Category Archives: 2010 Gubernatorial

Today’s column, other stuff on my new blog

FYI, today's column — the long-promised one about Gresham Barrett (a perfectly pedestrian column that didn't deserve such a buildup, but at least it technically fulfills the promise) is to be found on my new blog,

Also, I've posted a nice (I think) note I got from the governor, which I hope you will help me decipher…

Thanks for all the kind words, folks

    Yes, blog regulars, you did read much of this piece earlier in the week. But people who don't do blogs (a much larger number among newspaper readers) missed it, and there is some new material in it, at the beginning and the end. Not much, I'll admit, but some…

Editorial Page Editor
ONE OF THE tough things about getting laid off in a very public way is that you can’t get your work done — you can’t even walk down the street — for all the wonderful people who come up to you and say kind things. (Never mind the phone calls, e-mails and letters.)
    Of course, it’s also the best thing about the experience, so don’t stop, folks. It doesn’t get old.
    I’ve heard from everyone from Gov. Mark Sanford (yes, he was very kind and cordial, despite all those things I say about him) to old friends I worked with decades ago, far away from here. And I appreciated every one of them.
    For those of you who missed it, I was in the news last week, along with a lot of my colleagues. To quote from

    The State Media Co. today announced the layoff of 38 people — 11 percent of its work force — and wage reductions ranging from 2.5 percent to 10 percent for the rest of the employees.
    Among those laid off were three vice presidents including editorial page editor Brad Warthen.

    My last day is March 20.
    For those of you who ask “why,” the answer is simple: The money’s just not there, and somebody had to go. I was one of the 38. You might say, to borrow a phrase from the Corleone family, this isn’t personal; it’s strictly business.
    I’ve tried to keep readers on my blog in the loop about the profound changes going on in the newspaper industry, which have been accelerating. I’ve written about everything from the departures of longtime friends and colleagues who are not replaced, to the horrific news sweeping the industry more recently, with some newspapers going under.
    This has not been a comfortable thing for me to do. For one thing, I always wonder how much my readers will care. Someone I respected in college — actually, he taught a course in editorial writing that I took — warned us that when one talks about one’s own industry, one runs the risk of boring one’s audience.
    (So, what I try to explain when I do talk about it is that this is about you, too. Newspapers reflect their communities in more ways than simply publishing news and commentary. We also reflect our surroundings economically. Newspapers went into this recession in a weakened condition, and now we’re like the canary in the coal mine. If you’re hurting, we’re hurting. And vice versa, whether you realize it or not.)
    For another reason, I recognize my own lack of detachment.
    Finally, there is such a delicate balance to strike between telling all that I know or imagine I know, which is my instinct as a journalist, and respecting the confidentiality of things I know only because I’m an officer of this company — which gives me both an unfair advantage and a responsibility to those I work with. It can be awkward.
    Anyway, in spite of that, I’ve tried to be frank about the situation whenever I’m asked — and on the blog, even when I’m not.
    I leave here with a deep love for this newspaper, which I hope has been evident over the past couple of decades. It seems to have been evident to my boss — President and Publisher Henry Haitz — judging by the kind and gracious things he had to say about my service in his note on this page on Wednesday. (Sample: “He is a remarkable journalist and writer, with keen understanding of the issues most vital to our community and our state.”)
    And I appreciate that.
    What will I do next? I don’t know. I’ll be spreading my resume around, online and otherwise. In the meantime, give me a holler if you hear of a suitable position. One advantage I have over so many people who are looking for work now — more than 200,000 in South Carolina, I heard last week — is that a huge portion of the state has watched me on the job and formed a pretty detailed impression of my capabilities. (Of course, whether that works for me or against me depends on the individual reader.)
    I can tell you this much — I have zero intention of “relocating,” to use an ugly word. When I came to the state of my birth in 1987 after years in this business in Tennessee and Kansas, I did so with the intention of staying for good. My days as a newspaper vagabond were over. Either things worked out at The State, or I would find some other line of work. And the thing is, things worked out very well.
    The day I was interviewed here (for the job of governmental affairs editor), I told then-Executive Editor Tom McLean that my ultimate goal was to become editorial page editor. I believed that position offered the greatest opportunity to serve my state, which I believed needed its largest newspaper to have a strong, frank, lively editorial page. Thanks to Tom, I got my chance to do just that 10 years later, and I could not be more proud of the team I have had the privilege of working with, or the excellent job they have done — and that those who remain will continue to do, if I know them. (And I do.)
    Obviously, this is a stressful time, but beneath it all is something that I don’t quite know how to describe, a sort of anticipation driven by curiosity. I wonder, with great interest, what will happen next. (That sounds either terribly trite or unintelligible; I can’t tell which, but I explained it as well as I could.)
    So much for this subject today. This will not be my last column. For one thing, I promised you last week to write something about U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett’s candidacy for governor. I was going to do that for today, but I got distracted again. I’m sure you’ll understand.

For now, please visit for more about this subject and everything else. Watch there to learn about my future blogging plans.

Brave new world of political discourse

ONCE, NOT so long ago, serious people decried the reduction and trivialization of political ideas to the level of a bumper sticker. Some days, I long for the coherence, the relevance, the completeness of bumper stickers.
    Let’s knit together a few of the unraveled threads that have frayed my mind in the past week, shall we?
    Thread One: A Colorado congressman who takes pride in his technological savvy claimed partial “credit” for the demise of a newspaper, saying, “Who killed the Rocky Mountain News? We’re all part of it, for better or worse, and I argue it’s mostly for the better…. The media is dead and long live the new media.”
    Thread Two: Last week, I started working out again. I can’t read when I’m on the elliptical trainer because I bounce up and down too much, so I turn on the television. This gives me an extended exposure to 24/7 TV “news” and its peculiar obsessions, which I normally avoid like a pox. I hear far more than I want to about Rush Limbaugh, who wants the country’s leadership to fail, just to prove an ideological point. The president’s chief of staff dubs this contemptible entertainer the leader of the president’s opposition. Even more absurdly, the actual chief of the opposition party spends breath denying it — and then apologizes for doing so. See why I avoid this stuff?
    Thread Three: Two of the most partisan Democrats in the S.C. Senate, John Land and Brad Hutto, introduce a mock resolution to apologize to Rush on behalf of South Carolina so that our state doesn’t “miss out on the fad that is sweeping the nation — to openly grovel before the out-spoken radio host.” The Republican majority spends little time dismissing the gag, but any time thus spent by anyone was time not spent figuring out how to keep essential state services going in this fiscal crisis.
    Thread Four: At midday Thursday I post on my blog a few thoughts about the just-announced candidacy of U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett for governor, and invite readers to share what they think of the Upstate Republican. As of mid-afternoon Friday, there were nine comments on the subject, and three of them were from me. By the same time, there were 66 comments about the Rush Limbaugh flap.
    Thread Five: A colleague brings to my attention a new Web site called SCTweets, where you can read spontaneous “Twitter” messages from such S.C. politicians as Anton Gunn, David Thomas, Bob Inglis, Nathan Ballentine and Thad Viers, with a number of S.C. bloggers thrown in. It’s the brainchild of S.C. Rep. Dan Hamilton and self-described GOP “political operative” Wesley Donehue (which would explain why Rep. Gunn is the only Democrat on the list I just cited). They see it as “a creative way to showcase SC’s tech-savvy elected officials.” It sounds like a neat idea, but when you go there and look at it… well, here’s a sample:

bobinglis Want a window into our campaign themes? Check out my recent letter at Join us if you can!

annephutto had a great lunch

AntonJGunn Having lunch with the Mayor of Elgin.

mattheusmei Prepare to have your mind blownaway #sctweets, simply amazing!!!

Beautiful day in Columbia. #sctweets

just had lunch with little Joe at Jimmy Johns.

    Perhaps this will be useful to someone, and I applaud Messrs. Hamilton and Donehue for the effort. But so far I haven’t figured out what Twitter adds to modern life that we didn’t already have with e-mail and blogs and text-messaging and, well, the 24/7 TV “news.” Remember how I complained in a recent column about how disorienting and unhelpful I find Facebook to be? Well, this was worse. I felt like I was trying to get nutrition from a bowl of Lucky Charms mixed with Cracker Jack topped with Pop Rocks, stirred with a Slim Jim.
    Thread Six: Being reminded of Facebook, I checked my home page, and found that a friend I worked with a quarter-century ago was exhorting me to:

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence along with these instructions in a note to your wall.

    I followed his instructions. The book nearest to my laptop was the literally dog-eared (chewed by a dog that died three decades ago) paperback Byline: Ernest Hemingway. Here’s the fifth sentence on page 56:
“He smiled like a school girl, shrugged his shoulders and raised his hands to his face in a mock gesture of shame.”
    Not much without context, but you know what? I got more out of that than I got out of that Twitter page. At least I formed a clear, coherent picture of something.
    I just remembered that I said I would knit these threads together. OK, here goes:
    It occurs to me that Twitter and Facebook are the bright new world that the Colorado congressman who claims credit for killing The Rocky Mountain News extolled. In this world, political discourse consists of partisans prattling about talk show hosts and elected officials casting spontaneous sentence fragments into the dusty, arid public square.
    I was going to write a column for today about Congressman Barrett’s candidacy for governor. As I mentioned a couple of weeks back when I wrote about Sen. Vincent Sheheen entering the race, I’m trying to get an early start on writing as much as possible about that critical decision coming up in 2010, in the hope that if we think about it and talk about it enough, we the people can make a better decision than we have the past few elections.
    But I got distracted.
    I’ll get with Rep. Barrett soon; I promise. And I’ll try to write about it in complete sentences, for those of you who have not yet adjusted.

For links and more, please go to

What about Gresham Barrett?

Either today or tomorrow I'm going to call and talk to Gresham Barrett about his candidacy for governor, for the purposes of a column — like the one I did on Vincent Sheheen. As I've indicated, I plan to focus on candidates for this job early, and give you, the voter, as much information as I can about each of them, so that you can make a better choice than we, the people, have made in the last few gubernatorial elections.

Assuming, of course, that we're offered a better choice — and frankly, we haven't had a really good one since Joe Riley just barely lost the runoff in the Democratic primary in 1994. And maybe, if I shed enough light on the subject, it will encourage good candidates to run this time. Don't ask me how my shedding light will accomplish that — admittedly, it's a fuzzy concept — but I feel compelled to do all I can to help us get better leadership, and all I really know how to do is shed light. ("It's what I do, darlin'," as Captain Mal said to River Tam, about robbing payrolls.)

In that same vein, I recently posted what I had on dark horse candidate Brent Nelson.

I find myself at a slight disadvantage in the case of Rep. Barrett. I just haven't had very many dealings with him. This morning, off the top of my head, I compiled a list of what little I know about him:

  • Like Bobby Harrell, he was critical of the job that Mark Sanford's Commerce Department had done with regard to developing the state's economy. When he came to see us one day in 2005 (which may be the last time I sat and talked with him, although we've talked by phone more than once since then) that's one of the things we talked about, because there had been a story that morning in The Greenville News (sorry, the link is no longer available) in which he had said "more could be done" by the governor to help the state's economy. He wasn't OVERTLY picking a fight with the governor, but he WAS disagreeing with him about such things as the role of our research universities in boosting the economy.
  • He was an early supporter of Fred Thompson for president.
  • He's an enthusiastic backer of nuclear power, particularly of the idea of generating power from the Savannah River Site. As often as not when I've talked to him, that's what he's wanted to talk about.
  • He voted against the TARP bailout, before he voted for it.
  • He was dubbed one of the 10 "Most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill" by The Hill, which frankly caused me to lose whatever respect I had for that publication. The photo above is the one they offered to support their insupportable case. His staffer Brooke Latham, yeah. Absolutely. In fact, I wondered why she was rated only No. 2 on the list, going by the picture. But Gresham Barrett? Come on. And this is not just glandular bias, although I would argue that if you really listed the 50 most beautiful people on the Hill without any regard to gender, they would all be young women. Why? Because the system tend to attract, and choose for employment, attractive young women. Whereas there is NO mechanism in place to reward and promote physical attractiveness in males, at least not to the same degree. Yeah, there are a few gay members of congress hiring pages I suppose, and politicians as a class sometimes tend to look like TV newscasters, but the phenomenon whereby attractive, nubile women are drawn to halls of power would tend to overwhelm such other factors. Anyway, correct me if I'm wrong, but Mr. Barrett looks about as average as they come. Which is not to cast aspersions.

And that's pretty much it. Other than those things, he has struck me, to the extent that he has struck me at all, as a vanilla Southern Repubican in Congress, neither better nor worse than the average. He has not stood out. Of course, he has seemed somewhat more engaged — watching from afar — in the business of Congress than Mark Sanford was when he was there, but that's not saying much of anything at all.

So I look forward to learning more about him, and sharing that with you.

In the meantime, here's today's news story about his candidacy, here's his still-under-construction Web site, and here's the full text of his first campaign press release:

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, March 4, 2009                                                                                        


Third District Congressman Will Seek Republican Nomination

WESTMINSTER, S.C. – In a video posted on his website,, and in an email to the voters of South Carolina, U.S. Congressman Gresham Barrett announced his candidacy for Governor of the Palmetto State in 2010.
    In the video entitled “Opportunity,” Congressman Barrett said, “I learned my values from my family’s furniture store in Westminster and from the Citadel in Charleston: hard work, community, and commitment to causes greater than self.”
    Congressman Barrett also wrote the voters saying, “I believe South Carolina has tremendous potential, despite our serious challenges. I feel God has blessed me with strong experiences – in running a small business, raising a family, serving in our military, and leading in elected office– that give me a unique conservative perspective on the challenges we face and how to fix them. I believe I have certain strengths in these uncertain times. And I believe we have to hold on to our conservative values, and change the things that hold us back… I am excited about this campaign, and honored to have the opportunity to share my vision for a more prosperous South Carolina with the hard-working people of our great state.”
    Barrett named Travis Butler as his campaign Treasurer of Barrett for Governor.  Mr. Butler is President of Butler Properties and Development. 
    Currently, Gresham Barrett represents the people of South Carolina’s Third District in the United States House of Representatives. Barrett earned his undergraduate degree from The Citadel. He served four years in the United States Army before resigning his commission as a Captain in order to return to his hometown of Westminster, South Carolina where he would later run the family’s furniture store. Prior to his election to the U.S. Congress, Gresham Barrett served three terms in the South Carolina House of Representatives where he fought for numerous pro-family and pro-economic growth initiatives. Gresham and his wife of 24 years, Natalie, have three children Madison, Jeb, and Ross.

Note: To view Congressman Barrett’s announcement video entitled, “Opportunity,” please click here.


And here's the above-mentioned video:

Gresham Barrett For Governor from Gresham Barrett on Vimeo.

McCain to go to bat for McMaster (as well he should)

The Hill reports that John McCain is going to be raising funds for Attorney General Henry McMaster's (yet undeclared) bid for governor in 2010:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is hitting the fundraising circuit to return the favor to a local Republican who proved a key supporter in the 2008 primaries.

McCain and many of his top advisers will throw a fundraising reception on behalf of Henry McMaster, the South Carolina attorney general who backed McCain during his run for president in 2008.

The event's host committee includes McCain loyalists like one-time senior advisors Charlie Black, former campaign manager Rick Davis and former Republican National Committee deputy chairman Frank Donatelli. McCain will make an appearance, a spokeswoman confirmed.

And well he should, because Henry was right with him through thick and thin in his most recent presidential bid. He and Bobby Harrell, all the way, even when people were counting McCain as out of the GOP race. Note the video from above (this is the slightly more extended version of my most-viewed video of all time, at 59,850 views), in which Henry warmed up the crowd for McCain one night in the Vista in 2007 (the night of the first S.C. presidential candidate debate, as I recall).

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.

Looking ahead to 2010: Are we hopeful yet?

Editorial Page Editor

the current occupant has sort of put the whole
being-governor-of-South-Carolina thing behind him — nowadays you have
to track national media to know what he’s up to — let’s follow his
lead, and look forward to the time when he no longer holds the office
even technically.

    In the spirit of getting us to that point as
quickly as possible, I spoke last week with the one declared candidate
for the 2010 gubernatorial election, Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

    If you
don’t know the 37-year-old Camden attorney, you might know his daddy,
former Higher Education Commissioner Fred, or his uncle, former House
Speaker Bob
. He is like them in his dedication to public service, yet
very different. His uncle was the last Democrat to run the House, while
the nephew has been shaped by having to get things done in a world run
by Republicans. It’s made him a consensus-builder, and he thinks that
has prepared him well for this moment.

    Not only does he think he
has a good chance of gaining the Democratic nomination among those who
have been mentioned — and his close allies who might have drawn from
the same base of support, Rep. James Smith and Sen. Joel Lourie, are
not running — but, “at this point in the state’s history, I have a good
chance in the general election,” whoever the GOP nominee is. Why?
“Because people are not satisfied.”

    He can identify with that: “I’ve reached this point out of frustration and hope.”

have been stuck in a rut for a long time,” he said, and “I am not
seeing things changing at all. And that’s very frustrating.” He senses
a similar frustration in the electorate. He thinks voters realize that
“if we keep… not doing anything, then we’re not going to improve.”

    So what does he want to do?

  • “Get
    real again about job creation and economic development.” He says the
    state needs a governor who will treat that as a priority, playing an
    active part in recruiting business, and working to see that the whole
    state, including the rural parts, benefits.
  • “Pulling
    South Carolina’s governmental structure into at least the 20th century,
    and maybe the 21st century.” Some of what he wants to do is what the
    current governor has said he wanted to do. But the plan that Mr.
    Sheheen has put forward (parts of which he explains on the facing page)
    actually has some traction — enough so that Mark Sanford mentioned it
    favorably in his State of the State address this year. Sen. Sheheen
    believes the time has come to move restructuring past the starting
    line, and he thinks he can do it: “I’m not knocking anybody; I’m just
    saying it’s time to have somebody who can build consensus.”
  • “Change
    the way we spend our money.” As he rightly describes the process, “We
    budget in the dark.” He wants to see a programmatic budget, followed by
    the legislative oversight that has been missing, to make sure the
    spending does what it’s intended to do.
  • Combine
    conservation with economic development. He thinks we need to move
    beyond setting aside just to conserve, but convert what is conserved to
    benefit “the humans in a community.” He points to the ways the Camden
    has been used to promote tourism.
  • Change
    the way we fund education. Make funding equitable, based on pupils, not
    districts, so that “a similarly situated student will have the same
    opportunities … regardless of where they live.”

    When I ask
whether there’s anything else, he confesses: “I’m a geek. I could keep
going, but … I’ve got to think of something that’s politically
catchy. I’m supposed to do that.”

    At which point he proves his
geekhood by mentioning comprehensive tax reform, which he’s been
advocating “since my first day in the House.”

    But while that
issue might not make voters’ hearts beat faster, he speaks again of
what he sees as “a growing consensus that we need to do something.”

he thinks the high-profile, counterproductive “contention between the
current governor and the Legislature” has created an opportunity for
someone who wants to move beyond that.

    But how would a Democrat
fare in that task in a State House run by Republicans? Quite well, he
says. He calls Republican Carroll Campbell “one of the most effective
governors,” a fact he attributes in part to the “constructive friction”
between him and the Democratic Legislature that his Uncle Bob helped

    Ironically, Vincent Sheheen seems to be suggesting that his
party has become enough of an outsider in the halls of state power that
a consensus-minded Democrat could be less threatening to, and more
successful in working with, the GOP leadership. “Someone who is not
jockeying for position within their own party could actually help to
bring together some of the different factions.”

    As a
representative of “swing counties” — Chesterfield, Lancaster and
Kershaw — he sees himself as having the ability to be that Democrat.

far — perhaps because he’s the only declared candidate in either party
— he wears the burden of this campaign lightly. At one point he asks
me, “Am I making you hopeful?” — then chuckles when I decline to answer.

I will say this to you, the reader: He’s talking about the right
issues, and he’s talking about them the right way. That’s a start.
Here’s hoping that the candidates yet to declare, in both parties, do
the same. Then perhaps we can have a gubernatorial choice, for once,
between good and better.

For links and more, please go to

Sunday preview: A look at gubernatorial field for 2010 (all one of it)

For once, I am ahead of the game. I have now interviewed ALL of the declared candidates for governor in 2010, and have written about them in my Sunday column.

Of course, there's only one so far: Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Democrat from Camden.

I don't know who will be the next candidate to declare, but I'll tell you who's running the hardest among the undeclared: Attorney General Henry McMaster, Republican. Hardly a day goes by that I don't get a release about him speaking to this or that Republican group in some nook or cranny of the state. In fact, I got this one just yesterday about his appearing on Sen. Sheheen's home turf:

COLUMBIA – Attorney General Henry McMaster will be honored for his service to Kershaw County at a BBQ dinner and rally this Friday, Feb. 20th at 6:00 pm.  The rally will take place at: KCMC Health Resource Center, 124 Battleship Rd, Camden.  The public is invited to attend.  There will be a media availability immediately following the rally.

In fact, looking at the old clock on the wall, it looks like I'm missing that as I type this. And that would have been a good one for me to go to, had it not been on a Friday. I look forward to seeing Henry and/or Vincent and whoever else out there stumping soon, because we can't get to 2010 soon enough as far as I'm concerned. I'm tired of reading AP stories describing network news interviews with Mark Sanford promoting his (shudder) national ambitions, just so I can find out what our governor's up to.

One of the things my Sunday column talks about is the candidate's views on government restructuring. On the same day, we'll have a column co-authored by him and Anton Gunn on the same subject (continuing a string of me writing columns related to op-eds that day, such as last week's on Mark Sanford, and the recent one on DHEC). As further background material on that subject, here's a post from a little over a year ago from when Vincent came to talk about his restructuring plan (yes, I actually wrote about something other than the presidential primaries in January 2008), and here's video that goes with that.

And just to show you the subject's been on him mind a while, here's a 2007 post that's sort of related.

Of course, he hasn't been thinking about restructuring as long as I have; at least I hope not (even though he does claim to be something of a "geek."). He was in college when we did the "Power Failure" series.Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have here a gubernatorial candidate who was born in the year I graduated from high school. I still remember vividly our editorial board interview with the first gubernatorial candidate I'd ever interviewed who was younger than I was — David Beasley in 1994. Since then, every governor we've had has been younger than I am.

And now this. These kids today…