SC Politics 2006: Good campaigns, bad campaigns

This year, we saw some campaigns excel, and others flounder. Here’s my look at those who did good, and those who blew it:

“Did good”:
  • 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 ...

"Did bad":

  • 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.

6 Response to "SC Politics 2006: Good campaigns, bad campaigns"

  1. SC-Conservative 14/11/06 01:49
    Something I have to comment on: in hindsight.
    Robert Barber is a left-wing special interest lobbyist, those are the facts. But when Andre started constantly attacking him on it in ads, debates and interviews he lost something. One thing that people have approved of Andre is his personal popularity. He has always been a nice guy that is a common person fighting for the common man.
    When Andre began attacking Barber, he became another politician. I don't know, but this could have had an effect on what most expected to be a fairly comfortable win as election day neared.
  2. west_rhino 14/11/06 10:37
    Anton Gunn, if my geography is correct, would do well in '08 for a senate bid.

    Wallace Scarborough's campaign, I have to agree, after hearing among other things, a lackluster radio spot and what amounted to a quid pro quo to SCRG, of a free hour given to his estranged wife's lawyer Margret Fabri which teeters on misconduct by counsel, though Ms. Fabri is no stranger to having the fix put in on her behalf for slander and libel in the courts.

    Suzanne Piper's race I'll concur, though I still smell bits of Rod Shealey's animosity for JGA3 probably to surface in off the books in kind contributions to Stavarnakis. Greg Hart, hand picked nad solicited by Shealey could have offered more bloodsport, but buying into a kinder, gentler Representative just didn't cut it.

    sc-Conservative, I suspect Andre's move to the attack ads was more Rod's doing, but from the '94 house bid, there was far more attack ad material.
  3. Moye 14/11/06 20:28
    Campbell should had endorsed Andre after the runoff. Mike may never win anything. Mrs. Sanford shoud had stayed out of that one. At least Mrs. Laura Bush came out for him in the end unlike her father in law in the primary.

    Thomas finally put Patterson to bed/rest and he also got that first win. I am hopeful he will move up. Too bad Sanford got in on this race as now Mr. Ravenel will be a strong supporter of the governor.

    Richard Eckstrom is a fine man and a good republican and until this mud slinging and The State got involved maybe our next governor. He also is a strong supporter of the governor.

    Jeff Willis a super nice person with no chance. Had no problem with him staying in the race but I would had gotten out. A lot of stiff competition in this one for sure.

    Jim Rex did pull a surprise or was it. The teachers beat Karen and their union. To bad that piece that broke today about one in four schools in SC is failing did not come out before the election. We have got to get a business person in this position as the educators continue to fail. We should be all mad about the waste this department has and Rex will be a total failure.

    Both Weathers and my friend William Bell were good candidates. The governor finally picked a winner.

    Phillip Lowe also did good up in Flo Town.

    I wonder if the Dorchester county Democrats will welcome George Bailey back with open arms.

    Paul may be his own man but he still carries the Thurmond name. I certainly am glad to see him start out small.

    Once again the Campbell family may have won their last race. Mike acted like a spoiled child after this race and so did his staff. I still wish Mrs. Sanford would had left this one alone also the first President Bush.

    Mr. Ryberg needs to save his money. Another Sanford man.

    Karen Floyd just blew it. She never really connected with the people and she also never went after the school teachers. I believe she would had been good for the school system but also believe she had other races in mind. If it was not a fund raiser you did not see her hardly and this really hurt her. The crap with her Stepmom and Dad did not help either. She could not ride the Sanford coat tails to the end in this one.

    Mr. Theodore tried to ruin a good man. I almost put the voo doo on him and had to refrain. Glad I left New Orleans when I did or I would had pinned a doll on this dude. With all the trash he had going you did not have to call up the underworld.
  4. Anonymous 15/11/06 08:54
    sc-con ... get over it already.

    what was andre supposed to do, not talk about what barber is really all about?

    barber is famous for trashing his opponents, while hoping people don't figure out what he's all about. andre told truth on the man, which was pretty damaging.

    what a hypocrite he is. good riddance to the man. let him go home and torch more restaurants and drive warp 2 on folly road some more.
  5. Anonymous 15/11/06 11:20
    i bet you haven't been able to sleep a wink about hurricane floyd losing?

    well, you know what they say about hurricanes, they may blow hard, but they never last long, and move on to make a mess elsewhere.
  6. Minto Witherspoon McGill 17/11/06 21:05

    Nobody that was paying attention to real polling was expecting Andre to have win comfortably. Andre's negative ad may or may not have made a difference but it certainly did NOT hurt him. Andre was in a world of hurt long before any TV ads ran.

    When you win or lose by less than a 1/2 percent, you can always point to something that may have made the difference. My vote for difference-maker in the Lt. Gov race? Easy. Andre Bauer owes his political hide to Mark Sanford (and Tommy Moore). Sanford ran a text-book race and absolutely maximized his margin. Moore, on the other hand, ran a pathetically under-funded campaign that had absolutely nothing to say. A halfway-decent effort by Moore would've netted him 47%. Big deal, you say? Well Moore with 47% means Barber, Patterson and Rex win with 51% - 52% and probably means that Drew Theodore (and not Karen Floyd) would be trying to figure out how not to protest an election without looking like a whiny loser.

    And Anonymous, lay off the hard stuff man. Robert Barber is an old-school lowcountry gentleman who was richly rewarded by lowcountry voters. Check out those tri-county returns (especially on James Island and Folly Beach). Literally tens of thousands of Mark Sanford Republicans split their tickets to vote for Barber in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

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