As I said, I ran into him a couple of times. This was the last Saturday night of the 2018 election.
… which is my way of saying I’m not sure what I think about it yet. Might have to ponder for awhile.
Of course, I’m very interested in having someone other than Henry McMaster be our governor. I spent more than four months of my life working very long, hard hours trying to bring that about not long ago, but as Mark Twain would say, we got left.
So there’s that.
There’s also the fact that I don’t have anything against Joe, which is something I can’t say about all that many people in politics. So that’s good. And it seems like Joe would have a better shot than most Democrats who might run. And it will have to be a Democrat — you can’t rely on Republicans to come up with anyone more desirable than Henry. They tried hard in 2018, and nearly did it. But I didn’t see anything good to say about the options offered then, and in the Year of our Lord 2021, I look around and think that if they ever managed to dump their incumbent, it would most likely be with someone Trumpier than he is.
I think Henry sees that, too, which is why he runs about saying such stupid things.
On the other hand, I don’t know of much to say for Joe, because he’s so new to public life. In fact, I just watched his announcement video, and when he started talking, I didn’t know it was him. I thought it might be one of those commercials that come up on YouTube before your video. Then I realized it was him, and right after that, I realized I was completely unfamiliar with his voice. I ran into him a couple of times in 2018 (see the pics above and below), but I don’t remember hearing him speak. And as y’all know, I don’t watch TV, and I don’t remember hearing him on NPR.
At my age, 2018 — when I first heard of Joe — feels like about five minutes ago, if that. And when I saw in the Post and Courier that he was planning to run, I got to thinking — what do I know about him before that? Well, not much. So I checked Wikipedia, which has a page about anyone who has served in Congress. Here’s what it said:
Cunningham was born in Caldwell County, Kentucky, and grew up in Kuttawa, Kentucky. He graduated from Lyon County High School in 2000. Cunningham attended the College of Charleston for two years before transferring to Florida Atlantic University in 2002, where he obtained his Bachelor of Science in ocean engineering in 2005.
Cunningham became an ocean engineer with a consulting company in Naples, Florida, and was laid off after about five years. He spent some time learning Spanish in South America, enrolled in law school at Northern Kentucky University‘s Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 2011, and graduated in 2014. He then worked as a construction attorney for Charleston firm Lyle & Lyle and co-owned the Soul Yoga + Wellness yoga studio with his wife before campaigning for political office.
And then, in 2017, he announced he was running for Congress.
So he graduated law school in 2014. And to think, I had thought James Smith was young. Cindi Scoppe wrote about this in 2018:
The three of us chatted about the race, and the family, and I wrote a few paragraphs about it for the next day’s paper. It was the only time I actually referred to Rep. Smith in print by the nickname his now-communications director Brad Warthen and I used privately throughout Brad’s time as The State’s editorial page editor: “young James.”…
After he was elected to the House in 1994, during my first year on the editorial board, I did call him that for quite a few years. Young James was such a kid in those early days — but we watched him grow as a lawmaker, and liked what we saw. (By the way, as James has many times reminded me, we did not endorse him in that first run. We liked him, but we went with his opponent, who was also his first cousin — Republican Robert Adams.)
And no, I didn’t call him that while I was his press guy. Maybe I should have. Maybe we would have won.
We certainly should have won. James had distinguished himself during his 24 years in the House, where he was the minority leader for awhile. Also, he was a war hero, with an amazing backstory. There’s no such thing as a perfect candidate, but he came awfully close. And among the many people who knew him, Republicans as well as Democrats and independents, he was far better respected than the do-nothing Trump lover, Henry McMaster.
But here’s the awful thing about politics: As widely known as you may be, and as deeply respected, that large number of people is a tiny, infinitesimal percentage of the number of people who vote — most of whom don’t know you or much else. They vote more and more by tribal loyalty, and Henry had the imprimatur of the dominant tribe. So that was that.
So would Joe fare better? I dunno. I’m looking for evidence of that, which will give me hope. Of course, conventional wisdom would hold that yes, because “He won on the same day that your James Smith lost.”
Yeah, but I’m not that impressed that he won the 1st District that day. We won in that district, too. So which was it? Did we help him, or did he — and the upswing across the country that day for moderate Democrats running for Congress — help us? I can see good arguments either way.
But I’m going to be looking for signs that Joe can win. Looking eagerly.
The Post and Courier reports that “he plans to fight for policies such as expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage and passing police reform.” OK, well, we ran on the first one. The other two have become popular since then — among Democrats. Who are, as you know, a minority in our state. Of course, I’m not crazy that he also promised to pursue term limits, and promises, as George Bush did in 1988 (before reversing himself in office) not to raise taxes.
But I can agree with him completely when he says:
“Gov. McMaster has spent the last year checking off his partisan wish list instead of tackling the real problems in our state. South Carolina desperately needed a strong leader over the last year, but all we had was a weak politician with messed-up priorities.”
We said things like that, too, of course. Anyway, I’ll be watching, listening and hoping I see and hear good things going forward…
Here was the other time I remember — the day the OTHER Joe campaigned with us in Charleston, Oct. 13, 2018. By the way, there’s at least one other person in these pictures I’d RATHER see run. But you can’t always get what you want.