on both sides of the aisle
By Andy Brack
S.C. Statehouse Report
NOV. 10, 2002 - Now that Mark Sanford waxed Jim Hodges at the polls,
the governor-elect has a new challenge. He's got to lead.
Leadership will be a new cloak for Sanford, even though he's spent
months campaigning about it.
Reflecting at the end of his six years as a congressman, Sanford
admitted he didn't make much of a difference in Washington. He spent
most of his time as a maverick, occasionally as the lone but principled
voice against spending. While his stances received some muted admiration,
his time wasn't spent as one of Washington's young turk leaders,
unlike his friend, Sen.-elect Lindsey Graham.
Now that Sanford is poised to lead the Palmetto State for the next
four years, it's encouraging to see the maverick governor-elect
exhibiting leadership qualities. In a relaxed acceptance speech
Tuesday, Sanford reached out to Republicans and Democrats to work
together to fix the state's gripping problems. He said he would
be governor for all of the people.
On Wednesday in a meeting with Republican lawmakers, who control
the S.C. House and Senate, Sanford pledged to work with them, not
surprise them with new initiatives and legislation. He said he understood
his proposals would need legislative support and approval to become
As Sanford and Republican leaders prepare to run the executive
and legislative branches, Democratic leaders face a mounting crisis.
Interestingly, it's a leadership crisis. They no longer have the
governor as the head of the party.
The only statewide Democrats to survive Tuesday's ballot box melee
were State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum and State
Treasurer Grady Patterson. Tenenbaum now becomes the party's standard
bearer. In the last two statewide elections, she received more votes
than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat. Obviously popular
and the recipient of votes from people who split tickets, Tenenbaum
is in the catbird seat as a likely Democratic challenger to Sanford
in four years.
But she and other Democrats in the state have a big image problem.
Following Tuesday's election, many Democrats questioned how the
party operated. Throughout the recent election, it pushed ads with
negative overtones and had an unattractive combative spirit. In
the recent elections, Democrats seemed to amplify that people should
vote for them just because they were not Republicans.
In short, Democrats need leadership and a clear vision. Unless
they can explain and persuade why they're different and outline
a positive vision for the future, they may remain in the minority
for a long time to come.
That may be best seen in the Tuesday results for state House of
Representatives. A pre-election Statehouse Report projection predicted
Democrats would pick up one to four seats in the House of Representatives.
Over the years, Democrats benefited at midterm elections because
fewer people voted. But this year's projection proved to be off
base. Why? Because virtually every pundit didn't predict how effective
President Bush would be in "nationalizing" the election
- - in infusing national concerns into statewide and local voting
At the S.C. House, Republicans widened their grip on power by picking
up one seat. Now, they have a 73-51 majority. The GOP won two Upstate
seats held by retiring Democrats and one new seat in Beaufort County
that a Charleston Democrat lost in reapportionment. Democrats picked
up two Republican seats as former Rep. George Bailey beat freshman
Rep. David Owens in Dorchester County and Union high school coach
Mike Anthony beat Rep. Ron Fleming.
As South Carolina transfers the mantle of power completely to Republicans
for the first time since 1876 following Tuesday's near sweep, look
for leadership to be the key component in future success for Democrats
and the new governor-elect. Democrats need it to be players. Sanford
and Republicans have the opportunity and responsibility to display
it like never before.