Guest op-ed: James Wiles - "Democratic opportunities in the 7th District"

Myrtle Beach resident James Wiles has done some interesting analysis of the new Seventh District, both in terms of the numbers and the cultural perspectives. It provides some useful food for thought and a warning to the growing GOP field that the district can't be taken for granted:

So maybe you’re thinking (like most Republicans along the Grand Strand): even if the national election is in doubt, at least the GOP is going to pick up one more Congressional seat from South Carolina. That spanking new Seventh Congressional District just created here as a result of the 2010 Census, it’s good our name is written all over it. After all, this is “America’s reddest state.”

You might want to re-think that. Check the map.

Walton Cartoon: Obama and the State of the Union

Democratic rout looming in North Carolina?

Today, two prominent North Carolina Democrats abandoned their re-election bids, both facing strong possibilities of defeat at the hands of Republicans, raising doubts about the ability of Democrats to repeat their surprise win of the state in the 2008 Presidential contest.

Democratic Governor Beverly Purdue, long trailing GOP challenger Pat McCrory, a former Mayor of Charlotte, in polls, announced that she would not seek a second term. Democratic Congressman Brad Miller also announced he would not seek another term, after being forced to choose between almost-certain defeat at the hands of GOP challengers in his old district or by an incumbent Democrat in another.

These signs of trouble for Democrats in North Carolina as they fight Republicans - and each other - in several high-profile contests which follow the surprise 2010 takeover of the North Carolina General Assembly by the GOP.

Jim Clyburn sleeping during State of the Union?

We couldn't help but want to run this photo, which shows Sixth District Congressman Jim "JC Hammer" Clyburn sound asleep, reportedly during the State of the Union address.

We think it speaks for itself.

It's ok. We didn't see much exciting in his speech either.

Republicans lining up behind House District 97 candidate

Every time Dorchester County's sole Democratic legislator - Rep. Patsy Knight - has been in a contested race, she's only won by a few hundred votes in a seat which has changed hands between parties a total of four times since 2000. The district, which connects rural Democratic upper Dorchester County with the fast-growing Republican areas around Summerville, has long been a swing district - a balance which may have been tipped by redistricting, which cut a number of the more Democratic precincts from the district while adding three precincts from Colleton County (two of which trend Republican).

Reportedly Republican support is quickly gathering around Jordan Bryngelson, a Summerville insurance rep who is also the county's representative to the state's GOP Executive Committee. Like Knight, Bryngelson has long ties in the rural areas of the district and is expected to wage a strong battle for those votes.

We've talked with a number of people who have told us that Knight may take a pass on another bid for the seat.

This race will likely be a top target for the GOP in the fall general elections. If Democrats can keep the GOP candidate bottled up in the Summerville and Colleton County precincts, they could hang on to the seat. If the Republicans can win some crossover voting among the district's rural Dorchester voters, the seat is theirs. Given the changes made by redistricting and continued GOP growth in the district's Summerville precincts, a GOP win may well end over a decade of back-and-forth outcomes in this district.

Three running for House District 44 - and counting

January isn't over and the race for Lancaster County's state House District 44 is heating up with three candidates in the race as two Democrats have announced their plans to seek the seat along with Republican Joseph Coy.

We've heard that Mandy Powers-Norrell, a Lancaster attorney who ran a heated state Senate race in 2008 against now-Congressman Mick Mulvaney back in 2008, is in the running, as is Kershaw attorney Bob Cook. Cook worked under former Democratic Governor Jim Hodges and is currently in private practice. With both having long roots in the district and established political resumes and networks, one can expect a primary match as contentious as the Senate race four years ago.

We're hearing more are looking at the race from the Republican side as well.

Republicans are expected to take a serious shot at picking up the seat, which is being vacated by incumbent Democratic Rep. Jimmy Neal, after waging a strong bid for the seat in 2010 and seeing the county go for GOP Congressman Mick Mulvaney's upset win over former Congressman John Spratt.

Walton cartoon: Infighting

... enough said.

Mitt Romney for President

A rear view of the Bloglandmobile.

NOTE: The Blogland re-endorsed Romney for the general election. If you want to see the updated endorsement, read here.

The United States faces major challenges both at home and abroad. A stagnant economy has left many Americans convinced things are worse than before Obama took office, while growing interference from the federal government stifles economic growth and a growing debt has funded a series of failed initiatives while providing unprecedented incentives for people not to return to work. Around the world, our nation has lost credibility as our military strength and our will to use it effectively have diminished and our foreign policy grown less decisive.

As the Obama administration lacks the willingness and vision needed to address these growing problems, it’s time for a new President who will take them more seriously and who has the background and leadership ability to get results.

In this year’s Republican Primary, the Blogland has watched the evolving field of candidates, attended many events with the candidates and their representatives and absorbed far more information about them than human beings should be exposed to. After careful consideration, the Blogland will support former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for the nomination.

Newt Gingrich's Ego Problem

Today's Newt Gingrich event in Florence showed Gingrich as his usual strong, outspoken self. But it also showed how big his ego could get, as he sought to consolidate the support of conservative Republicans behind his candidacy, telling the audience that "a vote for Santorum or Perry is wasted", criticizing fellow GOP candidate Mitt Romney as a moderate who Repubicans should unite against.

He also made sure audience members knew that Santorum "lost his state by the biggest margin of history". It's true, but it was hardly a generous gesture to the Santorum voters he was trying to talk into supporting him.

So why does Gingrich think he is "The One" for conservatives and all others are lost causes?

Three candidates do morning campaign stops in Florence

Between 9 a.m. and noon today, three of the Republican candidates for President blitzed through Florence: Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry. Together, the three candidates covered four events across the town, leading a trail of interested party activists and hustling news media reporters as they made their way through and off to afternoon events elsewhere in South Carolina.

From diners to art shops, back-slapping to philosphical dissertations, today's candidate stops had it all, giving Florence voters a rare opportunity to sample several of their options in the same morning.

What's Fair (and what's not)

Every election year, there's always those who take things a little too seriously and play like there is no tomorrow. For such people, anything goes, including dishonest criticisms, personal insults and mudslinging.

This is the kind of trash that makes potential voters cynical about the political process. In most occupations and lines of business, if people believe that your product or service will deliver what they want, they buy it or offer you a contract to provide it. The realm of electoral politics should work the same way - but all too often, it doesn't.

Instead, we've learned more about Newt Gingrich's divorces than we ever want to know, Jon Huntsman's loving act of adoption has been turned into an ideological sellout, Romney's religious beliefs are used to question his fitness to hold office and we've heard more than we want to know about a candidate's last name being related to a sexual term.

But the lowest cheap-shot we've heard this cycle has been by those who've judged the reaction of the Santorum family to the loss of one of their children, which we discussed last week in some detail.

These kinds of personal cheap shots are simply inexcusable and they're the number one reason why we can't wait for January 22nd to get here.

Bain and Newt Gingrich's frustration with losing

For many years, I viewed Newt Gingrich as one of the most intellectual figures in national politics. One might disagree with his positions, but he can be counted to bring deep thinking to anything that he's involved with. Anyone who doubts that should read some of the alternative history books that he has co-authored and see just how well-researched the individuals and situations are.

In light of Gingrich's scholarly approach to writing, as well as a number of speaking appearances that I've attended on several subjects (usually non-partisan ones), I was disappointed at the Bain attack video from his super PAC against Mitt Romney. Not only are the video's facts flawed, but it also shows a serious lack of understanding of just what took place and why.

Only when Gingrich got called out on the issue by fellow Republicans did he back off, asking that an attack video about Bain and Romney be revised. Considering the many falsehoods, that's a good idea, but an even better idea would have been to get the facts straight in the first place.

Saturday morning in Summerville: Grits, eggs, bacon and politics

Lowcountry Republicans packed the house at Kelly’s BBQ on U.S. 78 near Summerville for the monthly meeting of the Lowcountry GOP Breakfast Club, which featured a preview of the 2012 session of the General Assembly, featuring Dorchester County State Senator Mike Rose and Charleston County State Representative Chip Limehouse. The meeting covered a wide range of subjects, including restructuring, the state budget, health care, and harbor dredging.

As always, a special thanks to Bubba Kelly and Kelly’s BBQ for hosting this event.

Next month’s meeting – Saturday, February 11 – the group will host an all-star line-up of state politicos as they celebrate their 10th anniversary.

Stay tuned via the group’s website:

Connor to seek Sixth District GOP Chair

Yesterday in Manning, Orangeburg attorney and 2010 Lieutenant Governor candidate Bill Connor announced his bid for the Sixth District GOP Chairmanship. The office is currently held by Tom Grimes, a long-time GOP activist from Florence, whose county is being moved into the new Seventh Congressional District.

Jokingly referring to himself as from the “Republican mecca of Orangeburg”, Connor told the audience that “I understand how this district relates to the rest of the state”, promising to apply his in-the-field networking and campaign experience from his Lieutenant Governor bid to help support Republican Party organizations in the Sixth District.

Clarendon Republicans meet, pick Romney in straw poll

The crowd at the monthly meeting of Clarendon County Republicans was standing-room only in Manning to see a number of speakers, including Rep. Alan Clemmons and representatives from several Presidential campaigns. Long-time GOP politico Moye Graham chaired the meeting with door prizes from Robert and Dawn Alt, owners of the Palms at Wyboo Plantation, a favorite regional hangout for Republicans.

Myrtle Beach State Representative Alan Clemmons addressed the audience, discussing the status of two ongoing election law issues: redistricting, which received Justice Department pre-clearance but is the subject of a lawsuit, and Voter ID, which has been denied approval by the Justice Department and is awaiting further legal action.

While speaking for the Rick Santorum campaign, Bill Connor, who lost a close race for Lt. Governor in the 2010 GOP run-off, announced his candidacy for the Sixth District Republican Party Chair. The current holder, Tom Grimes of Florence, will be vacating the office as his county is being moved into the state’s new Seventh Congressional District.

GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney won their straw poll with 39% of votes cast. Gingrich came in second with 17% and Santorum third with 12%. The straw poll also polled for Vice-President preferences with the top finishers being Rudy Giuliani with 14%, Marcio Rubio with 11% and Jeb Bush with 10%.

Perry walks Summerville's Main Street

Over 100 people turned out to walk "Main Street" Summerville with GOP Presidential candidate Rick Perry earlier today. Perry's mid-afternoon walk visited a number of businesses in downtown Summerville where Perry spoke to owners and employees.

The most notable people along with Perry were Summerville State Representatives Jenny Horne and Chris Murphy, as well as former state GOP Chair Katon Dawson.

Huntsman Town Hall in North Charleston

About 200 people turned out to North Charleston City Hall tonight for a Town Hall forum with Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, the day after he finished third place in the New Hampshire primary.

Introducing Huntsman at the event was former Attorney General and SCGOP Chair Henry McMaster. McMaster praised his experience both as a two-term Governor in Utah as well as a business owner, praising Utah as "the best managed state in the nation" while Huntsman was Governor. Before Huntsman went into his opening remarks, he introduced his wife, Mary Kaye, allowing her to speak to the audience before Huntsman went into his stump speech.

Believing this to be the "most important election of our lifetime", he touted his experience as a business executive, as well as two-term Governor and Ambassador to China, saying "I was raised with the ethos of 'country first'" having served in various roles and offices under Presidents Reagan, Bush and Obama.

J.C. Watts stumps in Summerville for Newt Gingrich

Former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts visited Summerville as part of a two-day tour of the state, touring the state on behalf of Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich. The mid-day stop at Sweetwater Cafe was a full house on Summerville's Main Street.

Watts told the audience he supported Gingrich because "we need someone who can challenge Obama from more than just talking points", saying that he'd planned to sit this race out, but after Iowa he decided to "get involved and get off the sidelines".

Watts defined the challenges facing the GOP as similar to what they faced in the 1990s, touting their records in reining in deficit spending, entitlement reform, debt reduction and tax relief, promising Gingrich would act on those issues.

Campaign 2012: The "over the edge" moment

Every campaign cycle, campaigning and editorializing ends up getting dirtier than it should, as those hoping to score that one last shot go over the edge with their attacks. In this cycle, the lowest blow can be found in the criticisms of GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum and his family's handling of the loss of their newborn child, Gabriel Michael Santorum, by news commentator Alan Colmes of Fox News:

Get a load of some of the crazy things he’s said and done, like taking his two-hour-old baby when it died right after child birth home and played with it so that his other children would know that the child was real.
Colmes called the Santorums out on it publicly, but I've heard others snicker and take cheap shots privately about the subject. While I've not hestitated to call Santorum out on things related to his record of public service and his campaign, the loss of their child should be above any form of public judgment or criticism.

I've come to understand this very personal subject far better than most people ever will, so I'll take off the blogger hat and tell you where I'm coming from, as well as why Mr. Colmes - and others - were way out of line.

Senator Campbell: Long-term unemployed must volunteer in return for benefits

If Berkeley County State Senator Paul Campbell has his way, those who are long-term unemployed and are receiving unemployment benefits would have to perform volunteer community service in order to continue receiving state assistance.

Senate Bill 1049, which Campbell sponsored, has an LCI Committee hearing tomorrow, was motivated by his experience as a plant manager for Alcoa. This requirement would apply to those who were out of work twenty-six weeks (six months) after first filing for employment, and would require them to perform at least sixteen hours a week of "suitable" volunteer work in order to continue receiving assistance.

In talking with the Blogland, Campbell said he sponsored the bill because he was concerned that "it's easier to find a job if you've got one. Being out of work long-term make it difficult to get back into the job market, and if you can't get bavk to work, you, your family and your community lose out. That's the bottom line."

Senator Campbell isn't the only one who sees it that way. Being an HR person, I learned a long time ago that it's better to keep people doing something than to leave them completely idle. Once they stop working, it's harder to get them back into a job as they get out of the habits necessary for work and they stop keeping their skills current.

Rep. Neal announces retirement in House District 44

After serving in the House since a 1999 special election, Lancaster County Democratic State Rep. Jimmy Neal decided that he would not seek a new term this year. Neal's announcement came two days after Heath Springs businessman Joseph Coy said he would seek the GOP nomination for the seat.

In 2010, Neal faced a surprisingly strong challenge by a Republican in an election year that saw his county side with GOP Congressman Mick Mulvaney, coming in well under the sixty percent mark which is considered safe for an incumbent. This drew speculation that several Republicans would be gunning for the seat in 2012.

Democrats are also reportedly seeking a candidate for the seat. Given the seat's long Democratic history, it would be a major embarassment for them to let the seat go without a fight.

Heather Crawford kicks off bid for Horry County State House seat

It was a full house Saturday afternoon near Conway as supporters of GOP State House candidate Heather Ammons Crawford kicked off her campaign for the Horry County House seat being vacated by current State Representative Thad Viers.

Crawford is a veteran of Horry County GOP politics, having founded the Grand Strand Young Republicans and served as its Chair for two years, as well as the Horry County Executive Committeeman for the South Carolina Republican Party from 2009-2011. Currently, she serves as the South Carolina National Committeewoman for the Young Republican National Federation. In the summer, she got hitched to Cam Crawford (and the Blogland was there).

Not to miss out on a good time, the Blogland joined the party. It was worth the drive up.

House District 68 is centered in central Horry County, including much of the Socastee area, covering an area from just north of Surfside Beach to just south of Conway along S.C. Route 544. The seat was moved from Sumter County in the 2002 round of redistricting. Presently, Crawford is the only announced candidate for the seat.

Walton Cartoon: Squeezing Liberty

More visual wit from Jamie Walton, an Upstate GOP activist and contributing cartoonist for the Blogland. Enjoy!

The Santorum Sleaze Factor

While the Republican Party, prodded by Tea Party activists, has begun to turn away from the lobbyist-infested dealmaking tax-and-spend approach to politics which had much to do with the loss of Congress and the White House, it seems that Presidential candidate Rick Santorum is proof that mindset is alive and well and working to reassert itself within the GOP.

Questions have been raised about his association with Jim Hirni, a former Jack Abramoff-associated lobbyist who is playing an active role in Santorum's campaign. Hirni, who was convicted in 2008 for buying favors with Senate staff members, didn't even take time out of politics after his conviction, setting up shop in South Carolina and working for Santorum while serving as an informant for the feds until he was sentenced last November:

It took three years for the court to sentence Hirni after his guilty plea in 2008. Part of Hirni's plea deal required his full cooperation with federal investigators; including acting as an informant for the feds "...working in an undercover role to contact and negotiate with others suspected and believed to be involved in criminal misconduct...," according to court records.

But the Hirni association is just the tip of the iceberg as many other sources have connected Santorum to Washington's pay-to-play insider culture, both during and after his time as a Senator. Reports which are beginning to surface about Santorum's involvement in the shadowy world of Washington insider deal-making, special favors and corruption should prompt GOP activists should bring into question the validity of Santorum's claims to be conserative Presidential candidate.

SCE&G nuclear plant design approved

Efforts to increase South Carolina's home-generated power supply took another step forward over the holiday season with the approval of the reactor design by the Nuclear Regulatory Commssion just before the holidays. The new AP1000 reactor design by Westinghouse Electric, is slated to be used in several new nuclear plants being built in both Carolinas, Florida and Georgia, including the V.C. Summer plant expansion, which is being developed jointly by SCE&G and Santee-Cooper in Fairfield County.

While a number of efforts have been made to try to stop construction of the Fairfield County SCE&G facility, none have been successful. While the AP1000 design has been approved, the South Carolina plant still has a number of regulatory hurdles before it can go into operation several years from now.

The Summer plant is needed by both power companies to keep up with growing demand. Santee-Cooper has been seeking to expand it's generation capacity for several years, having abandoned plans to build a coal-fired plant in Florence County and faced with prospects of having to close at least two currently-operating coal plants due to new federal regulations. SCE&G has not announced if it will have to shut any of its coal-fired plants.

The free speech fight in Columbia

Apparently the City of Columbia has done so well at addressing major crimes that they're now free to focus on lesser offenses, launching a crackdown on the public use of profanity. City Council apparently adopted an ordinance prohibiting profanity in public places, in spite of several state court rulings which have stricken down similar speech restrictions, setting the game up for what could be a costly and difficult fight for the city.

In Columbia, people are standing up to City Hall and questioning the new policy, including long-time public policy advocate and researcher Bryan Cox and Republican attorney Todd Kincannon.

McCarty's "Top Nine" SC Politicos

Sometimes we spin over to check out Voting Under The Influence, a blog published by Brian McCarty, a long-time South Carolina politico. Some of the most interesting reading on his blog would be found in the comments section of his articles, where he had cultivated a following of somewhat extreme characters whose hatred for McCarty - and other commenters - was both obvious and dysfunction.

He was inactive for a while, but has returned to the scene recently, including publishing his Top 9 list for the most important politicos in the state:
As the New Year begins, we take a look at who really run things in South Carolina. Here is our take on the 9 most powerful politicians in South Carolina.

South Carolina vs the Obama administration, Round Two

South Carolina has long been battling with the National Labor Relations Board over the North Charleston Boeing plant. Just as the state seemed to finally have this issue behind them, the Justice Department opened up a new battle when it rejected the state's recently-adopted Voter ID law.

In discussing their concerns about a recent move by the Justice Department to deny pre-clearance to the new law, the Charleston Post and Courier criticized the move as part of a vendetta by the Obama administration against South Carolina, asking "where is the "justice" in the Obama administration's apparent animus against our state?

There's not much logical support for Justice's objections to the new law. In fact, there are valid concerns behind the calls for requiring voters to present photo ID when voting, as well as plenty of support for adopting such laws. Thus when a major news media outlet calls the Obama adminstration out for having a hate trip for South Carolina, we can't help but think they've got a point.