This guest op-ed comes to us from Stephanie Rawlinson, 1st Vice Chair of the Florence County GOP and Broker-in-Charge of the McLaughlin Company, a Pee Dee real estate and commercial development company. As always, if you have something you'd like to share with our readers, you are welcome to submit a guest editorial via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, I seem to have ruffled some feathers when I made this statement:
The Pee Dee still has a major hurdle to cross, if a person is sincere about protecting the Pee Dee they should spend time defending it to the Justice Department and assuring we get the 7th District rather than campaigning for a seat that has not yet been finalized. A person who announces a candidacy before the Justice Department rules shows no regard for the process, a serious immaturity in judgment, a lack of concern for the region and an unwillingness to put their own desires second to the advancement of the Pee Dee.
Many have asked me what exactly I meant when I said this, so I am going to spend a little time and clarify my statement.
Back in the Spring of 2011, the process of redistricting South Carolina began. The SC House and Senate both held hearings in every region of South Carolina. There were two hearings held in Florence County at Florence Darlington Technical College. Hundreds of Pee Dee residents cared enough to show up to testify before the house and senate sub-committees. A person’s involvement and willingness to serve the 7th district began there. Many of those who have announced for this district, or are potential candidates, didn’t even bother to show up at any of these well publicized hearings. It was at these hearings that people expressed their desires on the record and testified as to why the Pee Dee deserved the 7th District.
So my question is: "Was the district not important to these candidates back in the spring of 2011 and why have they just now decided to get involved and serve this region of SC?" Why were they not willing to stand up and speak in favor of this district at those hearings last spring?
One should give credit where credit is due. There are some proposed candidates who were there and who did stand up for this region but there are a significant number who did not.
Second, for those of you who missed it, there was an actual battle for the 7th district in the Senate back in the spring. It was a very well publicized battle which those in this region of SC called the Pee Dee Push. Twice, the Pee Dee Coalition for the 7th took large groups of people to Columbia to lobby, attend and testify at judiciary hearings, attend committee meetings, hold press conferences, wave signs, and work toward the development of the new 7th Congressional district. There were so many activists, local politicians and interested parties attending that a chartered bus was needed to take them all to Columbia. The local county Republican Parties spent hard-earned money to publish a newspaper, print flyers, and print signs. They also made buttons, designed t-shirts and spent hours in the SC map rooms drawing and redrawing maps. Hours were spent on phones, on social media sources and in meetings with elected officials putting political pressure where pressure needed to be put to get the job done for the Pee Dee. Even more hours were spent sending emails and letters to SC Representatives, Senators and local and state media to bring attention to the Pee Dee’s need for representation.
This was an all-hands-on-deck project and everyone in the region was asked to help on numerous occasions. The people who actually worked to get this district moved to the Pee Dee know who was there and who worked. Funny thing about the people of the Pee Dee, they have the memory of an elephant and they don’t forget.
So the next question is: "Where were all of these announced and potential 7th district candidates (several of which are attorneys and former legislators) who could have been a tremendous help to this group when the actual work to get the district was being done?" Why, after the majority of the work is done, should those who didn’t help get the district be the one who “serve the district”? Why should anyone believe these candidates will stand up for the needs of this district if they were not there when the district needed them most?
Third, the Pee Dee 7th district is not a sure thing. It is wonderful that everyone in the Pee Dee is celebrating and excited about having this new possible opportunity for real representation. However, at this point, the congressional map has not received preclearance by the US Justice Department. Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell and House Speaker Bobby Harrell have filed lawsuits asking the courts to intervene and approve this district but it has not happened yet.
Those who were working during the initial phases of redistricting in the spring and summer are still working towards obtaining this judicial approval. So finally I have to ask: "Where are these candidates and potential candidates now? How much effort have they, or are they willing to, put forth to assure this region of the state gets the 7th district which they think is important enough to ask for the right to represent?"