. McMaster is a fine individual, but man, as a party the GOP has gotten so creaky and tired.

    For the Dems it’s Smith …I guess. For a 50 year-old man some of his answers sound like they came from a 75 year-old man. I get it, I get it, hedging and slow and steady wins the race and all that, but I’m not getting any younger either. If it were just me, I’d lean towards Noble, but of course I can’t because if I do, McMasters or Templeton win. Politics: You get what you’d rather not have to make sure the worst player doesn’t get what they want. And we wonder why voters are apathetic.

    1. Claus2

      “He got in because he was the neon orange offering in a buffet of beige. ”

      At least the Republicans didn’t have their primary rigged like the other party did. Not that crazy Uncle Bernie would have made any difference.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The problem is that NEITHER party has their nomination process “rigged.” Both are almost helpless to prevent completely unsuitable candidates — people who aren’t even Democrats (Sanders) or Republicans (Trump) — from seizing their nominations.

        By “rigged,” people mean the party leaders decide, instead of leaving it up to primaries.

        Both parties made better decisions when they went into conventions with the matter undecided….

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      “He got in because he was the neon orange offering in a buffet of beige.”

      Nice. I like that.

      And you’re right that if the Democratic nominee is Noble or Willis, the Republican candidate wins, even if it’s Templeton, as disturbing as that is to contemplate.

      The Republican automatically has a huge advantage anyway. Only Smith has a prayer of overcoming that advantage.

      I’m a little surprised that you would lean toward Noble after hearing the debate. I take it to mean that you’re more ideologically simpatico with him. But MAN, Phil has SUCH an off-putting personality…

      A forum like this is not great for James — people flinging insults and trying to damage each other — because he’s just not like that. He’s a decent guy who likes to treat other people with respect, and he’s a fish out of water in this kind of contrived situation, with people saying outrageous, unfounded things left and right. If you could sit down and talk with him one-on-one, you’d have a different impression.

      I remember talking with James about a year ago, when he was debating with himself whether to run. And while he talked at the time mostly about the difficult math for a Democrat, I’m thinking now that a factor for him personally was also probably overcoming his reluctance to put himself through these unpleasant rituals candidates are expected to endure.

      Which of course is why fewer and fewer good people run for office, while more and more jerks (neon orange offerings) are attracted to it…

      1. JesseS

        Agreed that James didn’t come off as well personality wise, but honestly none of them did. I spent the Democratic debate just checking off stuff I did agree with while trying to ignore the rest and even if Noble might not be as likable, I found I had more check marks beside him.

        Still, I’ll likely cast a vote for Smith, while wondering whether or not I’m politically outsmarting myself as usual. Man, I wish we had a stacked rank system.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I don’t think you’ll regret voting for James. He’s a solid guy.

          As for Noble… he has a real talent for ticking people off. My most popular Tweet of the evening (two retweets and 29 “likes”) was this one:

          And I think most of those people liking it were Democrats…

  3. bud

    I’ll probably vote for Noble but pull for Smith to win. I like Noble’s somewhat eccentric persona. (Which is probably what Brad finds offputting) But Smith probably has a slightly better chance to win. But it is just so frustrating to see a decent guy like Smith underwhelm so. I’m afraid we’ll end up with a slumlord or a crazy buzzsaw. Which is my explanation for the low interest in this race.

  4. Mark Stewart

    While people often vote for the bright, shiny and boorish – like the primaries are some sort of gladiator entertainment; they should, instead, be voting for competency. That’s what we really want from government, not entertainment.

  5. bud

    Speaking of off-putting personas. This got me thinking about the most off-putting, annoying political personalities of all time. This is different, but somewhat related to worst performing politicians. In David Letterman style 10-1:

    10. Mike Pence
    9. Joe Lieberman
    8. Carroll Campbell
    7. Jim Hodges
    6. Joe Wilson
    5. Spiro Agnew
    4. Jim DeMint
    3. George W. Bush
    2. Donald Trump
    1. Lindsey Graham

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      My man Joe Lieberman? No way! And you didn’t put Ted Cruz on there? Really?

      I think your problem with Joe is ideological, not his personality. I have an objective measure for that — one of my daughters, who met both Joe L. and Joe Biden through me. She was quite young at the time, and reacted to them more as people than anything they said.

      I took her to Rotary with me that time Biden came to speak in 2006. I introduced her to him before the program. Then, he DEEPLY embarrassed her during his intense performance by referring to her twice. Made her extremely uncomfortable. It was a particularly intense bit of politicking Joe was doing that day, trying hard to win over that conservative crowd — he left the podium and spent most of the time pacing between the tables. (As you can see on the crude video I shot at the time.) At one point he strode quickly over to our table and leaned way across it to point to her and say, “… THIS young lady from the University of South Carolina…”

      She HATED it. She was uncomfortable enough among all those old people without somebody doing that to her.

      Later, I let her sit in on Joe Lieberman’s endorsement interview, and she really liked him. Saw him as sincere, understated, everything Joe Biden was not, in her eyes.

      Of course, personally, I like both Joes. But Biden can pour it on pretty thick, in the eyes of people not used to that sort of thing…

      1. bud

        Lieberman is really, really awful. His domestic politics are actually pretty good. But seeing him speak is just cringe worthy. He makes my skin crawl. Can’t say I get as worked up about Cruz. I probably should have Dick Cheney on here.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You must have really hated that sitcom “Alf.” I’ve always thought the dad from that show sounded like Lieberman.

          But Cruz doesn’t make your list??? I assumed you had just forgotten him…

  6. Doug Ross

    I wouldn’t waste my time watching debates. They serve no purpose since most candidates just spout canned responses concocted by political consultants.

    I follow James Smith on Twitter and check out his website. For me, I base my vote on what the candidate has done and what he or she says they will do. Legislatively, the answer for Smith is “not much” and “the same things Sheheen said twice”.

    His website says this,”The legislature should not operate like an exclusive club that addresses members’ conduct outside of public scrutiny. Accountability and transparency demand a fully independent ethics panel to investigate complaints against members of the legislature.”. Really, James? You’ve been inside that exclusive club for quite a long time and haven’t done anything about it. What are you waiting for? And how about some specifics? Which members are you talking about? You’re our man on the ground in the club.. how about doing something now instead of waiting until after you are (unlikely) elected?

    Most of the rest of Smith’s positions in issues are either boilerplate stolen from past Democrats or involve increasing government spending. Nothing about legalizing marijuana, same sex marriage, cutting spending in certain areas to fund his increases,.. nothing about a real simplification of the tax code..

    His campaign also appears to have made the decision to NOT seek out black voters specifically. The issues page doesn’t mention that group but chooses to focus on women instead. Apparently that is based on the assumption that blacks will vote Democrat anyway… And to get crossover votes from the Republicans he needs, he can’t make that a big part of his campaign. That will end up hurting him when he doesn’t get the turnout out he needs in November.

    Since Smith is the de facto candidate anyway, and since I’ve read enough about the others to know I’d never vote for them, I won’t vote in the primary. I choose none of the above at this point.

  7. Bart

    Monday is Memorial Day or what was Veteran’s Day. Time to reflect on the soldiers, female and male, who have served, sacrificed, and given up their time and lives for our country. Time to reflect on the families who sit and wait while their loved ones are away on assignment whether in-country, in an allies country, or in a hostile environment. Time to give a little honor and for one day, cease the petty politics, identity politics, anger, vitriol, finger pointing, and all of the new norms that compose the political discussions, no political shouting matches, we have to endure 24/7/365.

    I don’t like this person or that person, he or she doesn’t agree with me so to hell with them, they don’t count except as someone to put on a damn list and this includes both sides.

    Many who post here served in the military or had a family member serve. Do you think it is too much to ask for both sides to lay aside their differences for one day and give honor to those who made it possible for us to show our collective asses in public with what is sometimes totally inane comments laced with anger and vitriol?

    My older brother died in late January while I was on my way to see him in the hospital. He served in the Air Force for over 22 years. He was one of the first to go into Vietnam when the hostilities ramped up and helped finish setting up the base in Saigon. He was exposed to Agent Orange and eventually, when he died, he had cancer and lymphedema in both legs. This I believe was a result of his exposure to Agent Orange. He was a highly trained security and safety specialist who had access to our spy planes and went around the world several times a year on 30 temporary duty tours inspecting safety and security at our bases. He was also a loner and troubled for years before he passed away and we didn’t get along so well but in reflection, I cannot blame him or hold him responsible for the last several years of his life. I relay this only because in the end, his life is worth honoring because of his service to our country.

    For just one day, just one day, can’t we simply lay down our divisive politics and pay honor to the past and present members of the military? If we cannot, them we are a damn sorry bunch and probably don’t deserve the freedoms paid for by their blood and sacrifices.

    1. Mr. Smith

      Let’s first get our holidays straight. Memorial Day is for remembering those who DIED fighting for their country. Period. It is NOT about honoring “present members of the military,” who’ve “sacrificed” their time, or about their families waiting at home. This is not their day. Theirs comes in November. Wait until then to talk about them. Memorial Day is about the nation’s war dead. And I’m really getting tired of seeing it hijacked by being turned into a second Veterans Day. Let’s keep our commemorations straight, please.

  8. Doug T

    Are we really quibbling when Noble says we’re 51st in education? Would we feel better if he said we’re 48th? SC government is broken. Corruption and inside deals abound. I keep up somewhat with SC politics. Never heard of James Smith. What has he accomplished? I saw him at Gallivant’s Ferry. He has less charisma than Vincent Sheheen and that’s saying something. I like Sheheen and voted for him twice but neither he nor Smith can get enough people excited to win. While Willis and Noble worked the crowd, Smith stood off to the side in his starched white shirt and blazer looking out of place. When it came his turn to speak Smith came across terribly spending all of his time rebutting Noble. His debate performances have been flat and lifeless.

    Put me in the camp that considers the NRA a terrorist organization. For Noble to take them on earns my vote just on that single issue. It is that important. It is disgusting how politicians quiver and quake at the mention of the NRA.

    And please don’t compare Noble to Trump because of the lack of government experience. Please don’t go there.

    What we have is not working. I don’t see Smith changing that. Maybe Noble can.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      How, precisely, do you think Noble can accomplish anything? To begin with, how do you expect him to get elected? This is a guy who is widely disliked by Democrats who know him — he goes out of his way to alienate. Sure, most Democrats DON’T know him. And let’s suppose there are enough of them who don’t know him and who believe that the only thing wrong with Democrats up to now is that they haven’t been aggressive enough or in-your-face enough or ideological enough, and on the basis of that he wins the nomination. How is he to win independent and Republican votes? You do understand that most voters in SC fit into one of those two categories, right?

      And then, yes — I will “quibble” about his 50th or 51st in the nation assertions. Those are numbers. To what do they refer? What measure or measures are being cited? It’s not a strange question to ask.

      Oh, and what’s his plan for fixing that? Should we believe him when he says a third of teachers need to be fired, or when he denies saying it?

  9. Doug T

    Last poll I saw had Noble and Smith tied. If Noble wins the nomination, will dems vote for Noble? Henry? Or stay home? My guess is they will vote for Noble.

    Smith is Sheheen lite. I am reluctant to say this in the midst of this Trumpian nightmare, but we gotta try something different. What we have isn’t working and Smith has been part of the Statehouse mess.

    Can we agree public education in SC is in need of a fix? What has Smith offered during his political career to fix it?

    1. Doug Ross

      Exactly. Brad likes experience over results. Smith has a non descript political career which doesn’t suggest he’s a leader willing to do the tough job of taking on the Republican leadership that runs this state.

      Democrats need a candidate with bold ideas and a passion that comes across to voters. He needs to energize voters in a state where he automatically has a 8 point deficit. He probably has the best shot against McMaster, who has the Trump baggage and hasn’t done anything meaningful in his tenure. Come out in favor of medical marijuana and gay marriage to start. Put some meat on the table… Or run a safe campaign and lose with honor. At least show some energy. Like it or not, Trump won because he out worked Hillary.

      I can’t forget seeing Nikki Haley one time up close during an event at an IT firm downtown. She had a charisma and passion that came thru immediately. That is what Democrats need. Not a “good guy”.

  10. Scout

    If I was just watching this cold and judging only by words and impressions and knew nothing prior about the candidates, I would be torn between Willis and Smith. But I lean toward Smith because I’ve paid attention to him before now. I agree that he doesn’t come off terribly dynamic, which is troubling. I was in college when he was. I watched him argue for Dukakis at a young Democrat debate and I watched him run for student body president at USC (he lost I think), but I liked him then and remembered him so I noticed whenever he did something in the legislature and I have usually agreed with it. He’s not been flashy and dynamic to where I would have noticed if I didn’t have a background, to think to check, oh what does he think on this. But because I have done that through the years, I know he has been there fighting for the things I agree with.

    I agree with the aims that Willis’ states for the most part but I’m disinclined to believe that what she thinks she will do will be as easy as she thinks it will. You can have this outsider/insider debate forever but the problem with outsiders is they often have unrealistic ideas about what can be done.

    And Noble is just silly. ‘Let’s scrap everything and start completely over.’ Right, because we all have time for that. We’ll just put the state on hold for a few years while he redesigns things from scratch all by himself, which he would of course as Governor completely have the power and ability to do anyway. Again not very realistic or pragmatic.

  11. Doug T

    Let me repeat something I’ve stated before: I really enjoy this blog (except for that robot crap…I’m tired of picking out storefronts). Thanks Brad. I don’t post much but read often….and I sometimes agree with Mr. Ross!!

    Did I just read this morning that Smith has been in politics for 22 years? The Invisible Man indeed.

    I don’t know where Noble got his 50th, 51st in education data, but here is a Post & Courier article citing a U.S. News article. With so much as stake in this state, let’s not nit pick. We gotta get out of this rut.

    1. Doug Ross

      Smith could get some crossover votes if he came out in favor of a limited school voucher program for the worst districts. We’ve tried spending more (a lot more in the worst districts line Allendale) with no success. Let’s try a new approach. It can’t be any worse.


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