S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, July 16, 2006
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/06.0716.forecast.htm

Knotts' entry into gubernatorial race would hurt Sanford
By Andy Brack
SC Statehouse Report

JULY 16, 2006 -- Political prognosticators have a lot in common with weathermen - - they can be wrong, but people keep coming back to them for opinions.

As one academic who studies state politics and politicians recently quipped, "What do I know? I was quoted as saying (lieutenant gubernatorial candidate) Mike Campbell would win too!"


Now comes state Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, who is collecting signatures for a possible independent gubernatorial bid. Why? Because he's frustrated with Gov. Mark Sanford's leadership and, in particular, in a veto of a Lexington County hospital project.

Knotts' bid is just the kind of things to rev up a gubernatorial campaign that seems pretty lackluster at this point. Of course, Sanford and Democratic challenger Tommy Moore are still squirreling away money for a big advertising onslaught in the fall. But so far, watercooler conversations surely have a lot more to do with the Iraq war, the heat, vacation and other things than the race for S.C.'s top political leadership position.


The prognosticators agree Knotts' entry into the race probably won't do much to the final outcome (a Sanford victory), unless the race between Sanford and Moore gets a lot closer.

"The odds are that he (Knotts) would only get a few percent of the vote," said Furman University's Jim Guth. "And that would matter only if the election were close, and the odds are it won't be terribly close."

Tommy Moore

Noted Bill Moore of the College of Charleston: "A [Tommy] Moore victory would be a major upset - - his biggest problem is lack of money….In this case, the challenger may not have the resources to get his message across to convince voters that he is an acceptable alternative."

Still, Knotts' participation in the contest would hurt Sanford because it gives hard-core Republicans who never would vote Democratic with a GOP alternative. And moderate Republicans and independents would have another choice, which would tend to pull votes away from the incumbent.

Clemson's Bruce Ransom says a Knotts bid would have a chilling effect on the Sanford campaign.

"It will signal that Republican grassroots exasperation with Gov. Sanford is not to be taken lightly and dismissed," he said. "Clearly, Sen. Knotts will siphon-off votes from Gov. Sanford, setting the possibility of a Sanford defeat or scare in November. Sanford's reelection would not be a cakewalk."


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Because South Carolina has plurality voting in the general election in November, the candidate with the most votes wins, regardless of a 50 percent benchmark. Knotts' entry into the race would be welcome to Sen. Moore, observers said, because if Knotts took enough votes away from Sanford, Moore could squeak by with more votes than the governor.

"If [Tommy] Moore raises the money and Knotts draws off support for Sanford, it could be an upset," noted Jonathan Smith of Presbyterian College.

But at this point, a Sanford loss seems pretty unlikely, in part because of the power of incumbency, as observed by Clemson's Dave Woodard.

"For Democrats to win, the voters would have to be upset - they aren't," he said. "Third-party candidates usually do well when voters are upset or some divisive issues split them off. Again, that isn't the case this year."

While Knotts' candidacy might lower votes for Sanford, Bill Moore said it could have an additional impact - - it could excite the electorate enough that more Republicans vote, which could help the GOP throughout the rest of the ticket.

Bottom line: Mark Sanford appears headed to victory. Barring a major cash infusion to Tommy Moore or a galvanizing issue that develops like the lottery or video poker, having Jake Knotts in the race will make it livelier but the outcome won't be much different.

But in the best spirit of a weatherman who gives the chance of rain in percentages - - who knows? Not many people in July 1998 gave Jim Hodges much of a chance to beat David Beasley.

Andy Brack's new book of commentary, Bugging the Palmettos, is available for $15.00. Click here for more.

Recent commentary

lighter side
7/16: Channel surfing

Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:

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.

7/10: Wrong on Earned Income Tax Credit

To the editor:

I can hardly believe that you wrote [Commentary, 7/9] that it will "help lift people out of poverty." In point of fact it does EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE to the vast majority of people that receive it....

I witnessed, first hand, for three years, the same people come to the center to get help filling out the forms. In some cases a father and mother of four or more children, did not get married, simply because they knew that if they were married, they would get credit for two children. Not married, they each qualified for two. (I believe the term is "gaming the system").

These people, throughout the United States, deliberately do not earn more
than what it takes to qualify for IOC. Tell me how that helps "lift folks out of poverty."

Everyone in government knows that the IOC is a liberal wealth redistribution tax scheme to KEEP people in poverty and continuing to vote for more and more democrat social programs. The perpetual poor see liberals as their source of "getting something for nothing."

The true war on poverty begins by helping people get a better education
to get better jobs that earn more money.

-- Thomas B. Hatfield, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

Publisher's note: The EITC has broad bipartisan support at the federal level, in part, because it works. You can read up on earned income tax credits via the Center for a Better South's new book. Click here for more.

7/9: Lawmakers should be more progressive on taxes

To the editor:

It seems to me that our State Legislature should get more Progressive in their taxing regulations. For example, they think nothing of increasing Sales Tax even though it is a proven fact that Sales Tax is more regressive than any other. The present Personal Property tax on automobiles is another regressive measure in that it is capped at $300 and this is regressive ...

Let's insist that such tax be made Progressive by making it at least 1% across the board. This would allow a poor to middle income Bread Winner, owning a $3000 rusted out Jeep to only pay $30.00 while a well healed CEO owning the top of the line $70,000 SUV would be paying $700...A fair way to go and yes a much better way than reducing the Real Property Tax on High Dollar Waterfront Homes by substituting a across the board increase in State Sales Tax as being proposed by the so called Property Tax Improvement Program.(THE SWITCH TAX).

-- Bob Logan, Little River, SC

Recent feedback


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

Thumbs up

Backlash: State Senators Harvey Peeler of Gaffney, John Hawkins of Spartanburg and Larry Martin of Pickens, all prominent Republicans, bravely took issue with their party's smears against Democratic Sen. Tommy Moore, running for governor against Republican incumbent Mark Sanford. Peeler, the Senate majority leader, said some personal attacks on Moore were "over the line" and "not correct" and said Moore is "an honorable person." Hawkins said Moore was always honest. And Martin said, "I don't think you can call Tommy a spendthrift liberal by any stretch." They stood up for what's right.

Fellows: A new group of Liberty Fellowships for 2008 were announced this week. The 20 recipients from all over the state are chosen not only for their business successes, but for their leadership that will joint hands with the others' to attack challenges facing the state. They will be expect to fulfill a sustainable community service project in this two-year program sponsored by Liberty Fellowship's Hayne Hipp, Wofford College and the Aspen Institute. New community and state leadership should develop from the fellowships. Congratulations.

Courage: Former Gov. Bob McNair, in a new book by Phil Grose called "South Carolina at the Brink," admits his responsible for the "Orangeburg Massacre" in February 1968. Three S.C. State University students were killed by state troopers in the civil rights protest over a bowling alley that was segregated. "The face that I was governor at the time placed the mantle of responsibility squarely on my shoulders, and I have borne that responsibility with all the heaviness it entails for all these years." McNair was a strong governor, and his large law firm has been a player in many statewide changes. His courage is all through the new book.

In the middle

Comparisons: Karen Floyd, the Republican nominee for state superintendent of Education, pointed out in a mailing that she won hands down in the "referendum on school choice" between her and Bob Staton in the primary. She is for school "choice" while Staton was for an improved public school system. Conversely, it turned out in a Democratic e-mailing a few days later, Floyd received 47 percent of her contributions on her latest filing from out of state, including one address in New York and one in Denver centers of anti-public school funding by well-to-dos. (More: Barbecue & Politics blog.) At the same time, Democrat Jim Rex, her opponent in the general election, received almost as much money in the last filing as Floyd, but only a piddling amount, $3,670, came from out of state.

Thumbs down

Friend or foe? For redevelopment's sake, South Carolina is forcing five businesses off state land at Port Royal despite first leases. The businesses will be booted off the state land when the State Ports Authority sells the former port land to private enterprise. In some instances, such as a marina, the state may have to buy out the privately owned facility in order to let the land be purchased for other private business. Where is the state's law on encouraging business now?

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Just a quick note to let you know how you missed out this week. If you were a subscriber to the paid edition of Statehouse Report, you would have received the information below on Friday AND you would have gotten other special features:

  • HOT RACE: The first of 10 key House race contests by editor Jerry Ausband. This week, House 97: Gunn-ing for Cotty
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  • PALMETTO POLITICS: Spreading the wealth
  • BLOGROLL: The latest from blotters
  • MEGAPHONE: Smoking

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