Rep. Jeff Duncan refuses Obama-ordered pay raise

For another example of politicos who put leadership ahead of ego, the Blogland commends Third District Congressman Jeff Duncan for showing real fiscal leadership during the ongoing disputes over how to resolve the "fiscal cliff" showdown in Washington.

This evening, Duncan was the first member of South Carolina's congressional delegation to reject the federal pay raise ordered by President Obama:

The timing of President Obama’s executive order to raise salaries for Members of Congress and the Vice President shows how out of touch with reality the President is when it comes to spending. Congress doesn’t need a pay raise, and if given a raise I will return it. This executive order highlights the President’s serious lack of judgment when it comes to spending money. President Obama’s decision gives every American the right to question his judgment in managing our nation’s finances. Raising taxes will result in more government spending, not less debt for our children and grandchildren. I will not be fooled into believing that Washington intends to use tax increases to pay down the debt.

It's hard to manage a spending crisis if you just want to spend more, especially considering many private sector employers haven't been able to give raises for years. It's time Washington got it and led by example.

*** about 11pm on 12/31, Senator Tim Scott announced that he would join Duncan in refusing the pay raise.

Paul Thurmond: Leadership ahead of ego

Paul Thurmond has gotten a reputation for being the kind of guy who keeps his ego in check and wants to get things done. Watching the way he didn't use his family's reputation as others will do to win elections as well as his quiet and thoughtful nature gives the impression of a real leader, not just the ego-centered politicos who thrive in South Carolina politics.

Today, Thurmond provided another example in shutting down speculation that he would seek to run for the First Congressional District seat being vacated by incoming Senator Tim Scott:

I am humbled by the numerous calls I have received encouraging me to run for Congress. While I never actively engaged in exploring a run for Congress, I felt obligated to listen to the opinions of the people that recently elected me. After thoughtful consideration and prayer, consultation with my family and countless calls from constituents, I am convinced that I can best serve the people of District 41 by ending any speculation about my interest in the open Congressional seat. I will not run in the 1st District Congressional special election. I will focus all of my energies on implementing the policies that are important to my constituents as their State Senator. I hope that by making this statement my supporters who have withheld support of an announced candidate pending my decision will be comfortable getting involved in this very important race. I also hope that this announcement assures the people of my district that my focus is on serving them not on political opportunity.

If only we had more people like him in state politics.

Today's Birthday Triple: Graham, Lisella and Martin

Sometimes, good things come in threes and there aren't many occasions better suited for good things and great times than New Years' Eve. In that spirit, the Blogland wants to wish a very Happy Birthday and an early Happy New Year's to three well-known and accomplished South Carolina politicos who are celebrating their birthdays today:

Moye Graham, the Chair of the Clarendon County Republican Party, a well-traveled international man of mystery and one of the legendary Four Horsemen of the Political Apocalypse. He's on a roll these days, having attended his second national convention as a delegate, this time carrying the votes of 87% of the Sixth District convention delegates.

Mark Lisella, a Lowcountry native who has become a well-known national Republican political strategist and direct mail guru. He's been on a long winning streak in recent election cycles, especially in North Carolina races, and is resting up after a tough election year.

Shane Martin, a Spartanburg County State Senator and automotive R&D engineering consultant who is gearing up for election to a second term in the Senate. His first race was a stunning landslide upset of the incumbent Senator by roughly two-to-one in the 2008 GOP run-off. He'll be kicking off his second term in the Senate and we look forward to working with him..

Secretary of State-run elections? Not a good idea.

With the recent election debacle in Richland County drawing attention to the flaws of county-run elections, there's been a lot of talk about how to reform the process to get local politics and backroom dealing out of the way of fair and efficient elections. While it's past time to overhaul how elections are run in South Carolina, having the Secretary of State's office oversee state elections would ask for trouble and politicize what has been a pretty professional and non-partisan office.

Before we go any farther, it's important to point out that the Blogland is a big fan of the current Secretary of State. He has done a good job with the duties of the office, raising awareness of charity issues, cracking down on counterfeit goods and making the office's business-related functions more user-friendly for individuals and businesses.

While it seems reasonable to look at other state government functions that might fit under his office, moving elections under the control of the Secretary of State's office could well invite trouble.

Check those employee handbooks

This story is cross-posted from my professional blog: Earl Capps: On The Job as a professional guide to keep you out of trouble in the workplace.

While the employee handbook was once an afterthought of companies, seldom reviewed and updated even less often, it's one of the biggest liabilities for employers with regard to lawsuits and actions by federal regulatory agencies.

The truth that catches some employers off-guard, especially smaller ones who don't have dedicated HR staff or who don't have well-supported human resources operations, is that the employee handbook is one of the most widely-circulated company documents. Thus employers should take it seriously and make sure whatever goes into it should be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb.

Walton Cartoon: "Santabama"

Senator Tim Scott: Major NLRB critic moves to the Senate

If there's anything one can be sure of about the appointment of South Carolina Congressman Tim Scott to replace Jim DeMint, who is resigning from the Senate to lead the Heritage Foundation, is that he's not going to be any friendlier to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or organized labor than DeMint was.

If anything, Scott's record in the House suggests he'll be even more vocal on these issues than DeMint. WScott sponsored three bills in the last session of the House related to the NLRB and union activity in workplaces:

  • H.R. 1976 and 2587, both sponsored by Scott, would bar the NLRB from directing companies to close or move plants or jobs.
  • H.R. 2810 - The “Employee Rights Act”, would require the use of secret balloting to unionize a workplace and require a renewal vote every three years. It would also set guidelines on how these elections are to be conducted.

While in the House, Scott received very low scores on scorecards issued by three labor unions:

  • AFL-CIO: Voted with them on just one out of 20 votes in 2012 and received a zero score in 2011.
  • AFSCME: Zero score
  • SEIUVoted against their position on 8 out of 9 bills, no score assigned

With the direct impact of the NLRB being felt in South Carolina, where it moved to try to block Boeing's expansion in Charleston, as well as threatened to block the state from enacting legislation to codify the 2010 referendum allowing workers to decide workplace issues via secret ballot, it's not likely that Scott will back off his stance when he crosses over to the Senate next month.

Attacks on Tim Scott overlook the facts

As speculation grows over who will be appointed to replace the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Jim DeMint, a number of activists have decided to attack First District Congressman Tim Scott, who is considered one of those most likely to be appointed to the seat by Governor Haley.

Instead of taking these attacks at face value, the Blogland decided to obtain the Congressional ratings and voting scorecards kept by seven groups, three conservative and four liberal. In looking at these scorecards, the claims that Scott is liberal don't seem very credible. In fact, scorecards issued by three of the more noted conservative groups out there, including the long-running American Conservative Union, give Tim very high ratings:

Walton Cartoon: The Cliff

SCDOR Hacking: Where's the email?

Yesterday, legislators in both the House and Senate held hearings regarding the hacking of the state Department of Revenue.

First up in the House seatingwas Marshall Heilman, an IR security consultant with Mandiant, an IT security company. In the process of giving legislators in the House hearings an overview of the chronology of the hacking and an assessment of what was done and how, he alluded to the likely cause of the hack as a "phishing" email, which encourages readers to click on a link or open an attachment, either of which breach security protocols and allow hackers to gain access to a computer network. 

During questioning, Beaufort State Rep. Shannon Erickson questioned Heilman's "theory" about the email being the cause and asked what other possible causes could have contributed. Heliman indicated there was no other likely cause. 

Later in the questioning, Erickson asked for a copy of the email and was told no copies of the email could be found.

Yeah, that does seem strange that in the less than two months' time that lapsed between the alleged first entry into the system and the detection of the breach of security, that no email archives were kept. But it's not the first time questions have been raised about email archiving in state government, but with an issue like this, the lack of email archives present additional challenges.

Senate vacancy update: ACU likes Scott, Wilkins not interested, Colbert in lead, Haley not saying today

For those of you who are following the ongoing developments, here's a look at the last 24 or so hours of the Senate vacancy process:

American Conservative Union leader backs Tim Scott:

Al Cardenas, the Chair of the ACU, released a statement last night backing Scott:

On behalf of the American Conservative Union, I urge South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to make history and appoint Representative Tim Scott to the United States Senate. A strong conservative leader, Rep. Scott has an ACU rating of 96 and was elected as one of two members chosen by his colleagues to represent the 85 member Republican freshmen class at the leadership table.

David Wilkins - not interested: 

The former state House Speaker and Ambassador to Canada told the Greenville News he wasn't interested in the appointment. Wilkins said he would have considered serving as a two-year placeholder but Haley's decision to appoint a Senator interested in long-term tenure shut the door.

Colbert leads Scott for seat in poll:

poll released by Public Policy Polling showed Stephen Colbert, who grew up on James Island, leading other potential picks for the Senate seat. Tim Scott and Trey Gowdy followed Colbert.

Haley not talking - today:

Late yesterday afternoon, Haley's office put the word out that a meeting with Scott or an announcement would not be in her schedule today, when she is scheduled to visit the Charleston area, the heart of Scott's congressional district.

Florence County crony hire "saves" money?

Only in places like Florence County could hiring an unqualified good ol' boy be considered a way to save money - which is exactly what the hiring of Rusty Smith, Florence County Council's Chair, to serve as County Administrator is being called.

The "Rusty Re-Do", the second attempt by Council members to give Smith the job, hired Smith for roughly the same salary as the outgoing administrator, who was sent packing with a six-month salary severance after his first year on the job.

Not surprisingly, the departing administrator, who was hired after Smith's first attempt to get the job was torpedoed by negative publicity, was shown the door after he faced "resistance" in his job. We're pretty sure some of that resistance came from Council members who wanted to give Smith the job in the first place, which they did just before several members of Council left following the November elections.

Haley rules out "placeholder" Senator, to visit Lowcountry tomorrow

According to the schedule for Governor Haley, she has scheduled to visits in the Charleston metro area for tomorrow:

Tuesday, December 11, 12:00 PM: Gov. Haley will hold a media availability at Boeing’s welcome center after she tours the facility and visits employees, 5400 International Boulevard, North Charleston, S.C.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2:00 PM: Gov. Haley will join Mayor Riley and other officials for a business visit and economic development announcement, Benefitfocus, 125 Benefitfocus Way, Charleston, S.C.

Will this include an announcement regarding the appointment of a replacement for outgoing Senator Jim DeMint?

Congressman Tim Scott, who lives in North Charleston and was a key player in bringing Boeing to the Lowcountry, is considered by many to be a top prospect for the appointment and was recommended by DeMint to fill the seat. Of the names which have been floated, including former AG Henry McMaster and State Rep. Ralph Norman, Scott is the only Lowcountry name which has been given any serious regard by political observers.

DeMint resignation to fuel Senate feeding frenzy in 2014

The announcement by Senator Jim DeMint to step down from his Senate seat early is bound to make the 2014 election cycle a circus in South Carolina.

The decision by the Senator to accept the job to replace outgoing Heritage Foundation President Ed Fuelner only halfway surprised some. A lot of politicos we talked with recently figured he'd seek some role to stay in national politics once he left the Senate, but nobody expected him leave the Senate with four years left in his second term.

This opens up two cans of worms: first in appointing a replacement Senator to fill in until the 2014 election, and then by setting up a two-seat Senate race for the 2014 cycle, to elect a replacement for the remainder of DeMint's term, along with the regular race for Graham's seat.

With the holiday season upon us, the appointment process will be interesting to watch.

Already talk is circulating about a number of appointment prospects, including former AG and SCGOP Chair Henry McMaster, who ran for the Senate in 1986, as well as Congressmen Mick Mulvaney and Tim Scott, both of who have been mentioned as prospects for DeMint's seat in 2016.

It's interesting to note that South Carolina appointed Senators have a history of never going on to serve full-terms, being rejected in their quests to return to Washington with voter support. Even though these took place in the pre-Civil Rights days when South Carolina's political landscape was run by Democratic machines, it will be interesting to see if/how voters will accept an appointee. 

Hang on to your hats, folks, this could get strange real soon. 

You shouldn't believe everything you hear about Alan Clemmons

You hear a lot of big talk and hot air in Columbia.  The Blogland has to sort through it all the time, as part of our ongoing missing to try to get to the truth of the matters to help inform and influence our readers.

It would be easier to just buy them off, but we didn't have the budget for that, and a lot of them are too honest anyway.

As part of our ongoing fact-checking mission, we're going to discuss some things we've heard that Alan Clemmons may try to tell you today:
  • When he tells you he's just 37, he's probably handing you a line.
  • When he tells you today's his birthday, he's telling you the truth.
So be sure to wish him a Happy Birthday!

House ethics reform process good news, but it won't be enough

Yesterday's organizational session in the state House showed the leadership taking a welcome step forward by establishing equal membership for both parties in the State House, mirroring how Congressional ethics committees are set up. While it's a good temporary measure that will allow both sides to keep an eye on each other, more work is needed.

Legislators have begun work and are promising action in the near future with the intent of addressing the substantive needs for tighter oversight as well as convince the public that whatever reforms are adopted are real. For now, we'll watch closely and give them time to work on something meaningful.

The problem is that any reforms which are adopted won't address every aspect of the process, especially with regard to efforts to outside interests who refuse to open up the same kind of scrutiny that applies to legislators. Unfortunately, federal court rulings mean it's a lot easier for legislators and state government to regulate themselves than to apply those same standards to others, especially when it comes to greater transparency over cash spent to influence the political process.

This problem has long been a concern of the Blogland, which has regularly sounded off on the need for more oversight over third-party groups which seek to influence elections and policy in South Carolina.

Another reason for tougher Work Zone enforcement in South Carolina

Yesterday was another sad lesson in the need to crack down on work zone violators in South Carolina, when a motorist was charged with DUI with an incident which an SCDOT worker was hit and killed on Interstate 20:

The driver of the car that killed a state Department of Transportation worker on Interstate 20 in Lexington County Monday afternoon has been charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident, according to the state Highway Patrol.
Thomas Lee Stafford, 39, is accused of driving drunk when his 2003 Nissan SUV hit Nicholas Johnson and fatally wounded Nicholas Johnson, who was walking along the road’s emergency lane near mile marker 62, according to Highway Patrol spokesman Brent Kelly.

Make no mistake about it, the dangers of work zones are real. If you doubt it, I invite you to spend some time in work zones, which is part of what I've done for a living for over a decade as an HR and Safety Manager.

While you might think it's just workers who are in harm's way, think again:

North Charleston, State reach deal for Charleston port rail access

A long-running battle between the state and City of North Charleston over rail access to port facilities at the site of the former Charleston Naval Base was settled earlier today, with North Charleston agreeing to end its efforts to block rail access from the north end of the facility in return for a number of concessions from the state to mitigate the impact of traffic.

A key concern was that the lack of northern rail access would leave the port dependent upon a single rail service provider, forcing the port to deal with rail rates based upon a monopoly and/or putting more of the port's shipping volume on trucks, creating additional traffic congestion. This concern was recognized by Mayor Keith Summey, who pointed out that "containers can exit our community by rail with less impact than exiting by truck".

In addition to Summey, Berkeley County State Senator Larry Grooms, who is the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, has been the other key Lowcountry politico in these efforts, working diligently to get both sides to compromise. In talking with the Blogland, Grooms recognized the port had the right to open the northern rail access (which Summey acknowledged the port could do), but desired to see both sides reach an amicable agreement.

In addition to North Charleston ending its objections to the northern rail access to the port, other key points of the agreement include:

SCGOP officer sells out - and often

There's been a lot of discussion about the role played by mercenary politicos in sinking the GOP in this year's elections, putting profit ahead of principle and creating ethical questions with conflicts between their loyalties and motives.

Here in South Carolina, the worst example may be found in how the current Secretary of the SCGOP, DeLinda Ridings of Columbia she sells her services as a political hired gun, working for a string of failed campaigns across South Carolina while holding a party office in which most expect her to play neutral.

Not only has Ridings likely set the record for working for the most Presidential aspirants in one cycle (Huckabee, Huntsman and then Gingrich), she's also gotten a reputation of working for one loser after another, including Seventh District Congressional candidate Chad Prosser.

"I Don't Know" is not the right answer

The Blogland wonders if Lillian McBride, Richland County's director of elections, had Ozzy Osbourne's "I Don't Know" on her mind, but considering her inability to discuss the operations of her office and staff during yesterday's hearing with Richland County legislators, it's obvious she doesn't know much:

Everyone goes through changes
Looking to find the truth
Don't look to me for answers
Don't ask me, I don't know

Summoned to explain a series of problems which resulted in major delays in casting and counting Richland County votes, which included some Richland County voters waiting until 11:30 pm to cast ballots on Election Day, McBride seemed to evade answer after answer.

Senator Land gets roasted and toasted

Yesterday's roast/toast/tribute event for retiring Democratic Senator John Land in Manning saw a large turnout of locals and others, including a number of family members, attorneys, judges and politicos who shared their experiences about life and politics with Land.

A good time was had by all and we appreciate the hospitality of the locals, including Manning Mayor Julia Nelson (a regular Blogland reader, we've been told).

We haven't always agreed with Land's politics, but we've always appreciated the hospitality of the Senator and his wife and the time and effort they've put into public service. Land leaves the Senate after nearly four decades of service with our best wishes for wherever life may take him.

Rep. Alan Clemmons: First winner of Election 2012

One of the biggest victories in South Carolina's elections were won long before votes were cast by Myrtle Beach Rep. Alan Clemmons. Overseeing the redistricting process in the House, his work played a key role for the state GOP's strong showing on election night.

As Chair of House Judiciary Committee's Election Laws subcommittee, Clemmons was the key driver of the hotly-contested effort to place the state's new Seventh Congressional District in the Pee Dee region. While some felt the House plan for the new district, which restored the Pee Dee's long-time congressional district which had been erased in the 1991 redistricting, would give Democrats a chance to pull off an upset win, the race ended up giving Republican Tom Rice a twelve-point victory. 

But the Congressional race wasn't the only slam-dunk scored with the maps that came out of Clemmons' subcommittee. The GOP grew its already-sizable majority in the State House by two seats and put on a strong performance in several other districts in areas where Democrats generally held the upper hand:

House GOP makes first move on immigration reform

Hit by accusations that the GOP has been unfriendly to immigrant populations, House Republicans in Congress are making the first post-election move on opening up the immigration process.

House leadership is planning to bring the STEM Jobs Act, sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, up for a second vote as early as next week. The legislation was voted on earlier in the fall, carrying 257 votes in the House, including 30 Democrats, but failed as rules required a two-thirds vote on the legislation. The new vote will simply require a majority to secure passage.

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Consumer Electronics Association, are backing the legislation, which is said to be aimed at boosting American tech companies, who continue to contend with a lack of skilled workers, even in the slow economy. This legislation could help American high-tech companies address staffing shortages while reducing the number of educated candidates available to foreign companies.

Walton cartoon: "Petraeus joins the Club"

Trooper Marvin Titus: End of watch, 11/20/1991

As Thanksgiving approaches, it's time to talk about what we're thankful for.

One of those things is our public safety officials, who look at places and situations we wouldn't  go into for a million bucks - and go there for a lot less. One of those heroes is State Trooper Marvin Titus. 

Twenty-one years ago today, Trooper Titus died in the line of duty in Bamberg County. He was shot three times with his own weapon and killed after chasing a man in a stolen car into a wooded area near the town of Denmark. The suspect was apprehended later in the night and sentenced to life in prison.

Titus is survived by his parents and eight siblings.

  • Marvin Leroy Titus' name has been engraved at the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, DC. His name can be located on panel 8, E -18. 

  • A plaque bearing Marvin Leroy Titus' name is displayed at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Hall of Fame in Columbia.

GOP unrest raises questions about State Senate rules

One of the strongest disconnects in the state Republican Party is that which exists between GOP Senators and their party base is over the issue of conservative legislation, much of which passed the House, only to die in the Senate.

Discontent over this matter came to a head this year when it fueled a number of challenges to Republican Senators, resulting in acrimonious splits among party ranks, most notably in strong challenges against Senators Larry Martin and Wes Hayes, as well as Katrina Shealy's successful ouster of Lexington County Senator Jake Knotts.

It has become increasingly common for Senators to lose their seats to fellow Republicans in primaries. Four years ago, two Senators were shown the door and another forced to a run-off to survive. This year, three more, two of them committee Chairs, were toppled: two in primaries and another in a general election contest (that would've been a primary if not for the SEI court rulings). Many of the challenges to Senators cite the slow progress of legislation in the Senate was a key issue.

Against this backdrop, Senate GOP leadership sent out an email to party activists soliciting their input on new directions for the caucus membership:

Lawsuit filed by GOP candidate for House 53 seat

Earlier this month, the race for House District 53 was one of the closest in the state, as Democratic State Representative Ted Vick fended off a close challenge by Chesterfield County Republican Richie Yow by less than four percentage points (5,626 votes to Yow's 5,179 votes). 

Yow filed a lawsuit in state court today, alleging "in excess of 2,000 illegal/improper votes were cast", citing a number of reasons, including voters who no longer resided in the district, illegal absentee ballots cast in the race, potential double-counting of voters and not following procedures which required election officials to allow Republican Party officials to view machines and absentee voting.

Yow's suit asks for the courts to throw the election results out and order a new election to be held for the seat.

Guest op-ed: Pereira - "Are local debates useful?"

This guest op-ed was submitted by Lisa Pereira, a Blogland reader who lives in Goose Creek. A former journalist and paramedic who ran for State House Seat 102, she is currently active in Lowcountry GOP circles. You can air your views by emailing your op-ed to

Election season is winding down and candidates are wrapping up their campaigns and taking stock of what they have done and where they stand. This offers us a chance to reflect upon candidate debates and their role in the process of winning elections.

Debates have always been tricky things. One person entering the debate always has more to lose than the other person. Between the debates, meet and greets, fundraisers, and voter phone calls candidates have to make hard choices of the best use of their limited time. I question the value of debates both in terms of getting out the candidates message or in swaying undecided voters in local campaigns and have to wonder if perhaps the time to stop attending debates has come.

Too often debates either have too many candidates to thoughtfully delve into the issues (this year’s 14 candidate school board debates in Charleston County), have little turnout by truly undecided voters or they are carefully chosen venues put on by supposedlyneutral parties (The League of Women Voters) that turn out not to be. In some instances are little more than a vehicle for fringe candidates (yes, even within the Republican party) to call out other candidates like some sort of school yard bully fight.

Moving Upstate

For those who don't already know, the Blogland has moved Upstate to the Fort Mill area.

This doesn't mean the Lowcountry will get overlooked in future coverage, but it does mean we'll be looking more at what's taking place in Upstate government and politics in the future.

If you'd like to chat about something or send an invite to an event in your neck of the woods, please do so and we'll try our best to accommodate you.

We look forward to seeing our friends in the Upstate - and making new ones in the near future.

Organized Labor: No More Ding-Dongs

If you're looking for Twinkies or Ding-Dongs on your grocery shelf in the near future, you can forget it - and you can thank labor unions for making it happen.

Struggling to get out of bankruptcy, Hostess - the maker of snack foods like Twinkies, Ding-Dongs and Wonder Bread - announced the decision to close the company after negotiations over wage and benefits packages broke down and labor unions went on strike.

A news release posted on the company's strike information website explained the issues that factored into the decision to close the company, which had been in business for nearly a century:

Speak Without Fear: A great online resource for developing professional speakers

I've known Deb Sofield for years. A professional speaking coach, she's worn a lot of hats in the Upstate South Carolina, including as a business and community leader. She chairs the Water and Sewer board that serves much of Greenville County and has been a leader in the Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics.

She's also got a free monthly newsletter that focuses upon developing professional speaking skills: Speak Without Fear. As someone who has taught speech at the college level, I'll say it's a great resource that you should check out.

Hammond announces 2012 Angels and Scrooges List

Warning that the holiday season and Hurricane Sandy could increase activity by fraudulent charitable fundraisers operating in South Carolina, Secretary of State Mark Hammond released his annual Angels and Scrooges lists, recognizing ten charities with some of the highest rates of funds going into programs versus ten with some of the lowest rates.

As we saw in last year's lists, many of the Angels were South Carolina-based organizations while many on the Scrooges list were based out of state.

Hammond encouraged South Carolinians to do three things when contacted by charitable fundraisers: Do homework on where money goes, Designate credible recipients for contributions, and take note of harassing and high-pressure calls. He also said anyone with questions could contact the Secretary of State's office.

Hammond's press conference to announce the list went to the dogs - well, a black Labrador retriever which arrived at the end of the press conference, courtesy of an Army veteran and Aiken County resident and America's VetDogs.

Olson: "The TEA Party was supposed to win. What Happened?"

Everyone else has chimed in and gave their reason why the TEA Party failed this past election, so I may as well give my two cents.

The TEA Party was brought about as an idea that our government was growing too big, could not sustain itself, and would saddle our children and grand children with a mountain of debt, simple as that, nothing more, nothing less. I went to my first rally at the statehouse on tax day, 15 April 2009 and was thrilled at the electricity of the crowd, it was a great feeling to know so many people shared my beliefs (so I thought). Shortly after that experience I founded the Columbia TEA Party (quite by accident), but I felt good to be part of something I believed in.

As the TEA Party progressed, there were growing pains, but all of the different groups who made up the TEA Party had a similar agenda. We were able to withstand the pains and the elections of 2010 was the year the TEA Party left their mark. That is what we where able to accomplish when we where fighting for the same goals. What happened?

Here is my synopsis of why we lost.

Candidate announces for House District 17 special election

The election of state Rep. Tom Corbin to the State Senate seat vacated by Phil Shoopman from Greer opened up House District 17.

First to announce for the special election to fill the seat (that we know of) is Mike Burns, a Travelers Rest businessman. 

We expect more people will jump into the race in his heavily-Republican district - one of the first in the Upstate to go Republican.

Tentatively, filing for the House seat will run from November 30 through December 10. Primaries will be held on January 22, with runoff votes set for Feb. 5.

The special general election for the seat will be March 12. District 17 is one of the state's hilliest legislative districts, covering much of the back end of Greenville County, including Travelers Rest and the Highway 11 and US 25 corridors, extending to the Pickens County line in the west and nearly to Greer on the other side.

This is the second time in two years the District 17 seat has lost an incumbent. In the 2010 GOP primary, Corbin ousted Harry Cato, then House Speaker Pro Tempore, from the seat.

2012: South Carolina Republicans gained ground, missed opportunities

As the dust settles on the South Carolina political landscape, it's clear while that little changed in the balance of power, Republicans remained on top.

Republicans went into the cycle expecting to build on the impressive gains of 2010, especially following last year's redistricting, but much the momentum seemed to have been lost in expensive and time-consuming party-infighting, much of it centered around the SEI filing mess. In the end, a number of opportunities slipped through their fingers, leaving them with much more modest gains than many had expected:

Seventh District GOP Chair resignation fuels Pee Dee resentment

If Republicans in the Pee Dee are disappointed about getting relegated to second-class status in the new Seventh Congressional District, they may want to thank Florence County Republicans for helping set the current state of affairs into motion.

At the Seventh District convention back in the spring, Florence County GOP delegates voted for a slate of candidates for officer and delegate slots from the coastal counties of Georgetown and Horry - except for District Chair Elijah Jones, a Florence County resident who quit over the weekend.

One early tug-of-war sparked by Jones' unexpected departure was settled yesterday when the state GOP stepped in to clarify rules regarding the succession of Jones, ending speculation that the current Vice-Chair would be able to name himself to the Chair without any kind of a vote.

Jones's surprise resignation has fueled an already-tense situation in the district, stoking long-simmering animosities and reinforcing suspicions among Pee Dee region Republicans that they're on the verge of being locked out by coastal interests. It's also brought a number of allegations to light aimed at those they believe to be most responsible for the problem.

Three good articles on presenting more effectively

Communication is a large part of my day job - and what I teach in my part-time adjunct professor teaching slots. While the aspects of my job which relate to media and community relations obviously involve communicating effectively with audiences, a lot of work related to human resources and safety also requires effective communication skills.

Good ideas, useful products and smart options get lost all the time because someone may be knowledgeable about something but can't get their points across effectively.

I got an email today from Speechworks, one of a number of email lists that I'm on, which features three good articles discussing how to communicate and present more effectively in professional settings that fit well with what I've learned from professional experience and what I teach in the classroom. I hope you find them useful.

Walton Cartoon: "Benghazi questions"

GOP 7th District Chair quits - but who noticed?

Without warning, Seventh Congressional District GOP Chair Elijah Jones quit his post over the weekend, leaving behind a short-termed tenure with little to show.

At this time, party leaders are working to figure out how to approach replacing Jones as his resignation was the first of its kind. Some have brought up the name of past Sixth District GOP Chair Tom Grimes, who lost a close race for Chair at the District Convention in the spring.

Jones' short-lived and lackluster tenure was seen as a vindication of claims made by opponents that he wasn't serious about the job in the first place, a concern shared by the Blogland, which endorsed Grimes in the race:

While many people who hold the office of District Chair don’t invest much time or energy in the role, Grimes has set a higher standard for the office which would play a key role in helping ensure the GOP carries the Congressional race in the fall, as well as helping leverage such a victory to help more Republicans win at the local level.
By comparison, the other candidate is a relative newcomer with a flimsy resume. Elijah Jones’s primary political experience consists of getting trounced in a 2010 bid for what should have been a competitive Florence County Council district. If he sticks around, he might show promise in the future, but when you compare the choices and ask what a District Chair should be able to accomplish, Grimes is clearly the only qualified candidate in the race.

In the end, Jones didn't stick around. But those who attempt to start at the top usually don't last long at much of anything.

The "Rusty Re-Do": Another moment in Florence County cronyism

Last year, an effort to give the job of Florence County Administration to Rusty Smith, who serves as the Chair of Florence County Council, blew up badly with a high-profile backlash that went so far as to generate an opinion against the move from the state Attorney General's office. Smith ultimately withdrew and Council hired a professional administrator

But a little more than a year later, it looks like the "Florence Fix" is about to become the "Rusty Re-Do".

Last week, the administrator announced his resignation amid reports that he was having trouble running the county's government (we're sure the Council Chair and his buddies on Council had nothing to do with this ... wink, wink ...). This came along with news that Smith's Council colleagues are planning to move quickly to give the job to Smith - without the usual search for a qualified replacement that is conducted extensively and in the public eye.

Since Smith didn't fare well with highly public vetting processes before, so we could see why Smith and his cronies would want to avoid the kind of embarrassing and highly-public spectacle that killed his first attempt to get the job.

Guest op-ed: Charlie Lybrand - "Thankful"

Today's guest op-ed comes from long-time Charleston politico Charlie Lybrand. He has served as Charleston County's Register of Deeds since 1994, and served on Charleston County Council for several years before that. 

We invite our readers to join in the discussion via guest op-ed submissions, so if you've got something to say, e-mail it to us.

As most of you know, from time to time, I like to pontificate. Well today is no different, so I wanted to take a second or two and give thanks for yesterday. 

The Presidential Election is over and the people have spoken. President Obama has won and he deserves our support and our prayers. For some of us, he wasn’t our first choice but that was yesterday. A new day has dawned and as a Country, we move Forward supporting this President and the awesome task that lies ahead of him. I for one, will keep him in my prayers. 

I don’t know if you’ve given any thought to this, but we are a nation of over 300 million people and if you’re eighteen or older and a citizen, you get to choose who leads this great Nation. That’s just one of the things that makes us the greatest county on earth. Someone once said, if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain. That makes sense to me.

Walton Cartoon: Obamation

The False Prophets of "Reform" blow it

As the dust settles on the 2012 elections in South Carolina, one of the most noted outcomes is the near-total defeat of the so-called “reform” candidates who challenged a number of GOP legislators. 

The only candidate who prevailed was Katrina Shealy, who ran against a Senator who did plenty to sink himself. Others lost handily: Rex Rice went down 2-1 to Senator Larry Martin , Joe Thompson 3-1 to Senator Wes Hayes, and John Steinberger was trounced by House Speaker Bobby Harrell by 4-1. Dee Dee Vaughters got hammered by Senator Nikki Setzler – the only elected Democrat in the Aiken-Lexington region. And the list goes on from there.

These candidates often thumbed their noses at others and refused to work with anyone who wouldn't agree with them lock-stock-and-barrel. Mostly newcomers handicapped by a lack of understanding of the legislative process, they said they'd show the "establishment" something - and by getting their clocks cleaned, I suppose they did just that.

If those who want to change state government want to succeed, they would do well to consider the examples of those who’ve succeeded at winning elections and enacting agendas – and spend more time listening to voters and look at the approaches used by those who’ve actually won elections and implemented reform agendas.

2012: The GOP's Southern hold deepens

Two years ago, the GOP sweep of the South was stunning. All but one GOP candidate seeking a statewide office in the South won and the GOP swept into control of many of the remaining Democratic-held legislative chambers. Adding several chambers which tipped since then, the Democrats held just two legislative chambers: the House and Senate in Arkansas, which dangled by slender threads, along with a handful of Congressional seats held by white Democrats.

On Tuesday, they added to their southern political chokehold, taking the last remaining Democratic U.S. House seats in Arkansas and Oklahoma, ousting four of the six white Democrats holding majority-white Congressional districts in the South (three in NC and one in KY) and seizing control of the Arkansas General Assembly, giving them majority control of every state legislative chamber in the South.

Clearly Republicans in the South have come a long way from 1994, when they took their first majorities in Southern legislative chambers.

Finlay holds House 75 for GOP

While Republicans were afraid that Democrats had flipped Columbia-based House District 75 last night, it appears that GOP nominee Kirkman Finlay won the seat after all. 

When all absentee ballots were counted, Finlay went from 46 votes behind to 265 votes in the lead, taking the seat with 6,771 votes to 6,506 for Democrat Joe McCulloch.

Read more here:

Democrats intend to contest the seat and McCulloch has yet concede defeat, but most recounts don't swing these races more than several dozen votes. Thus we expect Finlay will hold the seat which was vacated when House Judiciary Chair Jim Harrison decided not to seek re-election after holding the seat since 1991.

Finlay owns the well-known Doc's BBQ, a favorite stop for USC game tailgaters and a favorite lunch spot of the Blogland and friends. If you haven't been there, you really need to.

After securing District 75, Republicans have scored a net gain of two House seats by picking up Democratic-held District 11, as well as two Democratic seats which were redistricted to the coast: District 56, now in Horry County, and District 120, now in Beaufort County. They lost House District 78, also based in Richland County. They now how 78 of 124 seats in the state House.