Inside Interview: Phil Bailey

Yesterday’s Inside Interview with GOP campaign operative Wesley Donehue called for a little bi-partisan balance. As a veteran politico, one of the most important things we’ve learned, and like to share with others is that things aren’t always what they seem, nor can everything in state politics be easily-classified or well-defined, much to the chagrin of those who think they’re smarter than the rest of us.

One of those “wild cards” who, like us, keeps people guessing is Phil Bailey, a fellow CofC alum, and Blogland reader. He's also the director of the State Senate’s Democratic Caucus. Raised in the Midlands, he graduated from Columbia’s Cardinal Newman High School about ten years back, and went on to earn his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the College of Charleston.

These days, Phil is back in the Midlands, but you can bet he's always roaming the state, eagerly eyeing political opportunities wherever they may appear. Although he’s one of the most prominent and sought-after Democratic campaign operatives in the South, Phil decided to stay local and keep his current job, instead of heading off with one of the presidential campaigns.

In the recent series of special elections, his work had much to do with the Democrats being able to defy expectations of non-stop GOP romps by targeting his party’s efforts on waging two unexpectedly-strong races – first in Berkeley County, where John West scored a surprisingly 42% in a heavily-Republican district, and then in the Savannah River valley, where many in the GOP expected a cakewalk, and ended up winning by a mere 200 votes.

In our humble opinion, if the Democrats are to remain politically relevant in one of the reddest states in the nation, this is one of the guys they’ll need to do the job.

Now that we’ve said so many nice things about a Democrat that we’re sure to hear it at the next few GOP events we attend, we’ll shut up and let Phil take a few questions from the Blogland:

Q - How did you end up in politics?

I grew up in it. I can remember my mom taking me around to Mike Dukakis events in 1988 and she was heavily involved in Paul Tsongas’ SC primary campaign in 1992. As a 12 year-old kid, I remember the excitement of the political rallies and sitting back, paying more attention to the nuts and bolts of the rally and the campaign than the actual candidate. I never waited around to declare a major in college. I went right into political science. Declaring early freed me up for the important classes in college like sailing.

I was lucky to go to work for Charleston Mayor Joe Riley’s re-election right out of school; handling his schedule and being his body-man. That was a great learning experience.


Q – South Carolina is about the toughest state in the country for Democrats. Tell us about some of the challenges that come with your job in relation to this and how you deal with the challenges that come with this.

Democrats didn’t lose the Senate at the ballot box. We lost it because of party-switchers.

Legislative district lines are the challenge. Democrats have always been competitive in state-wide contest. But the way the district lines are drawn is the toughest challenge. There are very few competitive districts left. They’re drawn to protect the incumbency of the current member.

Q - Here’s a freebee – what are the best favors that South Carolina Republicans have done to help make your work easier?

MARK SANFORD. I never underestimate the guy. He’s one of the smartest politicians I know of. His shtick as a faux-reformer is effective. All the snowbirds moving into SC eat that stuff up. But it has made life in the General Assembly much more interesting. (Kind of the enemy of my enemy is my friend…)

Also, Sen. Kevin Bryant needs to keep drafting legislation.

Q - What are your thoughts about bloggers and other “new media” outlets?

I think they’re great. Blogs are an effective way to reach opinion makers across the state. It’s funny to watch, sometimes, the senators reading blogs on the Senate floor. You can tell if there is something interesting out there when the Senators are running around telling everyone the web address. Senator McConnell will sometimes reference FITSnews from the podium. I hate to give Will Folks a plug, but his blog is great. He’s a great writer. Funny as hell.

Q – To date, which campaign(s) have been your favorite? Why?

Joel Lourie’s ’04 state senate race was fun. But Drew Theodore’s ’06 comptroller race has been my favorite, so far. That was my first state-wide race. I really got to travel the state and get to know folks like Nick Theodore - the man can make a mean Greek omelet. Who knows what he put in those things. Guaranteed heart burn.

It was a down-ballot race and we had nothing to lose. We got to raise hell in the hopes of getting noticed and we did. Also, running a campaign against Rod Shealy is an experience.

Q - Since we’re all about great music here in the Blogland, we’ll close by asking what’s your favorite album and/or artist?

R.E.M. One of the first records I ever bought was the Green album. Been an avid fan ever since, except for the Up album. It’s crap. Basically, any R.E.M album prior to when drummer Bill Berry retired is good.

Metal always makes it onto my Ipod. The old school stuff – Ratt, Quiet Riot, AC/DC.

Lately, I’ve gotten into a RadioHead phase.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Wowwww … thanks for a great interview, Phil.

6 Response to "Inside Interview: Phil Bailey"

  1. Anonymous 11/1/08 01:06
    The only reason West did so well was that NOTHING in his literature indicated he was running as a Democrat. I suppose that is why your fellow get paid the big bucks?
  2. South Park Republican 11/1/08 04:28
    Democrats piss me off
  3. Anonymous 11/1/08 08:13
    Phil, If you want to get rid of the heart burn, drink a 1/2 bottle of Windex.
  4. Anonymous 11/1/08 10:18
    anon 0106 - i'm sure when the voters went in the voting booth and saw the word DEMOCRAT, they knew it then if they didn't know it at any other time.

    his opponent's signs said "rock solid republican" as well. another hint.

    whether they deduced this by process of elimination via information from campbell's signs, or they took a hint in the voting booth, they had to make a decision ... "do i vote for him, even though he's a democrat?".

    that's exactly what a lot more of them did than usual.

    people aren't stupid, so quit trying to suggest they are.
  5. Willie Wonka 11/1/08 14:52
    Gee Earl, nice to see you're now sucking up to both sides. You must see the GOP taking a pasting this year and are trying to be on the winning side, no matter what.
  6. Anonymous 13/1/08 00:47
    even more booooooo !!!

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