Same ol', same ol'
2012 elections lead to little Statehouse change
By Bill Davis, senior editor
NOV. 9, 2012 -- President Barack Obama’s reelection may have given him renewed vigor, but it did little to change the political landscape in South Carolina.
Thursday’s election did not result in wholesale change in state government here. But the results in some key races hint at changing demographics and powerbases in the Palmetto State.
- To see congressional and legislative election results, click here.
Biggest loser of 2012
Perhaps the biggest loser in the election was Gov. Nikki Haley, who perhaps saw the ebbing of her political power in the state. Three senators, all policy thorns in Haley’s side, easily survived Haley-friendly challengers and an onslaught of outside “dark money.”
- Incumbent Sen. Nikki Setzler (D-W. Columbia) soundly defeated DeeDee Vaughters, Haley’s handpicked opponent.
- Sen. Wes Hayes (R-Rock Hill), the chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, also weathered what was rumored to be “dark money” -- outside contributions from unnamed sources -- to retain his seat easily.
- Sen. Larry Martin (R-Pickens), Judiciary chairman, said his district had never seen as much “outside” money being spent on ousting him. Martin estimated that between $150,000 and $200,000 in outside money was spent to unseat him, albeit unsuccessfully.
Martin said he was hamstrung by campaign contribution laws that restricted him from reaching out to “maxxed out donors” who had contributed to him during the primary. “I can’t count how many checks I had to send back because they had already given the most they could under law,” said Martin, who credited Pickens County voters with being able to reject outside influences in his race.
Martin said he knew he would be teased for months ahead because an ad that showed an animated bobble-head version of himself throwing money out of a state plane. “People have already started asking when am I going to fly over their homes,” he said laughing.
Haley, who has complained about not having a legislature she can work with, will have to wait a little longer, according to many observers.
William Wallace Caucus grows in Senate
Looks like the very conservative Republican clan of senators who refer to themselves as the William Wallace Caucus just grew by one member, as did the now 23-member GOP majority in the Senate.
With Republican Sen. Phillip Shoopman choosing not to run for his Greer seat again, it opened the way for fellow Republican Tom Corbin to fill his spot unopposed.
Corbin presented himself as being very conservative during the election, saying he decided to change his destination from the House to the Senate to make sure a challenger who admitted voting for Obama wouldn’t represent the district.
Currently on his campaign Web site, Corbin features a FOX News ticker and a conservative Catholic video, entitled “Test of Fire.”
Additionally, petition candidate Katrina Shealy’s efforts to educate Lexington-area voters that they didn’t have to pull the straight party GOP ticket and could vote out Sen. Jake Knotts were successful. Winthrop political scientist Scott Huffmon said Knotts’ missteps were more to blame for his ouster than Tea Party-esque voter anger or Haley opposition.
Shealy becomes the only woman in the Senate. Two other new GOP senators with Chamber of Commerce ties were unopposed -- Rep. Tom Young, an Aiken attorney, and insurance executive Ross Turner of Greenville.
Mixed bag for the House
In the House, results for the major two political parties were mixed because of new seats created and old districts redrawn due to reapportionment.
Greg Foster, spokesman for House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston), said the GOP “netted” two seats in Tuesday’s voting. Next year, the House is expected to have 78 Republicans and 46 Democrats. [Results from the Kirkman Finlay (GOP) - Joe McCullough (D) race in Columbia haven't been finalized, but Finlay is expected to hold the seat for Republicans, sources say.]
Conversely, Tyler Jones, deputy director of the House Democratic Caucus, pointed out that Democratic incumbents lost no seats. Jones went on to point out that Democrats took one formerly safe Republican seat by a 17-point margin.
Democrat Beth Bernstein defeated incumbent Rep. Joan Brady (R-Columbia), by linking the former broadcaster to Haley, according to Jones. Using Haley as a foil worked in at least one other Democratic race, he said.
Brady was the only Republican incumbent to lose in the House.
Crystal ball: Huffmon said he doubted the presence of a potential additional William Wallace Caucus foot soldier in Corbin would make for more willing coalitions between moderate business Republicans and Democrats. Huffmon said to expect a few stranger bedfellow moments, but the more common enemy will likely be Haley, who is “perceived” as having stood against Republican incumbents. So look for more of the same … except colder.
Two at the Statehouse
Two big meetings in the coming week:
Also scheduled for next week is the Southern regional meeting of the National Federation of Democratic Women, which is scheduled to meet Nov. 16 and 17 at the Ocean Reef Hotel in Myrtle Beach. More.
- Judiciary. The Judicial Merit Selection Commission will hold three days of public hearings beginning Tuesday at 9 a.m. in 110 Blatt. The group will also meet in the same room on Wednesday and Thursday. Agenda.
- Enviro. The Isolated Wetlands and Carolina Bays Task Force will meet at 10 a.m. Tuesday in 105 Gressette. Agenda.
Still hacked (off)
Leaders in the House on both sides of the aisle are still incensed that the Budget and Control Board voted to raise premiums on workers who get their health care insurance from the state. As a result, in addition to ethics reform, leaders in the House will look in the coming legislative session for ways to alter the make up of the board but in a way that doesn’t fall afoul of the state’s Constitution.
Interesting results in the 5th, 7th
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the General Election results were how congressional candidates Mick Mulvaney (R) and Gloria Bromell Tinubu (D) fared.
Mulvaney retained his Fifth District seat, but by a lower percentage than most of his Republican peers. Mulvaney defeated Joyce Knott by a 55.6 to 44.4 percentage margin, while other GOP federal incumbents all scored in the 60s. Knott, a former aide to former Congressman John Spratt, was not seen as a tough opponent – a late entry with little money, according to observers. But Mulvaney only won with an 11-point margin.
Tinubu, on the other hand, was a lightly-regarded candidate in the new Seventh District who was not initially her state party’s preferred candidate, as evidenced by its previous call for a primary recall. Like Knott, Tinubu garnered just over 44 percent of the vote against GOP winner Tom Rice.
Look for more challenges to Mulvaney in the next election, and perhaps for more runs in the future for Tinubu. And not to be forgotten -- the results show that there’s a stronger Democratic base in the 5th and 7th than many may have thought.
Hot seat gets hotter with new panel
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Hugh Leatherman today appointed a special subcommittee to look into the Great Hacking of 2012 at the state Department of Revenue. Two weeks ago, state officials announced a hacker compromised sensitive information on Revenue's computers of virtually all South Carolina's adults.
Chairing the subcommittee will be state Sens. Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) and Billy O'Dell (R-Greenwood). Also on the panel are Democratic Sens. John Matthews of Orangeburg and Darrell Jackson of Columbia. Leatherman said he convened the new panel following a recent committee hearing that focused questions to Revenue Director James Etter.
“I don’t think any senator was satisfied with the answers we got,” Leatherman said in a press release. “More questions were raised than answers were provided. Mr. Etter first told us he did not know if private information of companies was stolen. When members pressed him, however, and after he checked with his staff, he admitted that corporations with state identification numbers had been breached.”
2012 election has lessons for all
By Andy Brack, editor and publisherNOV. 9, 2012 -- Maybe the biggest thing the nation learned in the 2012 election was that it’s not so bad to have “community organizer” on your resume, despite seemingly constant criticism from Fox News.
Joking aside, the close national election has many lessons for South Carolina politics even though GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney garnered just over 200,000 more votes in the Palmetto State than President Obama out of about 1.9 million cast.
First and foremost, reminds GOP Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, the election is over and leaders need to remember it’s over to get down to work.
“There are problems ahead and we need to start concentrating on these problems,” he said. Examples: the state’s budget, people’s real needs, the increasing aging population and various “reform” measures for government.
For South Carolina Republicans, the biggest lesson to learn is the need to adapt to the diversifying electorate.
Veteran GOP observer Chip Felkel of Greenville said Republicans have a serious branding problem.
“We cannot continue to think we can continue to win elections being the party of the angry white male.”
“Republicans in recent election cycles have spent their time telling people you’re not good enough to be one of us,” GOP political consultant Wesley Donehue of Columbia reflected. “Republicans can stay true to their values and explain to people why our values matter to them.”
USC political science professor Mark Tompkins said the 2012 election sent a clear message that the country was changing.
“If Southern states continue to argue about immigration, about Voter I.D. and seem to embrace vote suppression, if they resist health care reform, and allow [degradation] of infrastructure and services like public education, then they court larger risks.”
State Democrats, hapless for years in legislative elections, stayed about even in the Statehouse for the coming session, losing one state Senate seat overall and remaining a vocal minority in the House.
“The big challenge for the Democrats remains candidate recruitment and training, and building local party organizations,” said noted political scientist Jack Bass of Charleston. He said Democrats were in a slightly better position in the past because Obama would help with momentum and GOP Gov. Nikki Haley, a flash point to many, likely would run for re-election because there is no Romney administration.
Charleston politico Phil Noble of Charleston said state Democrats could learn a lot from Obama’s win.
“If you stand up for Democratic principles and fight for the middle class, you win,” he said. “If you focus on new ideas, new people and new technology, you win. ... Politics as usual with the usual politicians means we continue to lose.”
The Rev. Joseph Darby of Charleston, a longtime leader with the state NAACP, said the election offered a similar lesson: “When quality candidates are on the ballot, they can garner broad support.”
Barbara Zia, co-chair of the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, pointed to how the 2012 election highlighted the need for movement on specific issues, such as stemming the flow of big money -- especially from outside the state -- into politics and the need for better voting systems to cut long lines and voting machine problems.
“Early voting matters,” noted Brady Quirk-Garvan of Charleston. “The early absentee turnout was tremendous and it’s clearly something people in South Carolina want. South Carolina needs to stop fearing change and allow no-fault early voting.”
Ann Timberlake of the League of Conservation Voters added voters needed to demand more competitive districts in the redistricting process to guard against “protected seats” for incumbents. She reminded that “less than a quarter of the 170 House and Senate seats were contested.” Timberlake’s concern is particularly relevant this year after more than 250 people got thrown off ballots following candidate registration problems.
“The confusing manipulation of ballots by the parties added to voter cynicism that the system is rigged by insiders,” added advocate Dana Beach of Charleston. “This, in combination with a variety of high-profile ethics scandals, argues in favor of radical reforms of ethics and campaign finance laws.”
Andy Brack is publisher of Statehouse Report. You can reach Brack at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Carolina Hospital Association
The public spiritedness of our underwriters allows us to bring Statehouse Report to you at no cost. This week's spotlighted underwriter is the South Carolina Hospital Association, the Palmetto State's foremost advocate on healthcare issues affecting South Carolinians. The mission of SCHA is to support its members in addressing the healthcare needs of South Carolina through advocacy, education, networking and regulatory assistance.
Founded in 1921, the South Carolina Hospital Association is the leadership organization and principal advocate for the state’s hospitals and health care systems. Based in Columbia, SCHA works with its members to improve access, quality and cost-effectiveness of health care for all South Carolinians. The state’s hospitals and health care systems employ more than 70,000 persons statewide. SCHA's credo: We are stronger together than apart. To learn more about SCHA and its mission, go to: http://www.scha.org.
America's critical needs ignored
By Former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings
Special to Statehouse Report
NOV. 9, 2012 -- The Presidential campaign ignored the real needs of the country. Four problems – four solutions.
First, Congress needs to take the government back from the lobbyists. When I came to the Senate in 1966, six Republicans and six Democrats met every Wednesday night – coats and ties off, the designated wife prepared a salad and we gave each other hell. We became fast friends. But after the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo overturned our attempt to limit spending in campaigns we were forced to constantly raise money against each other – resulting in partisanship.
Today lobbyists in Washington work with each other. Important votes are fixed by the lobbyists long before the roll is called. In fact, lobbyists tell the leader when to call the roll. Lyndon Johnson couldn’t lead the Senate today. Money, lobbyists control. Congress can limit the fundraising and take control of the government by limiting spending in campaigns as Congress did in 1973. To get by the Supreme Court, Congress needs to amend the Constitution: “the Congress is empowered to regulate or control spending in federal elections.” This doesn’t commit to a particular solution. Once ratified a later Congress can agree on limiting so much per registered voter; provide public financing, or any other solution. Once spending in campaigns is limited; fundraising is limited; lobbyists are limited; partisanship is limited and Congress has time to do its work.
Second, we must pay for government – not plan to pay. In 2001 we gave President Bush a balanced budget but he and President Obama have refused to pay, adding $10 trillion to the debt in twelve years. Now everyone is running around with plans for later Congresses to pay. Ryan’s Budget doesn’t balance for thirty years. Nonsense. Congress can pay for government now by replacing the 35% Corporate Income Tax with a 7 percent Value Added Tax. One hundred fifty countries compete in globalization with a VAT that’s rebated on exports. The Corporate Tax is not rebated.
A U.S. manufacturer exporting to China pays the 35 percent corporate tax and is levied a 17 percent VAT when exports reach Shanghai. But a China manufacturer exports to the U.S. tax free. This 52 percent difference is killing manufacture in the United States. The corporate VAT is not regressive, needs no exemptions and eliminates all loopholes – instant tax reform. Last year’s corporate tax produced $181.1 billion in revenues. A 7 percent VAT for 2011 would have produced $872 billion. This tax cut, with spending cuts, will balance the budget in two years. Eliminating the corporate tax releases $1 trillion in offshore profits for Corporate America to create jobs in the United States.
Third, we make wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen; threaten wars in Syria and Iran, but refuse to fight in the trade war in which the world is engaged. Globalization is nothing more than a trade war with production looking for a country cheaper to produce. This puts countries protecting their economies. Tax cuts and federal aid for policemen, firemen and teachers don’t build a strong economy. It takes private investment. The President and Congress must make it profitable to invest in the United States and protect the investment. The VAT tax cut is a good start.
The United States was founded in a Trade War – Boston Tea Party. Instead of calling for “free trade” the Founding Fathers rejected David Ricardo’s Comparative Advantage in agriculture and opted for manufacture by enacting the Tariff Act of 1787 – two years before the Constitution. This protectionism worked so well that Edmund Morris in Theodore Rex writes that after a hundred years the Colony was “$25 billion richer” than the Mother Country. But Wall Street, the big banks, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce want to keep the China profits flowing. So they shout “Free trade! Protectionism!” and contribute to the President and Congress to do nothing. The President and Congress do nothing.
In 2006 the Princeton economist Alan Blinder estimated that in 10 years the U.S. would offshore 30-40 million jobs or an average of 3to 4 million jobs a year. David Wessel reports in The Wall Street Journal (4/18/12) “between 2007 and 2010 (U.S. Firms) added 200,000 U.S. jobs and 600,000 outside the U.S. …” BusinessWeek headlined (10/14/12) “despite profits near record highs many executives are planning to trim their payrolls.” We lose 4 million jobs a year due to our deficit in the balance of trade. Great Recession? The recession has been over for three years. We are having a weak recovery because we are offshoring more jobs than we are creating.
The security of the United States rests on a three legged stool: values, military and economic. The values and military legs are strong. The economic leg is fractured. We must enforce our trade laws and protect our economic security. If Presidents would protect the economy like President Nixon in 1971 by levying a 10% surcharge on imports when our trade deficit was a minuscule of what it is today it would create millions of jobs. If Presidents would protect steel, motor vehicles, computers and machine tools like President Reagan in 1984 we could create millions of jobs.
Finally, we must compete with China becoming an economic superpower. China saw us retreat to the 38th parallel in the Korean War. China watched us avoid bombing North Vietnam for fear of bringing in China. China knows it has manpower superiority over the United States and any hot war would go nuclear. So China opts for the economic. In 1989 after Tiananmen Square, the U.S. obtained a resolution in the United Nations to investigate human rights in China. China went to its economic friends in Africa and the Pacific and there has never been a hearing on the resolution. China matches our technology and positions itself to become the world’s economic superpower. It buys strategic properties around the world. It furnishes work crews and assistance while the U.S. drone kills – making enemies.
We have 196,000 GIs stationed around the world and threaten war everywhere. Australia is not going to war with China. We are not going to war with China. Stationing 2,500 Marines in Australia is embarrassing. We must pull in our military horns and return to our Good Neighbor Policy. In foreign policy – it’s the economy stupid!
Hollings, a former South Carolina governor, served in the U.S. Senate from 1966 to 2005.
Taxpayers getting hacked twice by South Carolina
NOTE: We got several comments on Facebook about publisher Andy Brack’s column on how Gov. Nikki Haley waited 16 days before notifying taxpayers that their information had been hacked. Comments ranged from “Truly beyond words -- hoping this to be her exit moment” to the wag who referred to the opening part of the commentary: “That you can cite that Batman episode number worries me.” You can “friend” us on Facebook here.
To the editor:
It took me 2.5 days to “sign up” for Experian Credit Monitoring. The Web site wouldn’t accept the code, the message at their phone number was “we are open from 11 to 9; please call back during business hours.” I called multiple times during their hours. I tried to get the governor’s email and phone number but the SC.gov Web site wouldn’t load -- all in all, a most frustrating experience.
Observation: It is apparent that Experian cannot handle the volume of calls/Web hits and, yet, I have no doubt, they are being paid huge fees with taxpayer dollars. Don’t think Haley and DOR [state Department of Revenue] are paying out of their own pockets. So—we the taxpayers are getting hacked twice. Once for our information and secondly to our wallets.
It’s a great day in South Carolina. …
-- Janet Segal, Charleston, S.C.
Not bothered by 16-day delay by Haley
To the editor:
It's clear that you don't like [Gov.] Haley but your bias in this instance has caused you to write a poorly thought-out article. [Brack: Sixteen days? Really, Gov. Haley, really?]
Based upon the timeline in the article, it looks like an outside firm was brought in to investigate the breach, determine what was stolen, close the security hole and verify that the hole is closed. They completed their task on the 25th and the public was informed on the 26th.
If an immediate announcement had been made, the hackers would have immediately stopped accessing the system and the outside firm may never have been able to tell how they were getting access and how to close the security hole. So it's not a black and white call when you are balancing the need for information disclosure to the public with the need to close the security hole (again, I am assuming the timeline is correct since I don't have any insider knowledge of what happened).
When you also consider that the breach occurred in September and that the hackers had plenty of time to do what they wanted with the stolen data prior to the Governor being informed, the additional delay caused by the investigation likely had zero negative impact to any South Carolinian (that delay is the real travesty in this story).
-- David Dunn, CEO, VC3, Columbia, S.C.
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From a river to a political swamp
Savannah River. The state’s Supreme Court overturned a DHEC permit that would allow for the deepening of the Savannah River, which has been a contentious move pitting the governor against legislators and business leaders. More.
A smattering of diversity. Petition candidate Katrina Shealy will become the only woman serving in the Senate, having defeated incumbent Jake Knotts for his West Columbia seat. Now, at least, there will be one woman in the Senate if (and when) abortion is on the agenda. Again.
Same ticket. The people have spoken and they want lieutenant gubernatorial candidates to share the same ticket as gubernatorial candidates, much like the federal model. The vote: 56 percent for; 44 percent against. See all election results here.
Haley. The governor is bungling her way through explanations of who is to blame for the hacking scandal consuming the Department of Revenue, saying one week no one is to blame, and then backtracking the next. More.
Revenue. The state Department of Revenue has hired a public relations firm for $160,000 to help with its response to the ongoing scandal. Whatever happened to just working hard and telling the truth? More.