Rep. Harvin meeting with Republicans?

While the Blogland has no reason to believe that Clarendon County Democratic Represenative Cathy Harvin is planning to switch parties, this picture, which was taken at the recent Striped Bass Festival in Manning, clearly shows her meeting with some of the GOP big dogs in the region: Clarendon County GOP Chair Moye Graham, Sixth Congressional District GOP Chair Tommy Grimes, and June Brailsford, Treasurer of the Clarendon GOP.

This group's associations with the Blogland have been the subject of some discussion. Reportedly, Brailsford is a well-known BBQ kingpin in the region. Reportedly Brailsford and her family are responsible for supplying the BBQ addiction of the Blogland, while Graham - a delegate to the recent Republican National Convention - has reportedly bought several beers for Blogland staff. Sources have also alleged that the publisher of the Blogland, along with Graham and Grimes, are three of the Four Horsemen of the Political Apocalypse.

Being seen in the company of these GOP politicos certainly opens the door to speculation about what Harvin may have been discussing at the time this photo was taken. As always, we simply present what we know, and allow our readers to reach their own conclusions.

Moss wins Cherokee special House election for GOP

History was made tonight in the election of Steven Moss to become Cherokee County's first Republican representative. Rolling on momentum built in a big run-off win, Moss won by at least 300 votes, turning back efforts which had turned increasingly negative and misleading.

Representative Moss has our congratulations and best wishes for a productive tenure in the House.

In recent years, the seat had been considered ripe for a Republican takeover, with the GOP earning well over 40% each time it fielded a candidate. With this seat now safely in GOP hands in a county which has been trending Republican in recent elections, attention now turns to neighboring District 29, where Dennis Moss, the current Democratic rep, has barely won two contests for the seat.

Bad Bakari

About 18 months ago, my company wrapped up work on widening Main Street (U.S. 301/601) in Bamberg, which was celebrated with a parade that was covered on this blog.

One of the highlights of this parade was Rep. Bakari Sellers riding in a restored Bentley driven by John Sanders, one of my co-workers, who made arrangements to have the car transported to Bamberg to drive in the parade. There was no small irony in the role reversal of a black politician driven by a white driver in a parade through a small southern town.

All John asked in return was an autographed photo by Rep. Sellers, which he agreed to do. Since then, Sellers hasn't returned his calls, so the promise has gone unkept.

We think that's rather poor manners. His parents are fine folks and his father is an important figure in South Carolina history, so we're sure he was raised better than that.

The Devil You Know: Dio and Black Sabbath ROCK!

Today is a major holiday here in the Blogland with the release of "The Devil You Know", the new album from the Dio-led Black Sabbath line-up, billing itself as Heaven and Hell.

We've previewed the new album and it ROCKS!!! Those who listened to the three new tracks they recorded for the "Black Sabbath: The Dio Years" compilation and/or have seen them on tour know these guys are still at the top of their game.

Rest assured this album is a heavyweight release worthy of a day off from work and at least a six pack of something cold, which is exactly what the Blogland has in mind for today. Download it or find a music store - but this album is worth dropping anything else you might have planned today to buy and listen to.

We suggest as loud as possible. There's no other way to enjoy these guys.

Check out the first song release from the new album, "Bible Black":

It's a girl!

Congratulations go out to Rep. Murrell Smith and family, who welcomed a daughter into their family this afternoon. Mother, daughter, and father are reportedly doing well.

The relevance of the Tea Parties

Recently, the Post and Courier's editorial page expressed the concern about the growing financial crisis, suggesting that the nationwide tea parties may be just the beginning of rising discontent with the Obama administration's approach to spending:

Columnist Debra Saunders fairly warned on our Commentary page Wednesday that the cause of our huge deficits isn't that elected officials don't carry out our wishes, but that they do. As she put it: "Washington is too representative of the American voter, who has come to expect both more government and less taxes."

At least President Obama's still talking, though not delivering, "fiscal responsibility." This week the president called for constructing a "new foundation" of savings, a financial "house built on a rock."

However, that $1.2 trillion deficit is a glaring crack in our nation's fiscal foundation. And a growing number of Americans — including plenty who didn't attend Wednesday's "tea parties" — can clearly see it.

While the tea parties have been subjected to plenty of scorn - including vicious personal insults - by naysayers and disregarded by a lot of veteran politicos and political observers, there is ample evidence which suggests the Post and Courier may be onto something:

SHIFTING VOTER TRENDS: In our discussion of James Stimson's Tides of Consent back in November, research has shown that voters in the political center tend to shift away from the Presidential party. These shifts are generally gradual under GOP administrations than under Democratic administrations, as evidenced by hefty congressional losses in the first mid-terms of Democratic presidents in recent years (1978 and 1994) compared to GOP first mid-terms (1982, 1990 and 2002). In both 1978 and 1994, voter shifts were heralded by widespread and open discontent with Presidential policies. In those elections, centrist voters, which tend to be fiscally conservative and moderate on social issues, moved sharply away from supporting Democratic candidates.

WINNING THE POLITICAL CENTER: Generally polling shows two-thirds of voters are fiscally conservative, but only forty percent of voters are conservative on social issues. This creates a large bloc of voters who do not strongly identify with either party, if at all. Many of the Democratic gains in 2006 and 2008 were made by candidates who won many of these centrist voters by professing to be fiscally conservative and socially moderate. When Democratic leaders and activists attack the tea party movement's concerns about runaway debt and spending, they risk alienating those fiscally-conservative moderates, which could convince them to return to the GOP fold, as they did for much of the Clinton administration.

MISSING THE NEXT POLITICAL REVOLUTION? Many dismissed the Dean movement in 2004 and thought his loyalists had simply packed their tents and vanished. Instead, they went under the radar and began transforming the Democratic party from within - much to the chagrin of Democratic party "establishment" candidates such as Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton. The numbers of events and participants which were coordinated and mobilized on a national level by the tea party movement bears interesting simliarites to what Democratic netroots activists and organizers were able to accomplish, as well as in how these efforts were disregarded by many political observers.

Just as Democratic activists targeted Lieberman, tea party events in South Carolina aimed plenty of fire at the likes of Senator Lindsey Graham and Congressman Gresham Barrett. In both cases, activists weren't just looking to challenge the party in power - they were aiming at anyone who did not embrace their message.

It's also worth noting that conservatives were considered vanquished after Barry Goldwater lost the 1964 Presidential race - so it's not the first time activist movements espousing conservative political messages have been written off by political observers.

Time will tell if the tea party movement was a brief moment in time or the beginning of something bigger. But if history is any indicator, this movement, as well as the voters who share their concerns, certainly bear watching by those on both sides of the political fence.

Reform and Respect the Breakfast choice for Berkeley County Republicans

There are lots of things to do on a Saturday morning in Berkeley County. For a few hundred people, the morning's to-do list included attending the Berkeley County GOP convention.

There were a few surprises today. The biggest was the announcement by Senator Grooms that he would be forming an exploratory committee for a potential gubernatorial bid.

The keynote speaker was Blogland favorite Comptroller General Richard "Top Gun" Eckstrom, who complimented Senator Grooms on his shoes, which Grooms claimed were made out of a Lake Moultrie alligator, and reminded Congressman Henry Brown there was a statewide burning ban in effect.

Mac McBride was elected to replace long-time state Executive Committee representative Wayland Moody by acclamation. Wayland's long record of service in what is often a thankless job is greatly appreciated and McBride has our best wishes for success.

The reform slate of officer candidates who were endorsed by the Blogland, won big. New Chair Tim Callanan stomped a crony of the outgoing Chair Wade Arnette with 74% of the vote and Cindy Clark was elected Vice-Chair by acclamation.

We appreciated the hospitality of the fine Republicans of Berkeley County, especially our readers who went out of their way to say hello to us. Thanks for tuning in!

Tea Party backlash reveals Democratic hypocrisy and hatred

The Blogland has long noted the hypocrisy of those Democrats who call Republicans angry and misleading, while engaging in like tactics. Some of the responses by Democratic Party leaders at the state and national levels, as well as some bloggers, to the recent tea parties certainly comes across as both misleading and hateful.

In the last two election cycles, Democrats gained electoral ground often by presenting candidates who claimed to be fiscally conservative, but moderate on social issues. Such models would be wise, as national polling suggests about two-thirds of voters generally hold fiscally conservative positions, while about forty percent generally identify with conservative positions on social issues. But in looking at the attacks leveled at the national tea party movement, both politically and personally, one has to wonder if the Democrats really welcome those voters who are fiscally conservative or if they're simply paying lip service and using their votes to gain power in Washington.

Polling has pointed to concerns by many voters about the rapid increase in national debt which would be caused by Obama administration initiatives. It's important to note that many Democrats took GOP congressional seats criticizing increased spending and national debt under the Bush administration. These drastically different points of view about the same kind of issue by Democratic leaders suggests a certain degree of hypocrisy.

A common evasion of reasoned dialogue on important issues of the day can be found through hurling personal insults. On many Democratic-friendly blogsites, we have seen a flood of mean-spirited responses hurled at Democratic critics of the tea parties, often featuring pornographic references to "tea bagging", a sexual act, to refer to the events and those who participated in them.

Reports are that between a half and full million citizens participated in the national tea party events. If organized, this could represent a formidable political force. The present nasty rhetoric directed at this movement by Democrats could well backfire, both with tea party participants and those who share their concerns.

The often contradictory and mean-spirited rhetoric that many Democratic leaders and bloggers have hurled at the tea party movement and its participants should raise the question of whether those voters who generally identify as fiscally conservative are really wanted by the national Democratic leadership. If those voters find their concerns about runaway spending and borrowing unwelcome at best, and hated at worst, by Democratic leaders and activists, the current Democratic majority may be short-lived.

On Monday, we'll talk about why the tea parties matter and why political observers would be wise to watch to see if they represent a larger trend which could prove costly to Democrats.

Senator Grooms' gubernatorial ambitions worth watching

An article posted on the Palmetto Scoop yesterday sparked speculation about a possible gubernatorial bid by Lowcountry Senator Larry Grooms:

For months now, Gov. Mark Sanford has reportedly been looking for a candidate to toss into the 2010 governor’s race.

Names like Rep. Nikki Haley (R-Lexington) and Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) have been frequently vetted through the blog of former Sanford spokesman Will Folks.

But sources say that Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley) may end up being the long-awaiting “Sanford candidate.”

Sen. Danny Verdin (R-Laurens), who is close to both Sanford and Grooms, confirmed that the Berkeley senator is giving a gubernatorial bid “serious consideration.”

While there is much to give naysayers reason to believe that Grooms may have little chance, given the current field of candidates, it is important to note that Grooms has run for office where most Republicans would fear to tread – and won. In 1997, he made his political debut when he ran for the State Senate in a 42% black Senate District. When the last votes came in, his long-shot bid ousted an incumbent Democrat. In 2000, in spite of being the top Democratic target in a Presidential year, when black voter turnout is historically at its peak, he held onto the seat in a 51-49% race. Incidentally, it was the race that gave Republicans control of the Senate. Yours truly worked on both those close races.

Since then, the seat has been redrawn considerably, giving him close to a two-to-one re-election win in 2004 and he was unopposed last year.

His Senate district reaches from the outskirts of McClellanville to west of Walterboro and is mostly inner Lowcountry forests, farmland and swamps, along with over a dozen towns with less than 2,000 in population, isn’t the kind of seat where high-dollar remote-control campaigns can prevail. Key to those wins was Grooms’ work ethic, high level of energy, cheerful spirit and the ability to inspire large grassroots followings. Such abilities would be key to prevailing in a field with well-funded and highly-visible candidates who have held statewide or federal offices.

Grooms, while perhaps being seen as a Sanford ally, he has never been afraid to chart his own course. In 2003, I watched him address the Berkeley County GOP breakfast club, openly astonished that the Governor blasted him as an obstructionist over a single legislative vote. He may be seen as someone who is generally in support of the Governor’s agenda, but he’s smart enough to know that such support can be fickle and that his best course is to follow his own counsel. This is certainly consistent with the Palmetto Scoop article.

While Larry Grooms may not seem to have the right stuff to some, one should consider that past performance can help predict future results. While there are many differences between running statewide and running for a tough swing running Senate district, there’s enough in Grooms’ record to suggest that if he commits, he may be the kind of candidate who could (again) pull off a last-minute upset.

Hangin' with the Knightsville Republican Women

Tonight saw a big turnout at the April meeting of the Summerville-area Knightsville Republican Women Club. Their annual fundraiser saw a who's who of Dorchester County GOP politics, as well as long-time Blogland fan Mary McAbee, the President of the state Republican Women, who drove down from Anderson County for the occasion.

As someone who lives and works in the Summerville area, I'm a regular attendee at their events, which are held at Jumpin' Juice and Java on Dorchester Road at Bacon's Bridge Road, often with my little one in tow.

As always, I appreciated their hospitality, especially since I won one of the two gift baskets that I bid upon.

In case y'all don't know who is who in the photo, Mary McAbee is on the left, with Mikki Hunter, the President of the Knightsville club on the right. Anyone who wants to get involved with the Knightsville Republican Women can drop Mikki an email at

Monday Night with the Barnwell County GOP

The Blogland took a ride out to the middle of nowhere in Barnwell County to visit the Barnwell County GOP at their convention. A beautiful rural county with farms, rolling pastures, and lots of lush forests, as well as darn nice people to spend some of the evening with.

Drew Johnson and his father were there, coming down from Chester to keep Karen Floyd, the probable next SCGOP Chair, visible with the party faithful. It was good to see Drew again.

Barnwell County has been a swing county for many years, home to a mixed population which has long included traditional Democratic voters, as well as rural conservatives and transplants whose work has revolved around the Savannah River Site. Republicans hold about half the courthouse seats and several seats on County Council. Strom Thurmond Jr., whose father once had close relations with the county’s legendary “Barnwell Ring” of well-connected politicos, is their Solicitor these days, and Joe Wilson their Congressman.

What’s really amazed many is that during this round of county conventions, they have mostly been quiet and cordial affairs, or big knock-down, drag-out affairs. Smaller rural counties like Barnwell have largely been friends-and-neighbors affairs. This one saw current Chair Ben Kinlaw re-elected without opposition.

Their hospitality was certainly appreciated and we'll be sure to come back and visit sometime.

John Few: The best of three good Supreme Court candidates

Making a Supreme Court pick ain’t easy. It’s no secret that here in the Blogland, we like our judges tough on criminals, fair to everyone in the courtroom, and competent jurists who interpret and apply law, not make it. When three candidates were released from screening to compete for an upcoming vacancy on the state Supreme Court, we decided to do our own homework to help decide who we thought would make the better judge:

  • 13th Circuit Court Judge John Few
  • Appeals Court Judge Kaye Hearn
  • 9th Circuit Court Judge Deadra Jefferson
After nearly a week of phone calls and emails to solicit opinions from various members of the South Carolina Bar, there was a ton of feedback about all three candidates. All of the feedback was certainly helpful, a lot of it was insightful, and none of it was negative. All three were well-regarded for their legal knowledge, competence as judges, fairness, respect for parties, and their willingness to rule according to the law. Most importantly, all of them were considered fair judges from a law-and-order perspective, which is an important criteria in the Blogland.

To help make a decision, we compared rulings made by two of the candidates about an issue of personal liberty: smoking in private businesses. We’re not big about smoking, but we believe it’s a decision left up to the business owners and their patrons. In 2006, Judge Jefferson ruled in support of a Sullivan’s Island smoking ban and in favor of restricting personal liberties. Three months later, Judge Few ruled against a smoking ban in Greenville, citing a state law which prohibited local legislation. In this, Judge Few ruled correctly by interpreting the law as written, as well as upholding individual liberties.

Judge Few has earned a reputation as recognizing the importance of “new media” in the maintenance of the American tradition of a free press. Last year, he ruled in favor of allowing a reporter from the Rock Hill Herald to blog from the courtroom, for which he was thanked here in the Blogland.

Yours truly has met with Few in the past and found him thoughtful and knowledgable. It seems consistent with what we’ve seen and others have told us about him.

It is also important to note that while most respondents had no clear favorites that they were willing to recommend, those that did supported Judge Few. These insights, along with personal experiences and independent research, speak in favor of his candidacy.

While legislators have three good candidates to choose from, Judge Few comes across the finish line just inches ahead of the pack. The Blogland encourages legislators to do their homework about all three candidates before they cast their votes, but if they want a recommendation, he’s the one recommended by this blog to fill this judicial slot.

Friday night fun with the Dorchester GOP

There's a lot of fun things to do on a Friday night, but in a bedroom community like Summerville, it's possible the Dorchester County GOP convention is the most exciting show in town. Which explains why the Blogland was there (well, it was only 10 minutes away from my office).

In attendance were a number of statewide figures, many of whom had rushed down directly from the Orangeburg GOP's Orange Republican Banquet. Well-known figures in attendance included probable state Chair Karen Floyd, Congressman Henry Brown, Attorney General Henry McMaster, State Treasurer Converse Chellis, and Agriculture Commissioner Hugh "Al Capone" Weathers.

Carol Duncan was elected unopposed to the office of Chairman in a convention that saw very few contested races and little contention. That was until a proposal to elect a pre-selected slate of delegates and alternates to the state convention by Jim Emery was rejected. State Rep. Annette Young challenged Emery's move, which was followed by cheers and a loud "No" vote from the many of the attendees. At that point, ballots delivered from by SCGOP leadership were distributed for direct election of delegates.

After a weekend off, we'll be hitting the road to visit a few more conventions across the lower part of the state. Stay tuned.

VUI: Obama administration off to a bad start

We couldn't agree more with Brian McCarty's observation:

The Obama Administration is not off to the start it had hoped for. Millions take to the streets to protest taxes and Obama’s stimulus plans at “tea parties” around the nation. The President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, is reported in European papers to say that President Obama is weak and meek.

Thursday night with the Williamsburg GOP

On the way back from Greensboro, the Blogland was invited to attend and speak briefly to the Williamsburg County GOP convention, held at Browns BBQ, just north of Kingstree on US 52.

Joining Blogland for the occasion were regional GOP leaders and Blogland fans Tommy Grimes (6th District Chair), Moye Graham (Clarendon County GOP) and Mike Reino (6th District Vice-Chair). Below, they're pictured with Barbara Mishoe, the Williamsburg County GOP Chair, who was re-elected tonight:

For those who wanted to confirm what they saw, Mike is pulling one on Moye:

We won't confirm if the scene we saw out back was Moye kicking the crap out of Mike. You'll have to ask them directly about it.

If you want an alternative view of what happened, check out "Who Let The Riff-Raff Into the Convention?" on Mike Reino's SC6 blog.

Four years ago, there wasn't even a Williamsburg GOP. Two years ago, they organized six precincts and at this convention, there were eighteen. Just like the tea parties yesterday, it looks like Republicans in some places are rallying.

We want to thank our new Republican friends in Williamsburg for their hospitality. We hope to be visiting with them again real soon.

Domino's employees flunk IQ test with YouTube video

People are often warned to be careful what they post online. Yesterday, news coverage examined how two now-former Domino's employees from Conover, NC learned this lesson the hard way:

As cooking videos go, this one was a recipe for trouble.

Two employees of a Catawba County pizza restaurant have been fired and face possible legal action after the pair produced a YouTube video that ... well, wasn't exactly appetizing.

The two, whose identities have not been released but go by the names of Kristy and Michael in the video, said they were employees at a Domino's Pizza establishment in Conover -- until the video surfaced on the Internet, that is.

Now they have been fired, the company says.

The video, which is getting heavy attention by YouTube regulars, is designed as a description of how Domino's pizzas are made. Of course, there's a twist. The video shows the workers picking their noses and sneezing on the food.

This YouTube video shows some moments from the original video, which was pulled from YouTube:

(Thanks to Adam Fogle at the Palmetto Scoop for providing a link to the actual video.

Teaching at UNC Greensboro

I'll be at UNC-Greensboro as a guest lecturer to teach classes today and tomorrow, talking about the effects of new media upon contemporary political culture, so the Blogland is going to take a couple of days off. I've gotten to know some of their faculty through the regional academic association, they invited me to come up, and much to the delight of my students at CofC - who get the week off from class - I accepted their invitation.

I'll be back in town Friday and then heading down to Bluffton on Saturday to teach classes for their local Red Cross chapter. Until I'm back, please feel free to talk amonst yourselves, but please, no wild parties while I'm gone.

Blogland to back Supreme Court candidate?

The Blogland has begun speaking with members of the state Bar to solicit their thoughts regarding the three candidates for the state Supreme Court. This information may be used to publish an endorsement of a particular candidate.

Those with opinions and insights regarding the candidates are asked to drop an email to While input from attorneys is important, information will also be accepted from other interested parties, such as law enforcement, victims' advocates and those who have appeared in front of the judges.

The three candidates are also invited to do the standard Q&A that the Blogland regularly does for judicial candidates.

As per standard Blogland policy, all information provided, as well as the identities of those who contact us, will be kept confidential.

Lame Duck Sanford's Last Stand

Governor Sanford's latest stand over accepting federal bailout dollars has mired him in considerable controversy. While state and national Democrats have gone to great lengths to pummel him publicly over his position, the silence from Republican ranks over his position has been nearly unanimous.

While we're sure some of the silence can be attributed to those Republicans of more moderate fiscal outlooks who want the money to continue inflating the state's budget, a lot of the silence and indifference can likely be attributed to the hurt feelings caused by many unethical and abusive acts that Sanford has directed towards many Republican legislators.

Just ask Treasurer Converse Chellis, who was subjected to misleading and hurtful personal attacks as a last-ditch tactic to keep him from being elected Treasurer.

Just ask John Kuhn, who supported more of the Governor's budget veto overrides than any other Senator, only to find a long-time Sanford buddy recruited and supported openly by the Sanford team, including Jenny Sanford herself.

Just ask GOP legislators who were asked to insert Sanford's requests into state budgets, only to watch him line-item veto those items.

Sanford has shown no willingness to work with legislators, but has gone to almost any length to get anyone he disagrees with - even to allowing his political thugs to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed money in a manner reminiscent of the video poker barons Sanford once loudly criticized. This dishonest modus operandi has given more liberal Republicans political cover to ignore the long-overdue need for more budget restraint in Columbia. In the current showdown over the Obama money, it gives Republicans every reason to leave Sanford to fend for himself and no reason whatsoever to go out of their way to help him.

Contrasted to the leadership of the late great Governor Carroll Campbell, who earned bipartisan support for reform initiatives and had Democrats rally to defend him against personal attacks, Sanford's leadership has led him to a dead end where he has few friends and little to show for two terms as Governor. This is far from the standard of reform-minded leadership that he once promised the voters of the state.

VUI & the Anderson storm

The Blogland was informed that fellow blogger Brian McCarty - the Voting Under The Influence dude - was under the weather last night - quite literally. It seems as if the storms that swept the Upstate hammered his part of Anderson County pretty bad. He reported that a couple of family members had damage to their cars and his computer was fried.

He may be offline for a few days. We're sure the Governor's office ain't complaining.

The many lineups of Rob Halford

We've had a lot of complaints about the declining share of Blogland content devoted to discussing music, so we've decided it's time to do something about that ...

There are few acts in the heavy metal scene who have been more enduring or had a greater influence than Judas Priest. Led by Rob Halford, they've been kicking ass and taking names since the mid-1970s. If you've caught them in their recent tours or listened to their two post-Halford reunion albums Angel of Retribution and Nostradamus, you'd agree.

If you don't agree, then you're hopeless.

In addition to being the all-around Metal God and vocalist for Judas Priest, Rob Halford has performed in guest appearances with a number of bands and lineups over the years:

Delivering the goods with Skid Row

Devil's child with Fight and Sebastian Bach (Skid Row)

Grinder with Pantera

NIB with Black Sabbath at Ozzfest 2004

Paranoid, again with Sabbath at Ozzfest

You've got another thing coming with Sum 41 & Tommy Lee

Payoffs in the SCGOP Chair race?

... nope, that's not what we're doing - but we bet that headline got your attention.

The winner of our recent reader appreciation contest where we rewarded our readers by offering them a chance to sound off about what they love - or hate - about the Blogland is none other than now-former SCGOP Chair candidate (and outgoing Spartanburg GOP Chair) Rick Beltram.

  • Rick wins two free nights of hotel accomodations courtesy of the Blogland.
  • Brian McCarty with Voting Under The Influence will have Anthrax mailed to his house.

This isn't the first time we've had contest to give our readers free stuff. Last summer, we gave away a free ticket to the Metal Masters tour, which featured Judas Priest, Black Sabbath and Motorhead. In October 2007, we gave away free CDs and books to our readers.

As you can see, we love our readers and want to keep them happy. All the other blogs just talk - but here in the Blogland, we ROCK! For those of you who participated, THANK YOU. For those who didn't, your loss - be sure to play next time!

Ryggs wins Spartanburg GOP Chair in a landslide

Initial reports are that LaDonna Ryggs ousted incumbent Rick Beltram in the race for the Spartanburg GOP Chairmanship. Our sources report that she prevailed by a margin of nearly three to one.

Rick Beltram also withdrew from the SCGOP Chair race, according to this email we received tonight:

I have decided as of April 7th, to withdraw from the SCGOP race. For more information , please call my cell.

We wish to congratulate LaDonna and thank Rick for his years of service to Upstate Republicans.

Charleston Tea Party report

Long-time Berkeley County GOP activist Bryan Keelin is helping to organize what we've been told is a big-big Tea Party for the Lowcountry on April 15:

The Charleston Tea Party w/Jim DeMint
Also Keith Malinak from 94.3 WSC & Rocky D from WTMA 1250

Tax Day - April 15, 2009
5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Old Customs House in Downtown Charleston
200 East Bay Street

You can find out more by visiting their website:

Wes Donehue & Internet phone banking

Since neither he, nor his boss, are running for the office of SCGOP Chair, Wes hits another valid point about how the SCGOP is NOT using technology:

The South Carolina Victory program has always centered on regional phone banks located in the most populated areas of the state. While traditional phone banking should continue, we must begin utilizing technology and connecting areas of the state without phone banks. We must also give volunteer opportunities to those who want to help but cannot while phone banks are open. The answer lies with new online phone banking technology.

Studies show that the majority of Americans have a computer in their home. We now have the technology to recruit, organize, and activate home volunteer phone bankers. It’s actually very simple. The SCGOP must create a new system that lets us upload lists and scripts. Volunteers would simply log on to the website and make calls while sitting in front of their computer. Results from the calls would be entered directly back into the computer and reported back to the SCGOP headquarters in real time.

Volunteers could have the option to call voters in their area, but they could also log on and help campaigns in other areas. For example, currently we are in an off-election year, but there is a special election for Statehouse going on in Cherokee County. A Democrat held the seat up until his recent passing, but now Republicans have a chance to pick up the seat. This technology would allow voters in Charleston, Columbia, and even Myrtle Beach to make volunteer calls into Cherokee County to help the party pick up a new seat.

His blog write-up makes an excellent point, which is why you should read it - especially if you are one of two people who are planning to be the next SCGOP Chair.

Looking at 2010 AG race prospects

  • Trey Gowdy from Spartanburg County, 7th Circuit Solicitor,
  • Jim Harrison from Richland County, current House Judiciary Chair,
  • Ken Wingate from Richland County, former Interim State Treasurer and '02 Guv candidate,
  • Alan Wilson from Lexington County, former 11th Circuit prosecutor and son of Congressman Joe Wilson,
  • Walt Wilkins from Greenville County, current US Attorney for South Carolina, and
  • David Pascoe, from Calhoun County, current 1st Circuit Solicitor and the only Democrat on this list (though he enjoys close relations with many Republicans in his circuit).
All in all, this is a pretty impressive list of potential candidates. A number of them have experience in the political arena, which would help them wage candidacies.

One name that we've heard speculation over is one of our favorites - Rock Hill Republican Tommy Pope. Pope was elected 16th Circuit Solicitor in 1992 and stepped down mid-term in 2006. Best known for his prosecution of Susan Smith, he has one of the most aggressive prosecution records, rivaling his former mentor Midlands Solicitor Donnie "Doctor Death" Meyers, as well as a high-energy, hands-on approach to campaigning in past races.

Tommy Pope would, like the others mentioned on VUI, be a strong contender and we'd encourage him to look at entering the race.

If some or all of these candidates enter the race, look for it to be a non-stop race from start to finish in November of next year.

James Island High School, Class of 89 reunion event

Those of you who know me know that I didn't finish high school twenty years ago. For a lot of reasons which don't need to be rehashed here - or anywhere else - I didn't finish high school, instead opting for the sometimes-painful "long road" of a GED and college as a non-traditional student.

If I had done stayed in school (which I wish I would have done), I would have graduated with James Island High School's Class of 1989. While I'm not sure I'd be remembered - or liked - by many, I had at least a few friends among this bunch back in the day, and I hope they all have a good time at the event.

As a lot of Blogland readers are in, or from, the Lowcountry, if you are one of these people, or know someone who might be, have them visit the 20th reunion website:

If this is of interest to you or someone you know, then mark the calendar for their upcoming reunion event:

DATE: Saturday, July 11, 2009
Place: Sheraton Hotel North Charleston Convention Center,
4770 Goer Drive, Charleston, SC 29406
Time: 6-11 PM (6-7 PM Check-in & cocktail hour
7-7:15 Short program, 7:15-8 PM Dinner then dancing
Dress: Casual Cocktail

... it's almost enough to justify a trip down to James Island to check out my old locker:

Yeah ... welllllll ... don't ask. There were a lot of reasons I didn't finish high school and leave it at that.

Calling on the Jolly Green Giant

We'll reiterate our call from earlier this week (Obama money flap overlooks the real problem), where we asked those concerned about the state budget to demand the Legislature and Governor work together to develop a better long-range approach to budgeting:

It's time for an honest look at the root causes of the state budget shortfall. The revenues which fund the state budget are cyclical: when the economy goes up, revenues grow at a rate often faster than growth, and when the economy slips, revenues tend to sink faster than the rate of contraction. The reckless spending and budget growth of recent years spent billions of dollars of surplus money that could have been banked away for a rainy day.

State budgets under Governor Campbell and Hodges suffered greatly during recessions, and a lot of the legislative players around now were around then. They should not be surprised at the current turn of events, nor should they be attempting to pin all the blame on Sanford. While it's important to find a resolution to the current situation, it is also time for all concerned to make a solid effort to rein in spending growth and plan ahead for future downturns. Anything less is inexcusable.

Those who are concerned about the current budget crisis, whether they support or oppose Sanford's actions, should demand that steps be taken to follow a more fiscally responsible course in the future, and that everyone in the legislative process work together to chart that course.

This is so important that we think our readers should be sure to impress upon all sorts of legislators the importance of this effort.

And if you're passing through Florence, you might want to get Senator Leatherman to get on board with this effort as well. After all, we're sure he stands for goodness.

Inside Interview: Rep. Anton Gunn

One of the least low-key of the large pack of House freshmen is Richland County Representative Anton Gunn. Winning his second bid for House District 79, formerly held by Blogland favorite Bill Cotty, he has made a bit of a splash in Midlands politics. Holding a Master’s in Social Work from USC, where he played football (and looks very much like a football player), Representative Gunn makes his living as the President of Top Gunn Associates (but doesn’t look like Tom Cruise), a public affairs consulting firm.

He’s a regular Blogland reader and has been named one of the “Twitter Caucus”, regularly firing away tweets. From that, we seem to know what he’s doing on a daily basis – so much so, that sometimes we feel like a stalker. A rather outgoing guy, he’s always quick to greet whenever yours truly runs into him around Columbia, so it makes sense that he’d gladly accept an offer to do an Inside Interview.

1) You’ve been active in politics for a while as a policy advocate, and now you’re one of those who makes decisions. What are some of the more notable differences?

Making decisions? I would not call what I do in the House as decision-making. To me decision-making implies that you have definitive control over the agenda. In the House of Representatives, I am not privileged enough to dictate what happens or what issues get put on the agenda. However, I do get the opportunity to vote on issues that are put up by the leadership in the House of Representatives. So, I take my voting responsibility very seriously.

Your second question is about what’s different on this side of the policy table? I think the most notable difference between being a policy advocate and an elected member of the General Assembly is how we reach solutions. As a policy advocate I developed my position on issues by thoughtful discussion with everyone involved and I tried to develop a comprehensive solution that people on all sides could live with. In the House, I don’t get the chance to do that very much. We don’t spend much time discussing comprehensive bi-partisan solutions to common problems. Instead we develop Republican solutions or Democratic solutions, but not South Carolina Solutions. As an advocate, I didn’t get caught up in “the party’s agenda” or sticking together just because “we are in the same party”. Advocates discuss the merits of ideas and policies, it doesn’t matter which party it came from. Ideas aren’t democratic or republican, they are just ideas. They should be debated and supported as such, but in the House it’s not like that most times. There have been good ideas that have been voted down because it came from a member who was in the wrong party. Likewise there were bad ideas that were passed because they came from members who were in the right party.

I am annoyed by all the hyper-partisanship. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t think it was this bad. I think this is the main reason why we are not having success as a state. I thought we all would have understood that South Carolinians are fed up with the extreme partisanship. They want us to solve our problems together, but we don’t ever take off our “team’s jersey” and talk about issues together. We don’t sit down in meetings and break bread together to discuss the merits and ideas of our political philosophies, to come up with some consensus and principles that we can agree upon. This is what needs to be done to move forward. From there we should then strive to make good public policy. Instead, what happens is we make public policy based upon what the party or the think tank tells us to do.

2) What are some issues that aren’t getting the attention in the State House?

Wow, where do I begin? Let me start with the obvious--Job Creation. We have to address our 2nd in the nation unemployment. I don’t understand why it isn’t a top priority to pursue policy changes that would offer more incentives for small businesses to create new jobs. We also aren’t talking about our woefully inadequate infrastructure (roads, water, sewer and broadband). This infrastructure would help stimulate economic development (attracting large businesses that will bring in new jobs). I think being focused on getting our economy working again is the most important thing we can do for the citizens of our state.

Also, there is some discussion about restructuring government to make it more effective, efficient and accountable, but it’s not nearly at the level it should be. To address the long standing problems of education, health care, economic development we need to change the way our government does business. If there is any time to change how we do business in South Carolina, now is the time. Government restructuring should be higher on our agenda. I could go on and on with other issues that aren’t getting much attention, like the cost of health care, green energy, tax policies, and education reform, but I won’t go there. I could write a dissertation on the subject.

3) We were told that your family and faith are important to you. How do they influence how you approach politics?

My faith and family are what grounds me in my politics. First, my faith is the reason why I am involved in politics. God gives us all a purpose in life, that purpose is to be of service to Him. We execute that service to God through life ministries. Some people have the ministry to preach, teach, write, sing, minister, evangelize or even volunteer. I believe that my purpose in ministry is to serve in government. I believe that we need men and women of God involved our government, not to press our personal religious beliefs on others but to use our faith to be thoughtful and deliberate in our decisions because those decisions will impact His people.

We all should be willing to serve in government, just as we are willing to serve in churches, charities, even the military. So that’s my approach to politics. I take it just as seriously as I would volunteering in church, serving in the armed forces or helping in a nonprofit charitable organization. I see them as equally important. We should be mindful of how important it is for us to do the right things for people in where ever we work.

Second, my family is the lens that I can measure the effectiveness of my service in government. I have a beautiful wife who is a consummate businesswoman, mother and wife. She works very hard handling the day-to-day struggles of the real world; she doesn’t have time for politics or policy issues. She is the average Jane Q. She serves as a good sounding board on issues. I can talk with her about policy issues and she will give me “straight-talk” about how things would play out in her world. Tiffany helps me to see if things make common-sense or are they non-sense. Also, my daughter Ashley is a major influence. She is 4 years old. Every morning I get up, I think about what am I going to do today to make the world better for Ashley when she is my age? What kind of South Carolina do I want Ashley to grow up in? That’s what I think about. Then I think about, what I can do now to make our state better in her future, for all of our children’s future?

Lastly, my parents and my brother’s story influence my politics. My mother was an educator for 30 years. My father was a Naval Officer and is now a veterans’ counselor. One of my brothers, Cherone Gunn was in the United States Navy until he was killed 9 years ago in an Al-Qaeda terror attack aboard the USS Cole. Through his death and my parent’s example I have mastered the qualities of service, sacrifice and leadership. I live these qualities in my personal life. These are qualities that I bring with me into politics. These are the most important qualities, outside of faith in God, that I believe all leaders should have. So my faith and family are essential to my politics. I just think it’s so important.

4) You’re on Twitter, you read blogs – you’re very much a “new media” person. What are some of the big impacts that these technologies have had on how you do politics?

New Media is changing the way politics is being done all over America. These new mediums allow voters and others to see different sides of politics and politicians. In the past, all you learned from politicians were their stances on the issues. And you only learned it from their brochure or their media talking points. Now with New Media like Twitter and Facebook, you can see what are their interests outside of politics. Learning what people do for a living, what kind of music they like, where they shop or eat dinner gives voters and the public a 3-dementional view of the people who represent them. I think it also helps to hold people more accountable because it makes their role in government more transparent. It also allows the public to become active participants in politics. The more people actively get involved in politics the better government we will get. The more inclusive politics becomes the more effective government will be. I appreciate these new mediums because it not only has changed campaign operations, it is changing the governing process. New Media is moving politics from a process of exclusion and seclusion to a process of inclusion, transparency and accountability. That is what I love about New Media.

Time for the SCGOP Chair race to end (this is not an April Fool's joke)

The withdrawal of Kevin Hall from the race for the Chairmanship of the South Carolina Republican Party marks a turning point in the race for this important office.

Hall's withdrawal was the right thing to do for his family. No office is worth risking ones life over. It was also the right decision for the South Carolina GOP, as a Chair in poor health would have a difficult time rallying the party for what is expected to be a hotly contested election year in 2010.

While some Hall supporters will no doubt shift their support to Beltram, it is highly unlikely that he has the ability to wage a competitive campaign in the remaining weeks. Therefore the facts on the ground, like them or not, suggest that Karen Floyd will win the race for SCGOP Chair, and probably by a comfortable margin.

As the Blogland was always far more concerned with who wins in November 2010 than May 2009, it is our position that if the chairman's race is essentially over, then South Carolina Republicans can begin the preparations needed to face aggressive efforts by the Democrats to score upsets in statewide and congressional races next year.

The initial intent of the Blogland was to maintain an interested neutrality, serving as a watchdog to help keep more aggressive agents in check, and trying to contribute to keeping the race focused on being positive and constructive. Given this turn of events, we believe that this role will serve little or no constructive purpose. Thus it is time to make a decision, and in the interests of full disclosure, make that position known to our readers.

To help begin building that team, the Blogland endorses Karen Floyd for the Chairmanship of the South Carolina Republican Party.

There are many concerns about her ability to lead the party and serve as a unifying voice. As payback for not supporting Floyd in the Education race two years ago, the Blogland's Minister of Propaganda was labeled a RINO by a number of her more vocal supporters and the target of more than one cheap shot attack by those supporters. If Floyd wishes to be the leader of all Republicans, this kind of divisive conduct should be repudiated early in her tenure.

In her campaign for the Chairmanship, Karen Floyd has asked Republicans to put their trust and their hopes in her hands. We hope that she is ready to live up to her promises and lead the party to victory next year. By endorsing her, she has our full support towards that lofty goal.

Congress goes You Tube

Today being April Fool's Day (and you know what - the General Assembly is in session), we thought it was a terrible day to be serious. So we'll share this Comedy Central clip where Lewis Black offers his unique perspective on Congress going to YouTube: