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Leadership needed 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 reality.

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 behaviors.

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.

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