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SC Democratic Party-Fired Up-Ready To Go!

On Saturday, April 24th I attended the SC Democratic Party Convention with my good friend Elizabeth Teel. I look forward to the state party convention each year as a chance to commune with progressives, review our slate of candidates and generally get politically fired up. This year was no exception. The ride down to Columbia gave me a chance to learn more about my lovely and talented friend and we both enjoyed the barbeque stump meeting and gubernatorial debate which followed the general convention.

Although the turnout was a bit smaller than in years past the crowd was diverse and enthusiastic. US Congressman John Spratt said the crowd looked like South Carolina and I would agree, young and old, black, white and brown. We were united in our support for our President and our party and that’s a powerful feeling.
After the convention business was finished we headed upstairs to hear from more candidates and dine on some traditional southern barbeque and fried chicken. In years past the Democratic Party has struggled to field qualified and competent candidates that is no longer the case. I had the opportunity to sit next to a gentleman from Hollywood, South Carolina who is running for the State House in Dist. #116. Benjamin Ward, Jr. is a pastor, a part-time contractor, husband and father. He’s a man well versed on the issues running an uphill battle to replace the incumbent Democratic Rep. Robert Brown. We both agreed that new blood in our state legislature is needed to facilitate change and move our state forward. Attorney and retired Circuit Court Judge Vic Rawl is running hard against Senator DeMint. Rawl drove the point home in his remarks that our United States Senator should be focused on helping create jobs and growth here at home not all over the country for other candidates. Amen to that! As a National Guard veteran Rawl was passionate about the need for expanding medical after care for war veterans. Rob Miller is another military veteran, running against Joe Wilson in the 2nd congressional district. Miller captured 46% of the vote in his last run against Wilson and is picking up steam in fund raising and support state-wide. Momentum from the “you lie” incident at the state of the union address propelled Miller to a new fund raising peak of nearly a million dollars. Meanwhile in the 3rd Congressional district Jane Dyer is running to fill the seat vacated by Republican Gresham Barrett. Dyer is a former Air Force pilot, currently working as a pilot for Fed Ex. She’s a dynamic speaker, strong on the issues and great on the stump. Another military veteran retired Col. Robert Burton; a pilot for Delta Airlines is running for US Congress in the 1st Congressional district. He’s a real hell raiser. In his remarks he advocated equal pay for equal work on behalf of his two daughters and talked about the need for Democrats to get fired up and speak out about the issues, even if we can’t win we can at least make our voices heard.

The reason Democrats don’t win more elections in South Carolina isn’t that the party doesn’t field electable candidates it’s the fact that the electorate isn’t willing to open their minds and hearts and consider voting for a Democrat. It’s also because the Democratic Party is outspent and out muscled by the Republican Party. It’s hard for progressives to prosper in the buckle of the Bible belt!
We are fortunate as Democrats to have a solid field of candidates for Governor. The front runner is state Sen. Vincent Sheheen with $958,000, running second is State school Superintendent Jim Rex with $206,000 and the literal dark horse in the race is State Senator Robert Ford with $49,000. At Saturday’s debate Senator Ford sounded like a broken record, responding to nearly every question about revenue or legislative issues with a pitch for legalized casino gambling and the re-introduction of video poker in our state. Ford contends that expansion of gaming in South Carolina would create up to 100,000 new jobs and cited actor Morgan Freeman as one of his sources. Both Ford and Sheheen said they voted against the devastating tax realignment now known as Act 388. Jim Rex advocated an immediate removal of the cap of $300 on luxury purchases including airplanes, boats and automobiles. All three of the candidates called for cooperation with the federal government and rehabilitation of South Carolina’s battered national image. Rex joked that he no longer referred to his wife Sue as his ‘soul mate’ after Mark Sanford used that term to refer to his mistress. Powered by endorsements that include former SC Governor Jim Hodges and a powerful fund raising machine, Sheheen is likely to emerge the winner in the party primary.

I caught a little bit of the Republican gubernatorial debate on WSPA-TV on Friday. SC Attorney General and former Republican Party Chair Henry McMaster is the fundraising front runner with $2.4 million, Congressman Gresham Barrett is second with just over $2 million, Lt. Governor Andre Bauer is third with $1 million and State Rep. Nikki Haley is last with $500,000. All of the candidates are trying to out conservative the others. In his TV commercials Rep. Barrett spits out the name Obama as if it were poison, McMaster and Barrett are both vowing to fight to the death to block the President’s agenda. Meanwhile back on Mars, Andre Bauer is vowing to defund and destroy South Carolina’s welfare system. Contending that the “nanny state” we’ve created acts as a disincentive for people to work. In the worst recession our state has seen in decades, with a record high unemployment, Bauer wants more people to go hungry and without medical care for fear of coddling the lazy. I’m curious about how this get tough approach on welfare recipients will sit with conservative blue-collar folks who like me have been out of work and relying on unemployment benefits and COBRA to get by until they can get back into full time employment. I’m also curious as to how Bauer justifies his state pay in terms of being on the dole. Bauer’s last full time job was as a sales person and that’s been awhile back. Since his early 20’s he’s relied on a government salary and sweet heart real estate deals to make his living.
The field is set party primaries loom in early June and the race is on.


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