Category Archives: South Carolina

Time runs short to testify on redistricting!

The Op-Ed Page

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

Time is running short to make your thoughts known on South Carolina’s redistricting, the process of adjusting our legislative districts to 2020 census data. The resulting maps will be in place for the next decade. Many citizens of South Carolina feel that they are not represented in the General Assembly or in Congress. Redistricting is a significant contributor to that. If a district has been distorted to make it “safe” for the incumbent, help make it better by identifying what you think should be considered in drawing districts.

Lynn Teague

Help ensure that legislators know about the important communities of which you are a member when they draw legislative districts. Do you want an S.C. House district that doesn’t break up your county or city? Do you want a House district that leaves your neighborhood or an area with a shared economic foundation intact? Do you want a Congressional district that meets Voting Rights Act requirements, but isn’t stretched out across most of the state to pack in every possible minority voter? You need to tell legislators about it now.

S.C. Senate hearings around the state have been completed, but the last few S.C. House hearings remain and are taking testimony relevant to Congressional and S.C. House maps. The House hearing schedule is posted at https://redistricting.schouse.gov/docs/Public%20Hearing%20Schedule.pdf. The last in-person-only opportunity for oral testimony was last night, Sept. 22, in Orangeburg.

There are now two meetings at which virtual oral testimony will be accepted. The first virtual opportunity is now scheduled for Tuesday, September 28, at 4:30-8:30 PM in the Blatt Building, 1105 Pendleton St., Room 110. The second is scheduled for Monday, October 4, at the same time and place. To sign up for virtual testimony on either date, email virtualtestimony@schouse.gov and specify the date that you wish to testify.

In addition, written testimony can be submitted to redistricting@schouse.gov.

Speak up, in whatever way you choose to do it! Redistricting may determine whether you have a meaningful vote when you go into a voting booth in November, and whether you have legislators who consider your interests and respond to your concerns.

Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

‘This Murdaugh case is like something out of ‘The Bay'”

I had not really been following the Murdaugh case, although practically everyone who still works at The State seemed to be doing so, in their professional capacities, over the last few months. I skimmed the headlines, and there were a lot of those, so I sort of knew the gist of what had been happening before it got even crazier this past week or so.

How crazy? Well, I missed a call last night at 11:37 p.m., then listened to the voicemail this morning. It was from a night editor at The New York Post. They wanted to see if I’d cover a hearing for them today in the Murdaugh case. I’m still on their stringer list, going back to that time when I “covered” Mark Sanford’s return from Argentina back in 2009, right after I left the paper. I put “covered” in quotes because all I did was take notes at the notorious marathon presser at the State House, while someone in New York wrote the story from watching it on TV. I was just an excuse for them to put a Columbia dateline on the story. But they generously gave me a byline, under the modest, understated headline, “LUST E-MAILS OF BUENOS AIRHEAD.” As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. Anyway, friends of mine in New York saw it, and brought it to my attention. Time has passed, but I’m not sure I’ve lived it down yet. Sigh…

Anyway, I said I was busy — which I was (a second Post editor called me this morning as I was taking my Dad for a medical appointment) — and wished them luck in finding someone.

But I wasn’t writing about that; this is about the Murdaugh case.

Wait, another digression… Any of you ever watch the Britbox streaming service? It’s pretty good. My wife and I have been enjoying it for about a year now. Anyway, the last couple of weeks we were watching both seasons of “The Bay.” It’s a Brit cop show built around a woman who is a family liaison officer with the police department in Morecambe, Lancashire.

Each full season — or as the Brits would say, “series” — tells the highly involved story of a single case. The second “series” is about a lawyer who is shot and killed at his own home in front of his young son. Then, as the protagonist Lisa Armstrong works with the victim’s family during the investigation, things get really complicated. Documents are found that indicate problems at the family law firm. Relationships among members of the family turn out to be unbelievably tangled, suggesting a number of reasons why the attorney was murdered. Someone else — actually, a main character on the show — is killed along the way. It takes every episode just to lay it all out.

So when my wife said the other day, “This Murdaugh case is like something out of ‘The Bay’,” I nodded. Because it is. Except, more people die in this real-life story.

And here’s what’s interesting about that — to me, if not to you. Often, when we’re watching another one of these tangled mystery stories — not just “The Bay,” but all of them, with bodies falling left and right and everything so mixed up you have no idea whodunit — I observe with a knowing tone that murder in real life isn’t like this.

Murder in real life is more like… Well, I remember one from many years ago in Tennessee. One drunk shot another drunk during an argument over what to watch on TV. I remember that one not because it was so remarkable, but because it epitomized the kinds of homicides you usually see — just a straightforward, disgusting mess. No mastermind carrying out a meticulous plot. Just someone who was so obvious a kindergartener could solve the case. Except you don’t even need the kindergartener, because the killer so often confesses. Even when it’s in the first degree.

Anyway, that’s the kind of killing I generally covered during my brief time as a reporter, more than 40 years ago back in Tennessee.

But the Murdaugh case isn’t like that. It’s more like the ones on TV. And we’re all still waiting for the answers to the biggest questions, as if we were on the next-to-last episode of a season of “The Bay,” or “Unforgotten.”

And that’s why the whole country is riveted. By the way, if you’ve been ignoring it much as I had been until now, it’s kind of handy to read the accounts today in national newspapers, because they have to touch on all the main episodes in the story. Here’s the one in The New York Times, and here’s the one today in The Washington Post

Just like a TV mystery. Except, of course, that it involves real people, our neighbors. I don’t know the Murdaughs, but I know people who know them. I know one of Alex Murdaugh’s lawyers, for instance, as do many of you.

And for months, I refused to be entertained by the horror visited upon this family and the people around them. I refused to be a riveted consumer of a latter-day penny dreadful. A made-up story on TV is one thing. This is entirely different.

But it’s become rather difficult to ignore, hasn’t it?

Lynn Teague: And so it begins… redistricting South Carolina

The Op-Ed Page

newest 7.20.21

EDITOR’S NOTE: As I’ve said so many times, there is no one more important thing we could do to reform and reinvigorate our democracy than to end the scourge of partisan gerrymandering. And it’s hard to imagine any task more difficult. So, when I got an email from our friend Lynn Teague telling me the Senate was about to start work on reapportionment, I was assured to know she would be riding herd on the process, and asked her to write us a situationer. I’m deeply grateful that she agreed to do so…

By Lynn Teague
Guest Columnist

The Senate Redistricting Subcommittee will hold its first meeting to begin the process of redrawing South Carolina’s legislative district boundaries on July 20, and the House is planning its first meeting on August 3. The redistricting process, held every ten years to adjust legislative districts to changes in population, is required by the U. S. Constitution. It is among the most important political processes in our system of government, but one that the public often ignores. The impact isn’t immediately obvious without a closeup look, and a closeup look can easily leave citizens confused by technical details and jargon. The nonpartisan League of Women Voters wants to see that change. We intend to do all that we can to demystify and inform the public and encourage participation.

Lynn Teague

Lynn Teague

Why should you care? Gerrymandering is designing district boundaries so that the outcome in the November general election is a foregone conclusion. At present South Carolina is not heavily gerrymandered by party (although there are surely those who would like to change that in the upcoming process). It is, however, very noncompetitive. The map of Senate districts shows how many voters had no real choice at the polls in November 2020. Why is this? Sometimes it is because the population in an area is very homogenous and any reasonable district that is drawn will lean predictably toward one party or the other. However, too often the problem is incumbent protection. This is a game that both parties can and do play, carefully designing districts to make them easy to win the next time around. Because of this obvious temptation, the United States is the only nation that allows those with an obvious vested interest in the outcome to draw district boundaries.

The other major impact of designing very homogenous districts is that it feeds polarization. Representatives are able to remain in office by responding only to the most extreme elements of their own parties, those who participate enthusiastically in primary elections, and ignore the broader electorate. When you call or write your senator or representative and get no meaningful response, this is often the reason. He or she doesn’t have to care what you think. When you wonder why our legislators take positions that are more extreme than those of the South Carolina electorate as a whole, this is why. They are looking out for themselves in the primary election. They don’t need to be concerned about your vote in November.

What can you do? The League of Women Voters hopes that citizens across the state will participate in public hearings, write to their own representatives and senators, and urge representatives not to distort districts to protect incumbents or parties. Both Senate and House will hold public meetings across South Carolina to solicit comment on how redistricting should be done. The dates for these meetings have not been announced.

The League of Women Voters of South Carolina will be hearing from our own group of independent experts in our League advisory group, will present our own maps, will testify in public hearings, and will encourage members of the public to participate. Everyone can follow along as we present information that is needed to understand and participate on our website at www.lwvsc.org. Click on “Redistricting: People Powered Fair Maps for South Carolina.” There you can also subscribe to our blog, VotersRule2020. Follow @lwvsc on Twitter and “League of Women Voters of South Carolina” on Facebook. Our theme is #WeAreWatching. Everyone should watch along with us, and let their legislators know that they shouldn’t make the decision about who wins in November.

Lynn Teague is a retired archaeologist who works hard every day in public service. She is the legislative lobbyist for the South Carolina League of Women Voters.

Let’s try not to use up all the water, OK?

I can do without another Dust Bowl.

I can do without another Dust Bowl.

Look, I know the few folks who still work at The State — or perhaps I should say work for The State, since it’s no longer so much a place to be at — don’t spend a bunch of time thinking about the print version.

I don’t even subscribe to it myself, preferring my iPad. But I do interact through the e-edition, which as you may know presents the content through electronic versions of the actual pages of the print version. I do this because I’m an old front-page editor going back more than 40 years, so whether a story is played on the front, and how it’s played on the front, still means something to me. Even when it doesn’t mean much to the editors putting it there. (Yes, I know that’s illogical, but there it is.)

Anyway, this morning, it really struck me that in that print edition, this story by my old friend Sammy Fretwell — headlined “Water-gulping farms face tighter controls as groundwater levels drop in central SC” — was badly underplayed. An excerpt:

South Carolina’s environmental protection board voted Thursday to place controls on huge farms and industries east of Columbia that withdraw large amounts of groundwater, a measure taken in response to dwindling water levels in parts of the state.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board’s unanimous vote will require major groundwater users in six counties, including Richland and Sumter, to tell the public about their plans to siphon water and to get permits from the agency before making withdrawals. The rules apply to anyone withdrawing 3 million gallons or more per month….

“Dwindling water levels in parts of the state” sort of grabbed me. So did “3 million gallons or more per month.” Later, Sammy uses the word “billions” in describing the overall problem. As a guy who hesitates to turn on sprinklers in the yard (I mean, won’t that make the grass grow even more?), that’s an impressive number.

But I guess, on an emotional level, what grabbed me most was this:

At least nine organizations and local governments recently urged DHEC to impose the rules to protect groundwater needed by smaller farms, industries and public water systems in the six-county area, in addition to large farms…

Hang on. I mean, this or that farmer saying to another, “I need the water more than you do” is one thing, and a thing regarding which different sides might be taken. But public water systems? As in, someone goes to turn on the tap in kitchen and nothing comes out? Whoa…

You know, if that’s what it means. I guess I should ask Sammy.

Here’s the thing: As a guy who is far, far less concerned (if at all) about our planet’s growing population than our friend Bud, I rely — as do we all — on a certain amount of large-scale modern farming.

But maybe we should, as a society, go about growing that food — and fiber, and whatever — somewhat more intelligently.

Anyway, I thought it deserved to be brought to people’s attention a bit more prominently. It’s something we should talk about. I don’t want to live in a Dust Bowl…

I don't think packing up the truck and moving West will work if the East runs out of water.

I don’t think packing up the truck and moving West will work if the East runs out of water.

No hate-crimes law? That’s actually a good thing…

The state Chamber of Commerce and other backers of hate-crimes legislation at a recent presser.

The state Chamber of Commerce and other backers of hate-crimes legislation at a recent presser.

I just saw this story in the Post and Courier about the legislative session ending without a South Carolina hate-crimes law being passed.

Well, that’s a good thing — although I’m sure my relief will be short-lived. It’s only a matter of time before pressure from peers and well-intended others — we’re one of only two states without such a law — will have the effect I oppose.

Yes, I know that the motives of those who want such a law are generally kindly, and the motives of many (if not most) people opposing it are abhorrent.

Nevertheless, I’ve opposed the idea as far back as I can recall — here’s a post on the subject from 2007 — and I believe my reasoning is as sound as ever.

This is America, a country where we don’t criminalize thought. We punish actions, not attitudes. There’s a very important reason why all those seemingly different concepts — freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly — are squeezed together into the very First Amendment to our Constitution. They all assert one thing: They say the government can’t interfere with our freedom of conscience. We get to believe what we want and say what we want and write what we want and hang out with whom we want. And we have a legitimate gripe against the government if it sticks its nose in.

I know that many people feel strongly that such a law is needed. But their arguments don’t add up to anything that outweighs the values expressed in the First Amendment.

I’ve written about this a number of times in the past. I summed up my position fairly succinctly in this comment back in 2009 (which I later elevated to a separate post):

Such things should not exist in America. That’s one of the few points on which I agree with libertarians. Punish the act, not the thought or attitude behind it.

Oh, and I assure you that when I agree with libertarians on anything, I strongly doubt my conclusion, and go back and reexamine it very carefully. But this position has stood up to such scrutiny.

Perhaps you can offer something that will shake my certainty, although at this late date it seems doubtful. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard all the arguments, and while I’ve often admired the sentiment involved, I end up shaking my head at the logic.

But have at it…

The departure of Caslen, the return of Pastides

Image from USC's "MEET OUR PRESIDENT: BOB CASLEN" page.

Image from USC’s “MEET OUR PRESIDENT: BOB CASLEN” page.

Well, I was planning to post something about General Caslen and his troubles, but now he’s gone.

So I thought, before I sit down to dinner, I’d post something to give y’all a chance to comment.

No great hurry since this isn’t a news blog. It’s an opinion blog. Trouble is, unlike most of South Carolina, I’ve never had very strong opinions about the guy — from the time of the brouhaha over his hiring until now, I was just watching and trying to make up my mind. Then these three things happened:

  • In a graduation speech, he called USC “the University of California.”
  • Also in a graduation speech (I’m not sure which one of the many he delivers), he plagiarized something Adm. William McRaven had said. After this, it was reported that he had offered his resignation to the trustee board chair, but that it was declined.
  • Then, we learned that the interchange between him and the board chair had occurred without the other members of the board knowing about it. And from what I read about that over the last day or so, some were kind of ticked about it.

I wouldn’t have fired him — or demanded his resignation, or whatever — over his confusing us with Berkeley. People make mistakes. It was a pretty weird mistake, but not a firing offense. But it was not a good thing. And as I collected information toward forming my impression of Caslen, that definitely went into the “bad stuff” pile.

And this was not a guy who could afford to have a lot of stuff in that pile, given the squirrelly way he was hired, and the fact that in the last two weird years, I hadn’t tossed anything, that I can recall, into the “good stuff” pile. So, not a good omen.

Nor would I completely abandon him over the plagiarism thing. I mean, you know, I love Joe Biden, so I’m sort of obliged to be open-minded about that. Still, it was something for the “bad stuff” pile.

At this point, I’m really wondering when he’s going to give me some stuff for the other pile.

The worst thing, for me, was the business about the board not being consulted before the chairman went through the whole “I surrender my sword/No, sir, I do not accept it!” routine. Of course, that’s not really on Caslen, is it?

That takes us back to the days when his hiring was being protested. Many of the most passionate people were calling for changing the governance structure.

Well, we just got a huge reason to seriously consider that. Because this board appears to be a mess.

My position on that is unchanged since about 1991 — back then, I advocated doing away with these medieval fiefdoms governed by their own, separate courts. I think we should do away with the USC trustees, the Clemson trustees, all those separate little kingdoms, and have one board governing higher education in the state. Make it a real state system, rather than competing private businesses. (Oh, and also restore state funding so they really ARE state institutions.)

That’s never come remotely close to happening, apparently too big a pill for too many, but we need to do something other than having all these little fiefdoms and princelings.

I’d be interested to see a real discussion about that, or about something other than what we have.

Meanwhile, I welcome back Harris Pastides, for however long the interregnum lasts. He’s a good guy…

 

 

 

More people will be openly carrying guns in SC. Does that make you happy?

Great_train_robbery_still

You may have seen this news a couple of days ago:

COLUMBIA — Trained South Carolina gun owners will likely soon be able to carry pistols openly in public after the state Senate fast-tracked, prioritized and ultimately approved a bill to expand the rights of concealed weapons permit-holders.

After multiple days of debate, the Senate voted 28-16 late in the evening May 6 in favor of the bill. They rejected attempts by some conservative Republicans to transform it into a more expansive bill, known by supporters as “constitutional carry,” to let all legal gun owners carry openly without a permit….

This was something of a surprise to Micah Caskey, who had co-sponsored the bill and played a significant role in herding it through the House. He had predicted that it wouldn’t make it through the Senate this year. But it did.

He also had predicted that the separate bill that would have simply granted everyone who isn’t specifically barred by law from having a gun to carry without a CWP or anything would not pass, either. He was right about that, but just barely. The Senate nearly passed that measure, called “constitutional carry” — a very puzzling piece of legislation that I’ll come back to later, if I remember.

Remind me if I don’t. I’ve been writing this in chunks today because I’ve had to run a bunch of errands today, and tomorrow is Mother’s Day and promises to be busy, and I’m determined to get it written this weekend. Finally.

I’ve got kind of a complex about this post because I called and talked to Micah about all of this three weeks ago. It was on the Friday, April 16. I couldn’t get it written that day, but I was sure I’d write it over the weekend. Then on Saturday, I tore my hand up, and couldn’t type for more than a week. And then when I could type, I was catching up on stuff I had to get done, and not too worried about getting this done, since I didn’t expect the Senate to act on it this year. But as I mentioned, they did.

I had called Micah because I wanted to ask him a question, which went kind of like this: “I could use some help understanding what it is that persuaded you that people didn’t have sufficient right to carry guns about, and that that needed addressing…”

As y’all know, I’m about out of Republicans I can vote for. I’ve mentioned previously that Micah — my state rep — is about the only one left that I might have the opportunity to vote for in the foreseeable future. He didn’t have opposition in 2020, so I didn’t vote for him. But if someone opposes him in ’22, I probably will.

In spite of this. I definitely oppose what he and his caucus are doing here, but hey, there’s not anyone on the planet I agree with about everything. Not Joe Biden. Not James Smith. Not even Joe Riley, although in his long career he came closer than anybody. I’m not even sure I’d have agreed with Abraham Lincoln about everything, especially back in his Whig days.

He’s wrong on this gun thing, but I wanted to hear what he had to say about it. If he’d given me any of that “God-given rights” garbage like that Shane Martin guy that Jamie Lovegrove quoted, I’d be down to ZERO Republicans I can vote for. (If God really saw it as essential that I go about armed, why wasn’t I born with a Smith & Wesson in my hand? That could have saved a lot of money. Guns are pricey these days.)

But Micah didn’t, and I didn’t expect him to. He was reasonable as always. Just wrong — about this.

Here’s the way he laid it out to me…

As mentioned before, there are two House bills: 3094 and 3096. The second one was the crazy one — my word, of course, not Micah’s. The other one was the more moderate option — basically not changing much except that people who now have Concealed Weapon Permits would no longer have to, you know, conceal them. The reassuring thing for someone like me, Micah explained, is that 3094 was there to give more moderate Republicans an opportunity to demonstrate their great fealty to the “There aren’t enough guns out there!” crowd, without going whole-hog crazy (again, that’s me, not Micah).

About that “someone like me” phrase… It’s not that Micah is some gun nut and I’m someone who would sweep away the “God-given rights” that so concern Sen. Martin. No. In fact, I’ve never been much of a gun-control advocate. Not that I wouldn’t snap my fingers and have all the guns in private hands disappear. It’s just that I’m not likely to have that power at any point, and here in the real world, I don’t see how any control measure that would ever stand the slightest chance of passing would solve the real problem.

And what’s “the real problem?” It’s that so incredibly many guns exist and are out there in private hands. Those God-given rats (there he goes, sneaking in another “Gettysburg” reference) that certain people fuss over — you know, the “taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens while criminals have them” stuff — is an irrelevant point. It’s not about this or that person’s supposed moral superiority or greater entitlement. It’s that the virtue or lack thereof of the gun owner doesn’t mean a thing.

That’s because there are 390 million guns in private hands in this country, and only 328 million people live here. So pretty much everybody who really wants a gun has one, whether he is a hero or a villain. In fact, he most likely has several, because so many people don’t want guns and don’t have them. According to Gallup, only about 32 percent of Americans, no doubt out of a feeling of obligation to follow the will of the Almighty, actually arm themselves. That’s about 105 million people. That means they own an average of about 3.7 guns apiece.

That means if there is a criminal out there somewhere — you know, an undeserving sort, a bad guy, a thorough wrong ‘un — who for some reason does not yet have a gun, he can easily go out and obtain one. Or two, or three. Because, you know what criminals do — they steal stuff. And this is made easy for them because there are so damned many guns out there. (Go ahead and give me an extended sermon about how securely you store your guns. Well, plenty of people do not.)

One more point, and this one may distress the folks who are most concerned with the “rights” question: The world is not as neatly divided into “good guys” and “bad guys” as they would like. Occasionally, a good guy has a bad day. Or worse, his children find the handgun.

(A brief note of apology to Micah and other Marines out there — in these figures I’m citing, I’m afraid I am including rifles within the category of “guns.” I do know the difference — so I don’t need a drill sergeant to send me about the boot camp declaiming upon the subject with my pants undone. I am simply doing so for convenience, and getting away with it because I am not a boot. Fortunately, in a moment I’ll return to the subject of House bills 3094 and 3096, which I think only concern actual guns, since qualified South Carolinians already have the right to carry their rifles openly.)

So anyway, I’m not terribly optimistic about, say, stricter background checks solving the problem of, say, mass shootings in America. Oh, it might keep this or that gun out of the hands of the wrong person — or the “right” person on a bad day. And for that reason, were I to be a member of a legislative body and had the opportunity to vote for such a marginal measure, I would. I just wouldn’t have great hope of it solving the problem, which is the existence of too many guns in the private sector.

What I most assuredly would not do would be to vote for a completely unnecessary bill that addresses some vague problem that simply does not exist. It’s kind of like what we just saw in Florida. The state just ran as flawless an election as we’re ever likely to see in this sin-stained world, and Florida lawmakers still passed legislation to solve the nonexistent “problem.” This is the same deal, only with deadly weapons.

Which brings us back to 3094 and 3096. (See, I did get back to them.)

As you recall, I asked Micah, “What is it about the current situation in our state and country (on the day of the third mass shooting of the year in Indianapolis) that makes you or anyone else think: We don’t have enough people carrying around guns? Secondly, what makes you think current law doesn’t LET people carry guns around enough?”

To the latter, he responded, “There is an express prohibition on openly carrying a handgun now.” True enough. Why this is a problem remains unclear to me. And as I said, I’ll get back to the subject of 3096 — of “constitutional carry.”

As to why either bill is there and being voted upon, Micah mentioned that he is chairman of the general laws subcommittee of House Judiciary. He suggested, or at least implied, that this imposes certain obligations upon him.

He noted that in the 2020 elections, Republicans were “given even larger majorities.” He added that among Republicans, “Some say we haven’t been given sufficient exercise of our 2nd Amendment rights.” Those people say, “We want to be able to do this.” Which places a certain obligation upon him as a Republican subcommittee chairman, that being what so many constituents want.

OK, another digression: As I’ve said many times, I like having Micah as my representative. (You may recall that I actually briefly considered running for the position myself, on the UnParty ticket, but when I met Micah and spoke with him at length I decided I’d just as soon vote for him. And the only way he’s going to get to represent the district in which I live, and continue to do so, is if he runs as a Republican. And that means certain things, including things I don’t like.

It’s the same with Democrats. Vote for them, and they’re likely to be pushing something else I don’t like — such as, say, hate crime laws. (No, they’re not quite the same thing, but I’m pretty strongly opposed to them, too.)

So Micah is doing the will of many, many constituents when he does this. Nor does he have to misrepresent himself to advocate for these measures. He can quite honestly say that the change of the “open carry” provision is fairly minor — people could already carry the weapons, just concealed.

As for “constitutional carry,” he is able to just as honestly say that “I do tend to take the view that the 2nd amendment doesn’t have a permit requirement in it.”

Here’s where I get back to 3096, and the fundamental logical problem with it, apart from whether we think it to be wise legislation. The South Carolina General Assembly does not have the power to declare, with legal effect, what the U.S. Constitution says and what it does not say. That is a power and obligation reserved to the federal courts. If you want a constitutional provision to be interpreted a certain way, you take the matter to court.

And as soon as I said that to Micah, which I did, I realized why some want to pass a bill such as 3096. Like so much that South Carolina Legislature does under Republican control, voting for this bill is not about having an effect on the real world. It’s about signaling to the Trumpian base that you are on their side. If a court does it, thereby having an effect on the real world, you don’t get any credit for it.

Once you know that, you understand what the Legislature is doing, on issue after issue.

The other day, I was exchanging email with a longtime friend who was thinking about not going to the State House next week because she has a super-busy week, but at the same time, “I hate to miss the last week of the regular session.”

This caused me to harrumph about how back in my day, the Legislature didn’t quit work this early. You know, people advocated for shortening the session for many years before they succeeded a few years back. And I always argued against it, because even when they stayed until June, the session was never long enough. They would always go home with so much important state business undone. You know, important stuff like what I used to write about all the time at the paper.

But then, because of these bills and so much else, I thought, if you’re not going to do anything useful to anyone, and just spend time doing things to pose and posture for your base, might as well go home early.

Anyway, in the future, I’d like to see my representative and those other people do something actually helpful and worthwhile, something South Carolina needs. Whether it’s improving public health or education or roads or doing the kind of wonkish stuff I like, it would be nice to see again. And I know Micah and some other folks have good ideas like that…

M&R Photography

Lots and lots and lots of guns. This was at the Houston Gun show at the George R. Brown Convention Center in 2007.

SC has enough problems without these folks joining us

Henry vax

I don’t watch TV news, but my wife does. And yesterday, finding this a bit hard to believe, she called me into the room to witness it.

Basically, it says anti-vaxxers are moving to South Carolina because they see Henry McMaster as their kind of guy.

Once, governors — Henry included — labored mightily to be perceived as people who attracted jobs to the state. Now look where we are.

This new South Carolinian WIS interviewed thinks Henry is the bee’s knees (there’s something about Henry that invites to use of archaic slang) because, in reference to people who objected to their children being required to wear masks, he said, “Those parents are exactly right…”

“I think that was a big thumbs up for him,” says a friend of Rebekah Schneider on video.

Ms. Schneider lived in Connecticut for 38 years before moving here to be more accepted for her views. Apparently, based on several things she says, she has a “religious” objection to vaccines. As is the case with so much of the careless reporting we see these days (and not just on TV, but in the skeletonized newspapers), this is not explained. Is she a Christian Scientist? I don’t know.

But I’m looking at the math here. With only 32 percent of South Carolinians being fully vaccinated at this point, far short of what is needed for herd immunity, and too few showing interest in getting vaccinated, we are unlikely ever to become safe from COVID. And that’s without following idiotic policies that make anti-vaxxers want to move here.

Ms. Schneider moved here because her former governor pursues policies to protect public health. WIS says, “According to the Associated Press, he also told reporters he did a lot of his own research before signing the bill into law.”

Henry does “research,” too. He thinks, “How will the Trump loonies feel about this?”

He may have missed the mark this time. As much as Trumpistas are associated with “What, me worry?” approaches to COVID in general, the ones who oppose vaccines are not alone in this.

Have you ever heard of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.?

Must give Henry pause…

 

Joe Cunningham says he’ll run for governor. Huh…

As I said, I ran into him a couple of times. This was the last Saturday night of the 2018 election.

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.[2] 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.[3][4][5]

Cunningham became an ocean engineer with a consulting company in Naples, Florida, and was laid off after about five years.[3] He spent some time learning Spanish in South America,[4] enrolled in law school at Northern Kentucky University‘s Salmon P. Chase College of Law in 2011, and graduated in 2014.[3][5] 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.[6]

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.

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.

Turning the clock back to 1691…

William III, by grace of God king of South Carolina?

William III, by grace of God king of South Carolina?

Hey, y’all, I’m super-busy today, but just to give you something to chew on, Jeffrey Collins over at the AP posted this yesterday, sort of riffing on the new census figures:

That started a little bit of conversation on Twitter (our own Lynn Teague joined in). For my part, I responded, “What on Earth would be the motivation for combining two such strikingly unlike states?”

Coming back at me, Jeffrey quickly explained, “Just an observation — certainly not an endorsement. I will say the separation 300+ years ago probably accelerated the differences between the Carolinas.”

Quite likely, I agreed. And of course, I understood it was merely an observation, which others took up and enjoyed discussing. But I couldn’t resist adding: “A technical point: If we went to the status quo ante of 1691, would Elizabeth II be our sovereign? Or would we say it was William III?”

Anyway, I saw Bud mentioned something about the new census figures on a previous post, and I thought y’all might enjoy kicking this around.

So, should SC and NC merge and become one? Talk amongst yourselves…

linda richman

Henry didn’t want to go ‘too far’

OK, this kind of rocked me:

I already said this on Twitter, but now I’ll say it here:

Perhaps it’s rude of me to interrupt Henry when he’s congratulating himself, but 8,053 South Carolinians have died, at the very least. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that had we gone a bit closer to what he calls “too far,” some of them would have lived…

DHEC graphic

League keeps striving to Make Democracy Work

League

Our friend Lynn Teague included me on the email when she sent out this League of Women Voters newsletter, and I thought I’d share it with y’all, since this stuff is much in the news.

As Lynn explained…

This MDW Update is one in a series from the League of Women Voters of South Carolina on legislation within the core area of League interest — “Making Democracy Work” through accountable and transparent government. It was posted following announcement of a Senate subcommittee meeting that will address eight bills related to elections and voting.

Two bills are mentioned in this update without explanation because they were covered in an earlier post. They are discussed at https://my.lwv.org/sites/default/files/mdw_update_6.pdf

Here ya go:

Making Democracy Work in SC: Election Bills Scheduled for March 16 in Senate, Adding New Bills to Mix

Things are moving fast. The Senate has scheduled a subcommittee meeting on a group of election-related bills for Tuesday, March 16, following Senate adjournment. Subcommittee members are senators Campsen (chair), Hutto, Young, McLeod, Garrett.

The bills are as follows:

  1. 113 (Absentee Ballots)
    S. 174 (Independent Expenditure Committee)
    S. 187 (Interest on Campaign Account)
    S. 236 (Municipal Precinct Pooling from 500 to 3000 Voters)
    S. 499 (S.C. Election Commission Restructuring Act)
    H. 3262 (3rdParty Candidates Filing Fee; Certification Fee
    H. 3263 (Candidate Primary Protests to State Executive Committee)
  2. 3264 (Newspaper Ad Requirement for County Conventions)

Note that H.3444 is not listed for consideration. That is excellent news. The last three bills that are listed are basically partisan housekeeping. The League is not addressing those. All of the bills originating in the Senate are of interest.

S.499 (https://www.scstatehouse.gov/billsearch.php)

We discussed this bill earlier today in the previous update. The League supports it as a reasonable measure to broaden input into appointment of the SEC Director through Senate advice and consent.

S.113 (https://www.scstatehouse.gov/billsearch.php?billnumbers=113)

South Carolina’s procedures to vote absentee by mail are more convoluted than necessary to maintain election security. They even seem to have confused the General Assembly, as the SEC found when trying to interpret special provisions for 2020 elections during the pandemic. This bill perpetuates existing problems and adds a few new ones. It should be possible to file a request for an application to vote absentee by mail (not the actual ballot) on-line. Instead, one can fill out the form on-line, but must then print the form out and deliver it in person or by mail. This confuses voters and is at best an additional impediment for the many voters who can access the online webpages but do not own printers to produce a hard copy to mail or deliver in person. Also, S. 113 would amend §7-15-385(B)(3) to provide that the only legal methods of returning ballots are by mail or by personal delivery, either by the voter or by a member of the applicant’s immediate family. The bill therefore eliminates the return of ballots by authorized persons who are not family members. This will be an obstacle for homebound persons who rely on unrelated caretakers, either in their homes or in group residencies. Finally, in stating that only the specified means of ballot return are permitted, S. 113 would prevent the use of ballot boxes in secure locations for return of ballots, which have been used successfully in South Carolina’s counties.

  1. 174 (https://www.scstatehouse.gov/billsearch.php)

This bill is an attempt to address the longstanding deficiencies regarding dark money disclosures in South Carolina, in this case for groups not organized for the primary purpose of influencing elections. The League supports addressing this serious problem. We note that federal court decisions have clarified this to some extent in recent years and has established that it is not a restriction on free speech to require basic disclosures. However, this bill will face strong opposition.

  1. 187 (https://www.scstatehouse.gov/sess124_2021-2022/bills/187.htm)
  2. 187 would greatly assist in the transparency of campaign bank accounts and at the same time help to fund more consistent oversight of campaign filings.

236 (https://www.scstatehouse.gov/billsearch.php)

For purposes of municipal elections only, this bill would increase the number of voters that must have their own voting place from 500 to 3000. It also would increase the permissible distance of voters from a pooled municipal polling place from three to five miles. This could present significant obstacles for voters without easy access to transportation. Turnout is usually low in local government elections, but there remains an increased potential for long lines and delays, which can make voting difficult or impossible for those with work and family obligations.

Lynn Shuler Teague
VP for Issues and Action, LWVSC

Did anyone pay attention to the State of the State?

Henry 2021

I sort of forgot about it, what with a POTUS getting impeached for the second time and all. And other stuff.

Normally, I’d want to watch and see what sort of excuses Henry is offering for his stewardship of our state, but I was busy and to the extent that I was aware of news, other things were shouting louder.

Once, those were Big Wednesdays for me. They took up a lot of my day and night. My colleagues and I would go to lunch at the governor’s house to be briefed on the speech and receive our copies, and then we’d go back to the office and read the copies and argue over it, then one of us would write the editorial, and the writer and I would stay at work through the speech that night to see if we needed to amend the edit before letting the page go. Which we sometimes did.

All this effort was fitting, since the overwhelming majority of what we wrote was about South Carolina and the issues before it.

But now… I’ve done what I could to help South Carolina get committed, rational leadership that actually cares about said issues — all those years on the editorial board, and those few months in 2018 more directly — and just kept running into the same brick walls. It’s hard even to get people to pay the slightest attention. And now I don’t have the soapbox I once did, so… I don’t follow every word said in SC politics the way I used to.

Especially not yesterday.

What about you? Tell me you hung on every word, and offer some cogent thoughts about what was said, and make me feel guilty for having missed it. Beyond that, I’m just curious: Was anyone paying attention?

Remember their names. Remember what they did.

washpost homepage

I just wanted to share with you this “how they voted” from The Washington Post. This list neatly divides Congress between those who may arguably deserve to be there (to widely varying degrees) and those who unquestionably do not.

The ones from South Carolina who unquestionably do not include:

  1. Jeff Duncan
  2. Ralph Norman
  3. Tom Rice
  4. William Timmons
  5. My own congressman, for far too long, Joe Wilson

Lindsey Graham didn’t vote with them, but he tried to have it both ways, saying “I prayed Joe Biden would lose.” How dare he so blaspheme against God, and his country? Yeah, I get it. You’re saying that “even a guy like me” accepts the election result — at long last, after trying to involve yourself in Trump’s efforts to overthrow that result. But this was a day for showing profound remorse for all you’ve done the past four years.

Nancy Mace surprised us a bit — pleasantly, considering that she ran as a Trump ally (to the extent that I paid attention to that district). Tim Scott less so, because I think at heart he’s a pretty decent, although deluded, guy. (I think his speech was the high point of the Republican National Convention. Of course, that’s like being at the top of a molehill at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but I’m speaking relatively. As in, you know, he wasn’t Kimberly Guilfoyle.)

But the main thing is that you remember the five. And all those from other states who put themselves on the list.

I’ll close with a thought from my Republican state representative:

Here’s hoping the NEXT state flag is better

5fdd1877300d6.image

Did you see the “official” South Carolina state flag that a “high-powered team of historians,” in the words of Avery Wilks at the Post and Courier, had put together for lawmakers to consider?

As Avery reported Dec. 27:

South Carolina historians settle on a new state flag design

COLUMBIA — A high-powered team of historians has done the research and determined what South Carolina’s state flag should look like once and for all.

Rest assured, not much is changing.

The flag will still feature a white Palmetto tree and crescent against an indigo blue backdrop, a combination of historically significant elements that makes South Carolina’s flag one of the most iconic banners in the country — and, arguably, one of the only good ones.

But next year, lawmakers will have a chance to nail down details of the design that have been in flux since the last official flag specifications were repealed in 1940.

The height and shape of the tree in the flag’s center. The shade of indigo that colors the background. The thickness and angle of the crescent in the upper left hand corner — note: the crescent is not a moon, historians say. …

Anyway, it turns out they may have thought they had “settled” on it, but once people reacted to the unveiled proposal on social media, the team has gone back to the drawing board. They had done an about-face three days later, when another story from Avery started this way:

South Carolina’s new flag design seemed like a fine idea — right up until everyone actually saw it.

As it turns out, people hate it. They really, really hate it…

I was one of those who had reacted. I won’t say I hated it exactly. I was more like, “Say what…?”

My attention was drawn to it on the 28th by Mandy Powers Norrell, who reacted to Avery’s story with this brief review: “Those fronds tho.

Yeah, I thought. Is this just after a hurricane? And doesn’t the trunk look — indistinct? Low-res? Stepping back a bit, I added, “I’m sure it’s fine. If you ask me to LOOK at something, I’m going to see flaws…”

I kept trying to be positive, adding “I mean, it’s PROBABLY fine. I just looked at it again. It’s… blurry. Maybe it’s a bad jpg file or something…”

I thought what Mandy said next was pretty smart: “I agree. I could get used to it. I could also get used to the idea that we don’t have an official design and that it’s conceptual. I think there’s merit in that too. It feels more accessible.”

Yes! That’s the way to go. A concept rather than a template. Something that means what it means to each of us. Organic…

In other words, we don’t need anybody to tell us exactly where to put our palmetto tree. Or to tell us how close to the corner the crescent moon has to be. Or to tell us the blue has to be Pantone 282 C.

Do we?

(I’m seeing this as an opportunity to agree with some of my libertarian friends out there. For once…)

pantone

Straight-party voting did a nasty job on South Carolina

Mandy on the bus in 2018.

Mandy on the bus in 2018.

Why did I agonize the way I did over the fact that all four people I’d be voting for this year were in the same party? Because I know what a destructive thing the practice of straight-party voting can be.

Yes, I examined each choice I was making with the usual care, and was satisfied that in each case, I was making the right choice:

  1. Donald Trump is the worst president in our history, a thoroughly disgusting person, and Joe Biden is his opposite — so no question there.
  2. Lindsey Graham has thrown away everything that once made him worth voting for, while Jaime Harrison offered the promise of a fresh, unsullied start.
  3. Adair Boroughs was untested, but her opponent Joe Wilson has been tested over and over, and found wanting.
  4. I am thoroughly satisfied with my state senator, Nikki Setzler, and his opponent (whose name slips my mind) offered no persuasive reasons to replace him.

The fact that all four were Democrats was in part incidental, and in part the result of the utter degradation of the Republican Party in the age of Trump. I am pleased with the choices I made, and sorry that only half of them won.

But too many people don’t go through all that. They just vote for one party or the other, rather than for candidates. In South Carolina, we even offer people the opportunity to do it by pressing a single button, which is appalling. Anyone who takes advantage of that “convenience” is completely throwing away his or her responsibility to careful consider how to vote. Do that, and you’ve let the parties think for you.

Yeah, I know: Some of my regular readers do it, and feel no shame for it. If I recall correctly, the ones I’ve heard from tend to go for the Democratic option. I invite them to consider what a gross practice this is by contemplating the harm Republicans did this year when they did the exact same thing.

There is no way, no way at all that such people as Vincent Sheheen and Mandy Powers Norrell were turned out of office as a result of voters actually comparing them to their opponents and finding the incumbents wanting. That’s impossible. I’ll use Mandy as an example of what I’m talking about.

She is a Democrat who has been repeatedly returned to office by her Republican neighbors. She is one of them, born and raised in the district. Her family worked at the textile mill, and she worked her way through to become the first in her family to graduate from both college and law school. As a municipal attorney, she was thoroughly immersed in practical, nonideological local issues for years before going to serve in the General Assembly. Her commitment to Lancaster was deep and profound. I used to worry about her in 2018 because at the end of unbelievably exhausting days campaigning across the state, after she had pulled back into Columbia with the rest of us late at night, she would drive home to Lancaster. And then she’d drive back to start again before the sun had fully risen again. Day after day.

As for her opponent…. well, her qualification was that she was a Republican. She moved to the community from South Florida in 2006. But she’s a Republican, you see. Let me show you something else. Watch the video clip attached to this tweet:

And here’s another one:

Yeah, Mandy herself chose those clips, and did so because they showed her at an advantage. But here’s the thing: I know her, and I know how smart and dedicated she is. That’s the way she normally answers questions. Maybe her opponent sometimes sounds smarter and better informed than she did in those clips. But I’ve looked over her website and her Facebook page and I don’t see much sign of it. I just see lip service given to national GOP talking points, and no indications of an understanding of the issues facing South Carolina, much less Lancaster.

In other words, I see things aimed at the buttons of a straight-ticket Republican voter, period. And a particularly ignorant one at that — the type who thinks “defunding police” is a burning issue in the State House.

Can you imagine the votes for Mandy’s opponent were based on her being better suited, personally, to the job? Maybe you can. I cannot.

Let’s talk about Vincent Sheheen, one of the smartest and most earnest members of the Senate. Actually, I’ll let my friend Cindi Scoppe talk about him. I urge you to read her column about Vincent’s defeat, headlined, “This was South Carolina’s worst surprise on Tuesday. Nothing else came close.”

Some excerpts, among description of Vincent’s accomplishments over the years:

Come January, Mr. Sheheen will no longer be there to serve as a bridge between the races and the parties and the House and Senate. He will no longer be in a position to work through the big problems that most legislators don’t have the capacity or temperament or relationships to work through. Because a red wave swept over Kershaw, Chesterfield and Lancaster counties on Tuesday, as the nation’s most expensive ever U.S. Senate contest drowned the electorate in a $230 million hyper-nationalized stew of partisanship that purged voters’ appetite for local issues or the merits of individual candidates….

One news story described Mr. Sheheen’s defeat as “arguably one of the most stunning legislative upsets for Democrats for this cycle.” It’s not. It’s clearly the most stunning upset for any S.C. politician this cycle, probably this century. And the most devastating for our state.

It’s an obvious loss for Democrats. But it’s also a loss for Republicans, and all of us, because Mr. Sheheen was among a small handful of legislators who went to Columbia not to be somebody important but to do something important. And at that, he was remarkably successful.

No, I don’t know how many of the people who did this damage to South Carolina by voting Vincent out were voting straight-ticket. But the numbers suggest that few could have been doing anything else. And I haven’t seen where anyone has offered any other plausible explanation…

An even older file photo, from 2010...

An even older file photo, from 2010…

We could have had a lieutenant governor to remember

From today's email...

From today’s email…

The headline on this email is a relief to me, because it shows I’m far from alone.

Of course, they sort of knew her name, because they spelled it correctly (I think) on the flier. But what I saw first, what jumped out at me and stuck, was the “Lt. Gov. Evettee” in the headline of the email.

Ms. Evettee is not alone here. I started using the term Gov Lite a long time ago, because the office — and therefore the people holding it — were forgettable. Even though all the ones before this one hypothetically had actual job duties — presiding over the Senate and (after senators took pity on Andre Bauer and gave him the additional duty) the Office on Aging.

After I came home to S.C. in 1987 as governmental affairs editor, I found I had little trouble remembering Nick Theodore’s name — not because his duties compelled my awareness, but because he was running so hard for governor from the time I arrived until 1994. He managed to build up his name recognition enough to, just barely, edge out the vastly, infinitely better qualified Joe Riley in a squeaker primary runoff. Joe had been too busy being the best mayor in the country. (That was the most heartbreaking election result in all my years in South Carolina. Joe lost by less than one vote per precinct. Our history would have been quite different — as in, much better — if he had turned out one more person at each polling place. He would have run right over recent party-switcher David Beasley in the general.)

But Nick’s successors were easier to ignore, when they weren’t crashing planes or something.

The current one, the first one to take office after running as the governor’s electoral mate, is remarkably invisible even for a Gov Lite. That was predestined to happen, given that Henry picked someone who made us all say “Who?” and the office being stripped of duties. So it was that when I saw her (at least, I think it was her behind that mask) in this picture from Henry’s inexcusable announcement about giving millions to private schools, I for a moment thought, “Oh, look, there’s…” and couldn’t come up with the name.

“Predestined,” that is, as long as she and Henry won. Had James and Mandy won, you’d have seen something startlingly different.

James had a compelling vision for the role his lieutenant governor would play, and Mandy endorsed it wholeheartedly. She would have been every bit a full partner in governing. She would have been a dynamo, having dramatic impact on events left, right and up the middle.

That moment — with the changes to the office, especially the fact that everything the job had previously entailed was being stripped away, and the fact that the person would be elected in unison with the governor — was a huge opportunity for anyone who truly wanted to make a difference for South Carolina, and James and Mandy were energized by it.

I wrote a press release outlining their vision for the role that Mandy would have played. It was, in fact, one of the more substantial releases I wrote during the campaign — actually setting out a vision that would redefine one of the more visible electoral positions in our state. It transformed the job from meaninglessness to something that made a difference. And it explained clearly why James had chosen Mandy — she was perfect for the vision — and why they were running as they did, as partners, as a team.

And… it got no traction. Initially, it had gotten mixed up in an attempt to help out a reporter. The reporter had the idea of doing something on how the campaigns envisioned the new position, and she had reached out to us about it. So instead of putting out the release generally, we decided to share it first with her. But then she was unable to get to the story for several days, and out of nowhere another reporter asked us how we envisioned the lieutenant governor position, so we (with apologies to the first reporter) gave him the release, and… it all kind of fell apart. There was that one story, and that was it.

I was disappointed enough that I tried putting out the release to everybody some weeks later. Because I wanted to see it get exposure. I wanted voters to have the chance to think about, OK, if I vote for this ticket, here’s what I’ll actually get… I wanted them to see why Mandy was perfect for the job.

But it never became the shiny toy of the day for our state’s ravaged, depleted political press corps.

So I’ll share it with you. I think I’ve done this before, but I couldn’t find it just now, so I’ll share it again. Repeatedly putting out this release has gotten to be a habit for me.

Anyway, this is what you could have had in a lieutenant governor:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct. 16, 2018
Press Contact: Brad Warthen
brad@jamessmith.com

Why Mandy Powers Norrell will be
SC’s best lieutenant governor yet

COLUMBIA, S.C. – People keep asking James Smith about his vision for Mandy Powers Norrell’s role as South Carolina’s next lieutenant governor.

He has really a really good answer to that. And when people hear it, they realize why Mandy is perfect for the job.

This is the first election in which the governor and lieutenant governor are running together as a ticket. And the lieutenant governor will no longer have the old duties associated with the job – such as presiding over the Senate and running the Office on Aging. So the new governor will have a unique opportunity to reshape the office.

Smith envisions a lieutenant governor more influential, and far more relevant, than before. He sees Lt. Gov. Norrell doing the following:

• Advancing his legislative agenda. With all the partnerships she has formed on both sides of the aisle during her experience in the House, she will greatly extend the influence of the governor’s office in shaping laws and setting policies. As the second most prominent statewide officeholder, her influence in the General Assembly would be considerably greater than that of past legislative liaison staffers.
• Conducting oversight of state agencies. She will engage with the agencies as no one has before, finding ways to make them more efficient, promoting such approaches as zero-based budgeting.
• Playing a key role in the appointment process. “There is tremendous untapped talent in South Carolina, and we don’t take full advantage of that fact,” said Smith. “She will help find and recruit a diverse pool of appointees from across our state, and help me get them in place right away.” He noted that having represented rural South Carolina, she brings a perspective and connections too often left out when appointments are made in Columbia.
• Being closely involved in setting policies and legislative goals. She will not only push the governor’s agenda, but be a full partner in shaping it. And she will seek broad input in that process. For instance, Smith noted, he and Norrell already plan to sit down with mayors from across the state to talk about how the governor and lieutenant governor can help them with their priorities. “We support the agendas of the governments closest to the people, which for too long have been ignored and disrespected on the state level,” he said. As a 20-year municipal attorney, Norrell fully understands the challenges faced by local governments.

Those criteria explain why James chose Mandy. With that job description in mind, he was looking for three traits in a running mate. He wanted someone who:

• Is qualified to be governor. “Mandy would be a formidable candidate for governor on her own,” said Smith.
• Would be ready on Day One. He needed someone who thoroughly understood state government and could immediately jump in and start doing the job he envisions, with no learning curve. Also, someone who knows how to work with this Legislature as it is. “We need to work as well with this Republican General Assembly as Carroll Campbell did with a Democratic one,” said Smith. “Mandy has a great track record of working constructively across the aisle. She respects her Republican colleagues, and they respect her.”
• Meshes well with him and his vision. “Mandy and I already speak with the same voice as we share our positive vision for South Carolina,” Smith said. “I needed someone full of enthusiasm for the future of our state, and no one fits that description better than Mandy Powers Norrell.”

Exactly.

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This was from the eve of Election Day. That's Scott Harriford -- who played a key role this year in Joe Biden's SC primary victory -- in the background...

This was from the eve of Election Day. That’s Scott Harriford — who played a key role this year in Joe Biden’s SC primary victory — in the background…

 

 

McMaster’s outrageous kick in the face to public education

McMaster

I keep putting off writing about this because I haven’t had time to sit down and fully vent about it. But I might as well post something to get the conversation started.

This guy that you my fellow citizens elected governor had $48.5 million at his disposal in the governor’s discretionary education part of the money Washington sent South Carolina under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act passed at the start of the pandemic emergency in March.

He decided to send $32 million — just under two-thirds of it — to private schools!

In all these years that the worst kinds of Republicans in South Carolina have tried to find ways to shift public funds away from public education and use it to pay parents to abandon those schools, I’ve never seen anyone even suggest attempting to do anything as bald, as naked, as outrageous as this.

As the Post and Courier put it, in this one swoop, McMaster has accomplished “unilaterally what advocates have tried to push through the Legislature for 16 years.” “Advocates,” of course, being a polite way to refer to enemies of public education.

As bad as we thought Mark Sanford was, he never did anything like this. Then again, he never had the opportunity. Of course, I have to admit that Sanford being Sanford, he would have spent all his energy trying to prevent the federal money from coming to South Carolina to start with. There are different kinds of crazy.

This isn’t crazy, though. It’s just hostile — to the very idea of public schools, to the bottom-line concept that all of South Carolina’s children should have an opportunity to get ahead in the world — or at least to start catching up. And of course it’s an utter rejection of the idea that the state has an obligation to help them get that opportunity.

He can’t order South Carolinians to wear masks to save lives. That would be too bold. But he can do this.

Good to see my friends connecting on Twitter

Doug and Mandy

Wonder what Doug Ross is up to during his year without blogging (due to a New Year’s resolution that he has impressed us all by keeping)?

Well, he’s doing pretty much the same stuff, only on Twitter.

I had to smile today at the exchange pictured above in a screenshot.

It’s nice to see two of my friends getting together to work on issues on Twitter.

Of course, as I reported earlier, Doug is also a contributor to Mandy’s re-election campaign. So, good for him there, as well.

As for the issue itself, of course… I’m kinda “meh” on it. Either way, whatever. I sort of get the impression Mandy feels the same way. I can’t remember whether I’ve ever discussed it with her.

I know I’ve discussed it with James, though. In fact, I went and dug up a statement I put together for him about it during the campaign. It’s not something we ran on. But a reporter in Charleston was doing a story about it, and asking various pols for statements. I wasn’t crazy about commenting on things we weren’t running on — I had ambitions of imposing message discipline — but we didn’t turn our noses up at it the way we did stupid “have you stopped beating your wife” questions like “Do you want to abolish ICE?”

Anyway… here’s what I put together on it. I have no way of knowing whether we actually put it out like this. It’s just in a random Word file, not a release or anything. So James might have had me change it before giving it to the reporter:

I’m for regulating it and getting the revenue that the state is missing out on now.

I’m not pro-gambling per se. But this is a matter of common sense, and an example of what I mean when I say it’s not about big government or small government – I’m for smart government.

As everyone knows, people are already betting on sports in South Carolina, big-time. But it’s happening in the shadows, and its an invitation to crime.

We need to regulate it, and keep criminals from controlling and profiting from it.

And the state of South Carolina can certainly use the revenue. I’ve seen figures that estimate Rhode Island could net $25 million from sports betting. If that’s correct, South Carolina would easily see quite a lot more, since we have five times the population. That’s money we could really use, for schools, for infrastructure, for healthcare, for public safety.

So, you know, we were for regulating it if you really wanted an answer. Assuming that was the official statement. I don’t think anyone but that one reporter ever used any of it.

McMaster’s position, by the way, was that he was dead set against it, as his mouthpiece said: “It flies in the face of everything South Carolina stands for.” Highly debatable, of course, but you knew where he stood.

We were much more definitely for medical cannabis, which if if I remember correctly was one of the reasons Doug not only gave to our campaign, but voted for us. Not an issue I would have chosen to back our ticket over, but then I’m not a libertarian like our friend Doug….

So much for ‘the common sense and wisdom of the people’

Henry still

Last night, Mandy tweeted this:

I had to respond, “Does that mean his ‘faith in the common sense and wisdom of the people’ has been shaken?” (Y’all remember that, right? It’s the underlying idea in everything Henry has done — and especially in what he has not done.)

Perhaps it has — but only shaken, not abandoned. He’s clinging to the notion that people will spontaneously coordinate collectively to do what needs to be done to turn back the resurgence of COVID — the resurgence which daily asserts itself, with today’s total of new cases again being the highest ever — with nothing from him but occasional verbal encouragement.