S.C. Statehouse Report
Sunday, Aug. 19, 2007
VIEW: http://www.statehousereport.com/columns/07.0819.lameduck.htm

Lame duck Sanford missed opportunities
By Andy Brack, Publisher

AUG. 19, 2007 - - If there was ever any doubt that South Carolina's governor would be a lame duck in his second term, there isn't much now.

A Wednesday vote by the state Budget and Control Board, chaired by Gov. Mark Sanford, showed the legislature again controls this administrative agency that oversees much of state government. In that vote, the members of the board with legislative experience rehired a former executive director who left in January when it looked like Sanford for the first time would gain the upper hand at the agency. That dynamic had become a possibility after last year's election of kindred reformer Thomas Ravenel as state treasurer.

But following Ravenel's drug indictment and recent resignation, the General Assembly elected one of its own, Converse Chellis of Summerville, to fill in as state treasurer, which gave him a seat on the budget board. Instead of welcoming the nomination of Chellis and trying to get his support for a reform agenda, Sanford backed another candidate who didn't have a chance. Thus, by again poking legislators in the eyes due to what seems to be a genetic predisposition for being a maverick, control of the budget board slipped away from the governor like an eel.

It's all a high-level soap opera that's been played out in public. And it shows the governor, for all of his reform-minded zeal, remains relatively weak while the General Assembly carries most of the power cards.


What may be most frustrating to many voters, however, is how Sanford has squandered multiple chances to make the changes he wanted in the state by continuing to antagonize state lawmakers in his own political party which runs things.

In many ways, Sanford inherited a perfect opportunity to make real changes in state government when he took office in January 2003. Not only did he have a Republican General Assembly, he had popular support to show creative leadership (remember the bumper stickers - Sanford: Leadership?). He had different ideas that connected with many voters, who saw the Hollywood handsome governor as a new kind of populist.

Sanford pushed for more control of state spending. He promoted new accountability measures. He had big-time budget hearings to showcase problems. In short, he did a lot of things to highlight a desire for new ways of doing things.


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But things started going South pretty quickly when Gov. "My Way or the Highway" Sanford started grandstanding about legislative leaders instead of working with them. First he carried a pair of piglets named Pork and Barrel to the Statehouse lobby to protest legislative spending. The next year, it was a mule-driven carriage outside the Statehouse to showcase the legislature's slow-changing ways. After three years in office, Time magazine named him one of the nation's three worst governors.

Sanford got re-elected after playing nicer during his fourth year in office and backing away from an unpopular voucher-based education plan.

Then Ravenel got elected and took away a budget board seat from Democrat Grady Patterson, who tended to vote on board matters with Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman and House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Cooper. And Sanford came out of his shell.

When Budget and Control Board Executive Director Frank Fusco resigned in January because of the shift in power, Sanford got the board to make his chief of staff, Henry White, to be the new director. Then he got long-time supporter Chad Walldorf to chair a committee to take a look at how to save money at the budget board. The committee in July unveiled a report which claimed millions of dollars could be saved by making more than 60 changes.

Then the Ravenel shoe dropped. Chellis became the anointed candidate. White resigned an hour before his election. And then the budget board had to name another administrative leader. The two candidates? Fusco and Walldorf. The winner? Fusco, the fellow with the backing of legislators.

In politics, turnabout is fair play. That's what's happened with the Budget and Control Board. But the effects of this political drama will have longer, more lasting impacts for a governor who had a chance to make a real difference, but now probably won't.

You can reach Andy Brack, publisher of SC Statehouse Report, at brack@statehousereport.com.

Recent commentary

Esau Jenkins helps start citizenship schools

Civil rights activist Esau Jenkins, born in 1910 on Johns Island, bused his children and others to public schools in Charleston when he saw the injustices that affected black children on Johns Island.

Class at a Citizenship School
(Image from Highlander Center)

During the daily commutes, Jenkins stressed to adults the importance of voting and taught them to recite passages from the state constitution (a requirement to vote in South Carolina during that time.)

In 1948, Jenkins founded the Progressive Club to educate Sea Island residents. At the suggestion of Septima Clark, Jenkins attended a workshop at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., in August 1954.


S.C. Statehouse Report has partnered with USC Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which is used with permission and not for republication, is taken from The South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope you enjoy this new feature.

Jenkins, Clark and Bernice Robinson collaborated with Highlander to establish a "citizenship school" on Johns Island. The school was designed to teach adult African Americans to read so that they could register to vote. The first school was a success and the schools soon spread to the other Sea Islands. The success of the first schools in the Sea Islands led Highlander to create others across the South, where tens of thousands of African Americans learned to read and became registered to vote.

Jenkins continued to work on issues of civil rights and social justice. Shortly before his death in 1972, he was appointed to the state advisory committee for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He was inducted into the S.C. Black Hall of Fame in June 2003.

-- Entry by Herb Frazier, The South Carolina Encyclopedia

lighter side
Roving Rove

Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:

8/13: Australia is tip of iceberg

To Statehouse Report:

Australia is just the tip of the iceberg. (Commentary, 8/12) I have traveled throughout western Europe for nearly 40 years and there is not now a country in Western Europe that does not have a higher standard of living than do we. Their homes, cars, work environment, social support structures, highways and mass transit systems, schools, medical care (and the list goes on) are better than our own.

I recently was on a cruise with a man who became ill while in the Orient. He was taken to a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, with considerable trepidation regarding the care he might find. He returned singing their praises. He arrived at the emergency room and was seen almost immediately. Within two hours he had been seen by a physician who spoke excellent English, had a blood work up and a CAT scan, was diagnosed and given medication -- all within two hours. Within two days, he was feeling much better and by the end of the week was fully recovered. The total expense for this hospital visit was less than $200!! And this in a part of the world we generally think of as "Third World."

If one does much traveling these days, it is painfully obvious that we no longer provide the standard of living enjoyed by many other countries of the world. Like you, I would not wish to live anywhere else than in the US but that doesn't mean we shouldn't learn from what other countries are doing because many times, they are doing things much better than are we.

-- John P. Ford, Sumter, S.C.

8/13: Americans have grown apathetic

To Statehouse Report:

Many Americans have grown apathetic and even lazy about what we have; the system has changed into more of an "everybody wants something for nothing." The Australians DO NOT have a welfare system where they pay you not to work. Did you see how many were on welfare like ours in Queensland? They do not have all the give me programs. If you like to eat you work. That is why you made the comment "If there's deep poverty, it's hard to find." The people worked in this country until President Johnson and the Legislature gave the people a reason not to work. They said they created "THE GREAT SOCIETY," but they created the greatest welfare program in the world. That is why people don't work. They say" GIM ME-GIM ME-GIM ME."and "YOU OWE ME".

-- David Whetsell, Lexington, S.C.

7/30: Queensland has enterprising spirit, Sandra Plock, Sumter, SC
Domestic violence laws may be used wrongly, Marty Hicks, Mount Pleasant, SC
6/26: Brack is inconsistent, Bill Rentiers III, Lexington, SC
6/14: East Edisto would be boon to ACE Basin, Maggie Ridge, Hollywood, SC
6/12: Protect large tracts, Benjamin Lennon, Short Hills, NJ

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  • AGENDA: Dog days
  • RADAR SCREEN: Insurance audit
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SC works on insurance crisis along coast
By Bill Davis, editor
From the paid-subscriber issue of Statehouse Report

AUG. 17, 2007 -- A move by the state this year to make sure homeowners along the South Carolina coast could get property insurance seems to be working, according to state officials.

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Excerpts from The South Carolina Encyclopedia are published with permission and copyrighted 2006 by the Humanities Council SC. Excerpts were edited by Walter Edgar and published by the University of South Carolina Press. No republication is allowed.