S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, May 8, 2005
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/05.0508.governor.htm


COMMENTARY
Governor is more vulnerable than you think
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

MAY 8, 2005 -- It already hasn't been a good May for the governor.

  • Gov. Mark Sanford's signature legislative priority, a school voucher plan clothed as a tax credit, died a painful death in the S.C. House without a peep of debate on the floor.

  • Republican doctor Oscar Lovelace announced he'd run against Sanford for the 2006 GOP gubernatorial nomination.

  • And bedrock GOP activists seem to smell blood in the water as one remarked in print this week, "Governor Sanford is worthless."

While Sanford's leadership and legislative accomplishments are thin in his last three Mays as governor, he remains the presumptive GOP nominee. And unless the Democrats do the work to make themselves competitive, it's a good bet that Sanford will win re-election in November 2006.

But the governor's vulnerabilities are growing and showing more and more every day. Here are a few:

Interest groups. Several powerful interest groups are mad with the governor and would prefer to see him not return to office. Teachers are mad because of the voucher program. Many electrical co-op customers are mad after he stuck his nose in the affairs of Santee Cooper and its operations. Lawyers are mad at him for tort reform efforts. Sumter residents are mad he killed USC-Sumter's bid to become a four-year college. The list goes on, but the point is that if enough groups get mad at Sanford, they might reach enough of a critical mass to pull enough votes from him to damage his re-election chances.

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Business interests. While Sanford has carried water on some business issues, such as an income tax cut proposal that didn't pass and many didn't seem to want, major business interests are still skeptical of the maverick governor. For example in Greenville, business leaders still remember how newly-elected Sanford asked for a review that stalled the mega-million-dollar ICAR project that will bring thousands of auto-related jobs to the Upstate.

Trust. In his years in Congress and as governor, some may not have agreed with Sanford on policy, but his integrity never was questioned. But that was until the recent Santee Cooper flap in which Sanford said he wasn't interested in privatizing the utility, but documents from his office told a different story.

Leadership. Sanford's 2002 campaign bumper stickers branded him as a leader, but many in the legislature publicly and quietly question it. Instead of rallying and inspiring lawmakers to support his initiatives, he pulls publicity stunts and criticizes the legislature. Many are surprised at how little has been accomplished by a Republican governor with a Republican-led House and Senate.

ALSO THIS WEEK

McLEMORE'S WORLD: Pension thoughts

FEEDBACK: On Altman

KEEPING TRACK

SCORECARD: Thumbs up and down

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"You can't be up here for four years, get nothing done, blame the Legislature and still stay that you are some great leader," said Democratic Rep. James Smith of Columbia. "I think his support is a mile wide and an inch deep."

But regardless of vulnerabilities and criticism, the thin-skinned Sanford still has the bully pulpit. Unlike some pundits who think he's a weak campaigner, he remains highly effective because of his telegenic good looks and compelling use of televised advertising to get across his message.

In 2006, Sanford will have plenty of money to mount an effective campaign against Republican and Democratic challengers. He'll sidestep his policy losses. He'll campaign on how he's brought more common sense to government, pressured legislators to adopt an income tax cut for small businesses, pushed to get tort reform and more.

Unless challengers develop platforms that clearly distinguish them from Sanford and provide positive alternatives to guide the state through 2010, keep your money on the incumbent governor, regardless of his antics.


RECENT COMMENTARY

McLEMORE'S WORLD
5/8: Pension ponderings

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:


LEARN MORE DAILY

The best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more. Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less for business subscribers. More: SC Clips.


FEEDBACK
5/2: Still upset about Altman's comments


To the editor:

I just read an AP article by Jim Davenport reporting on the comments Rep. John Graham made about not understanding why abused women return to their abusers. This dynamic of the cycle of abuse is often misunderstood by many people. Rep. Graham is just one of the many to make comments that are indicative of how widespread this misunderstanding is.

I am a volunteer member of an organization that is committed to ending the myths, misperceptions and misunderstandings as much as possible. We are Men Against Violence Against Women. Please check us out at www.mavaw.org.

Representative Graham does not need to be lamented, he just needs to understand and I think it is wonderful that he has asked for help understanding. A wonderful opportunity exists here to help many improve their understanding if properly seized. I am willing to help. Every victim of domestic violence suffers, often for years while many relatives, friends and co-workers miss opportunities to help her because they are ignorant and remain bystanders. Unfortunately, this ignorance too often continues until she is dead!

-- Kevin Tarrance, MAVAW vice president, Jacksonville, Fla.

KEEPING TRACK

In this new section, we will keep track of Statehouse Report's record of forecasting what goes on in the legislature. For example, at the beginning of the year, a commentary called for no roads to be named for living officials. Sixteen days later, House Speaker David Wilkins introduced such a measure. Latest example:

In Statehouse Report:

3/27/05: More disclosure needed to highlight influence peddlers: "Voters deserve to know the people and money behind efforts to influence lawmakers' votes because policies that are passed will impact people across the state. Similarly, state lawmakers deserve to know who is behind efforts to persuade them to vote. More accountability is called for. State lawmakers should consider beefing up campaign disclosure laws to cover efforts to influence legislation." More.

In other outlets:

4/18/05: Lawmakers may consider changes to disclosure rules: "Some lawmakers say they want to know who is behind it all and think it is time for a change in the disclosure laws. 'This thing has the potential for costing billions of dollars out of the state treasury, and we as legislators should know who’s trying to influence our state,' said Rep. Ted Vick, D-Chesterfield. Legislative leaders, including House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville, say they might be willing to consider the idea.

3/20/05: "Siphoning public money for private education could lead to school resegregation, says the Rev. Joseph A. Darby, the much-respected African American minister at Morris Brown A.M.E. Church in Charleston." More. 4/2/05: "Now opponents say that tuition tax credits would in effect re-segregate the state's schools, with whites fleeing to private schools and public schools becoming increasingly black." The Economist magazine.
10/17/04: Radar Screen: Changes ahead in House leadership? 4/1/05: Wilkins may be appointed ambassador, successors lining up, Post and Courier


SOUTH CAROLINA SCORECARD

Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various political events from the past week:

Thumbs up

Long, Driscoll. It's almost a real miracle that Josh Long and Troy Driscoll were alive after drifting at sea for six days.

State workers. Not only will they get a 4 percent raise this year, they have the new PERKS card for discounts at stores.

Thumbs down

Sanford. He lost on vouchers and gained a primary challenger.

Myers. Tough Lexington County Solicitor Donnie Myers is in hot water with a NC drunken driving charge pending.

Santee Cooper. A study ordered by the governor expectedly says the power utility is valuable. Let's hope the study won't be used to privatize it.


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The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge.

Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."

In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get::

Hot issue -- an early peek at weekly commentary on something really big. Last year, we continually beat other news organizations in finding major trends in issues, from teacher and budget cuts to wetlands proposals.

Agenda -- a weekly forecast of the coming week's floor agenda

Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes look at what's really going on in the General Assembly

McLemore's World -- an early view of our respected cartoonist Bill McLemore.

Tally Sheet -- a weekly review of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in everyday language

Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down of major political/policy events for the week.

Calendar -- a weekly list of major meetings for the House, Senate and state agencies.

Megaphone -- a quote of the week that you'll find illuminating.

To learn more about subscriptions, contact Andy Brack at: brack@statehousereport.com

 

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