Sunday, May 7, 2006
How South Carolina
might get more conservative
SC Statehouse Report
7, 2006 - - Simmering just below the surface of South Carolina
politics is a pretty amazing struggle for leadership of the
On one side are the traditional Statehouse leaders, all Republicans
- - the House speaker, Senate president pro tempore and a
bevy of committee chairmen.
On another side are Republicans who are frustrated - - social
conservatives and outsiders who have special-interest agendas,
such as school vouchers, and mavericks, such as Gov. Mark
Sanford, who has seen little movement in his agenda even though
his party controls the legislature.
Meanwhile, increasingly organized national and state Democrats
lay in wait as voters become more frustrated with rising gas
prices, the lingering war in Iraq, immigration conflicts and
"There are a number of factors, mostly on the national
level, causing a lot of dissatisfaction," said Presbyterian
College political scientist Jonathan C. Smith.
Evidence of the growing Republican fissure in state politics
can be seen in the candidate list in the coming June primaries,
now just a few weeks away.
Of the 23 contested Republican S.C. House races, 13 pit challengers
against GOP incumbents, some of whom are big-name leaders
tied closely to the leadership: Assistant Majority Leader
Adam Taylor, R-Laurens; six-term veteran Rep. Bill Cotty,
R-Richland; popular insider Rep. Skipper Perry, R-Aiken; and
Horry Rep. Alan Clemmons. In 18 Democratic contested House
races, nine challengers are threatening incumbents.
But while the Democratic contests seem to be standard political
fare, the fact that incumbent Republican leaders are being
challenged is of enough concern that House Speaker Bobby Harrell
fired a broadside in late April.
"We have members of the House of Representatives who
are running for re-election who are being attacked by out-of-state
special interest groups," Harrell said April 20 at a
Columbia news conference. (It's common knowledge the groups
he's referring to are South Carolinians for Responsible Government,
which gets a lot of out-of-state money to support school vouchers,
and a new organization called SC Club for Growth, which seems
to want to push the Sanford agenda.)
According to the Associated Press, Harrell also said the
group had "misleading names and they want you to think
that they represent South Carolina's values. The reality is
that these organizations come from places like New York and
Even a space cadet can read the writing on the wall: the
old guard is being threatened.
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University of South Carolina political scientist Mark Tompkins
sees the struggle as a battle between legislative and executive
control of the state's political agenda
In one corner is the "legislative party" - - mostly
Republicans and a smattering of Democrats who ensure the legislature
controls where the state is going. With South Carolina's political
structure favoring a strong legislature, this is the status
quo. A legislative party in control generally tries to keep
things the same - - control of the agenda, no messy floor
fights, no big controversy. And when members want to make
news, they want it to be big, splashy and favorable.
The downsides of a legislative party are they keep a lot
of folks out of the decision-making process and force the
process toward the middle. In a legislative state, Tompkins
said, change doesn't come fast.
In the other corner are more maverick efforts. At a national
level, it would be called a "presidential party"
with the president setting the agenda. Here, it's probably
better called an "executive party" with a governor
setting the agenda.
Under Sanford, this executive party has been hit and miss.
There haven't been lots of big victories for the governor
and his supporters. But there have been a lot of public squabbles
between him and the Republican leadership in the General Assembly.
So instead of working with leaders to accomplish things, as
Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell did with a Democratic legislature,
this executive party seems to play guerrilla politics. Tactics
include public displays of populism, using outside groups
to try to influence the agenda and finding wealthy supporters
to run for office.
So what does this all mean? Mostly that guerrilla tactics
will have some impact. Republican incumbents who may not have
had to watch how they voted over the past few years now will
have to pay more attention to political consequences. In an
already conservative state, South Carolina may get more conservative.
Veteran political observer Andy Brack,
publisher of SC Statehouse Report, has a new book of columns
5/5: For the
love of country
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning
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Smaller areas need help
The people in our county of Union are taxed to the limit.
It is not fair for a person who owns a $200,000 home on the
seashore to receive more that those who live in the middle
and Upstate. We here in Union have suffered when it comes
to the loss of jobs. We pay our taxes just like those in Spartanburg
and Greenville and other surrounding counties who now are
moving forward with new road constructions and other progress.
Union continues to sit in the middle of that progress, yet
has yet to receive any of the Interstate connections and any
roads to pave our county to pave our way to posterity. With
the dividing line that allows us less representation,we will
continue as we are. [Rep. Mike] Anthony has done a great job
as our Representative, and [Sen. Linda] Ms Short is also there
to represent us but I, as a life-long Union County citizen,
will continue to beseech you for our fair share, for we are
a part of South Carolina and deserve to be treated as such.
-- Linda S. Treadway, Union, SC
a connection, Butch
Robbins, Hilton Head Island, SC
- 2/24: Block the
sale of national forest land, Elizabeth Bailey, Darlington
Here's a "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" related to various
political news items from the past week:
Rutherford. Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland, does
not golf very much, but he drives to and from the Statehouse
in a golf cart customized for limited secondary road transportation.
His cart, parked in the underground garage for legislators
near the escalator, is drawing print and television media
since he began driving it this spring as an alternative to
using high-priced gasoline. He bought it after Hurricane Katrina
in Louisiana and Mississippi began to drive up prices.
Grooms. Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, cannot be accused
of pouting when his first effort to attempt to persuade other
senators to his property tax relief amendment, failed. He
tried and tried again, one time after another, to make the
money fit the benefit. He never did succeed, but he never
quit trying either.
Sanford. The governor did the right thing in vetoing
a bill that would, in part, have allowed Lexington Medical
Center to ignore state regulations and build its own approved
heart center. The bill was, however, a good one in the main,
in modernizing administrative law hearings and procedures,
but it became entwined with the Lexington add-on. The governor
refused to allow Lexington to get around state regulations
on certificates of need for medical facilities, noting that
two heart centers already operate in nearby Columbia. However,
because time is short before the June 1 adjournment, the good
legislation goes down with the bad.
Merrill. Rep. Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island, had security
personnel rushing to the back rail this past week when he
got in a heated exchange with Rep. Ken Kennedy, D-Williamsburg,
that threatened to get out of hand. The two disagreed over
whether the state was being overrun with out-of-state residents
and private lobbyists. The matter was settled by Rep. Doug
Smith, R-Spartanburg, then presiding, when he firmly admonished
both for their outburst. This was the second incident this
session for Merrill, the House majority leader.
Sanford. The governor, on the list for an encore in
a different category, had to stretch his excuse for vetoing
a bill that would have raised the fine for not securing children
in safe car seats. He said he thought all children should
be correctly belted in, but the extra fine ($150, instead
of the current $25) wouldn't work. Besides, he said, the state
cannot force residents to do what they should do, and the
bill, he said, didn't allow non-use of seat belts to be used
in civil court suits. The governor should add a seat belt
to his office chair to keep him from signing such vetoes.
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In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get:
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- Tally Sheet -- a weekly review
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- Blogroll -- a weekly summary of
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- 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.
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