This year, we saw some campaigns excel, and others flounder. Here’s my look at those who did good, and those who blew it:
- Andre Bauer, who pulled off a surprise win in the GOP runoff, and then held on in the face of a strong challenge by Democrat Robert Barber.
- Thomas Ravenel, who first KO’ed two very strong GOP opponents in the GOP primary, and then blew out Grady Patterson. Patterson had scraped by with two close wins in 1998 and 2002, but not this time.
- Richard Eckstrom, who held on in the face of negative publicity and an intense attack campaign by his Democratic challenger.
- Jeff Willis on making the GOP runoff for Treasurer. He didn’t have a prayer of winning, but making the runoff, in spite of the circumstances, is something to brag about … and he spent a lot less than any other GOP candidate in the race to get there.
- Jim Rex, who closed the gap with GOP candidate Karen Floyd, in spite of Floyd’s big lead in fundraising. Apparently, Floyd’s problems reached all the way back to her home county, and they made the most of it, by hanging tough until things broke their way.
Now, maybe they’ll take me off their “Republicans for Rex” email list, but if they ever do another “Rex Rocks” event, I doubt I’ll get an invite.
- Hugh Weathers AND William Bell, who faced off in the GOP primary for Commissioner of Agriculture. Both were exceptional candidates who ran good races, and made it one of the hardest ballot choices I’ve ever made.
- GOP state rep Bill Cotty, who held on in spite of a two-way squeeze play by Anton Gunn, a hard-charging Democratic candidate, and perennial candidate Michael Letts. He was buried under tons of SCRG attack mailings, but when the smoke cleared, he held House District 79 by a couple hundred votes.
... and Anton Gunn, who made the most of the occasion to run a strong race. I get a feeling we'll be seeing more of him in the future.
- Phillip Lowe, the GOP candidate for House District 60. The seat was considered a tough one for any GOP candidate, and he ended up winning it by twenty points.
- The Dorchester County Democratic Party, whose superb GOTV effort which took out GOP state rep George Bailey, and were probably the best of any county party – Democrat or Republican – in the state.
- My friends Terry Hardesty and Jimmy Hinson. Both took out incumbents on the Berkeley County School Board. Terry’s opposition brought in the major-league Stoneridge Group campaign consulting firm, and he still beat her. Jimmy Hinson ousted his opponent with the support of his ex-wife, Shirley Hinson.
A driving issue in those upsets was the board’s decision to use “alternative funding” to finance school construction, which also led to the ouster of two of the four incumbents on the Dorchester school board in the Summerville area.
- Paul Thurmond, whose unassuming approach to running for office on his own merits without attempting to hijack his father’s legacy and pass it off as his own (unlike a certain former statewide candidate), earned him a seat on Charleston County Council, ending the short-lived Democratic Council majority. This is one guy to watch ...
- Mike Campbell, who found that waving the Campbell name around failed to impress GOP regulars and that a sludge-slinging campaign against Andre Bauer did little more than give the Democrats a running shot at taking the office. Waging the kind of campaign that could have helped Democrats is not what Carroll would have done …
- Greg Ryberg, who pulled the 2002 Treasurer’s race to a 52-48 finish in a strong race with great TV, then came back this year, raised a million bucks, added two mil of his own money, and still didn’t make the runoff. He’s a really great guy whose campaign never seemed to catch fire this time around.
- Karen Floyd, who pulled off a close win in the GOP primary, raised a bunch of dough for the fall campaign, raised a bunch of money for her fall campaign, and created an air of invincibility … but then ended up in a photo-finish defeat by Democrat Jim Rex, who nobody (myself included) gave a chance of winning.
- Drew Theodore, whose campaign attempted to make the most mileage of the least stuff I’ve ever seen against GOP incumbent Richard Eckstrom. As his father was a pretty decent guy, and he didn’t seem to wave around the family as Mike Campbell did, I expected him to have the humility to run a positive and construction campaign. Instead, we got an amazing amount of sludge.
- GOP state rep Wallace Scarborough, whose gunslinging approach to dealing with late-night utility workers, combined with his “they’d be dead if I wanted to hit them” remarks unleashed a wave of negative publicity which his opponent, Democrat Gene Platt, took advantage of. Combined with cheap shot attack mailers from the SCRG, it took a guy who’d never even run close in a major race to within dozens of votes of prevailing.
- GOP state house candidate Suzanne Piper, who ran for what was a safe GOP seat in House 119, and ended up blowing a twenty-point lead to lose by eight points. This gave Democrats three things to crow about – one, seeing the end of Rep. John Graham Altman, two – taking his seat, and three - winning a seat that had been comfortably in GOP hands for a generation.
… if any of you have recommendations, feel free to share them with us.