Blogland 3.0 is here

With the weekend upon us, the new Blogland version 3.0 is here.

While the Version 2.0 was an improvement over the original version in that it made more content more readily available to readers, it was a challenge to load and read on many mobile devices. The rapid growth of mobile computing has encouraged simplicity in design so we spent several weeks experimenting with several templates until we found one that balanced content-rich formatting with a more mobile-friendly template.

There will probably be a few tweaks coming over the next couple of weeks as we work the bugs out.

We hope the new layout makes your Blogland reading time more productive and informative. As always, if you have any questions, comments or insults, please let us know.

Off to the State House today

Last year, yours truly was a regular face at the State House. But with a few legislative projects wrapped up successfully and work really piling on this year, I haven't been able to get up there as much as I'd like.

Today, however, will be different - and I'll be bringing company.

Expect to see me with my better half along, showing her around Importantville. Be nice to her and show her some South Carolina hospitality.

I'll see everyone around ten in the morning.

Guest op-ed: Billy Simons - "Romney is Right on Russia"

Today's guest editorial was written by Billy Simons, a Blogland reader who lives in Summerville with his wife Ana. You can email him at

 I would first like to congratulate the left wing media for making me do something I never thought I would, defend Mitt Romney. I am sure by this point we have all seen the video of Barack Obama whispering to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to "give him some space on missile defense, after the election i will have more flexibility."

Afterward, Mitt Romney rightly condemned this statement and labeled Russia a chief geopolitical ally. I could probably write an entire book on why this was correct; however, I will just give a few highlights of the lovable teddy bears that are Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev and the regime that they have overseen for more than a decade.

Senate District 41 update: Thurmond in, Stavrinakis out

Republican Paul Thurmond, a James Island attorney who represented a big part of Senate District 41 on Charleston County Council, has committed to file for the upcoming special election and regular contests to fill the State Senate seat vacated by Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell.

Numerous sources have also indicated that Democratic State Representative Leon Stavrinakis will sit this contest out and seek re-election to his House district this fall. Redistricting shored his numbers up considerably, meaning he'll face his easiest race since he won the seat in 2006.

Filing for the seat closes later this week but we've not heard any other big names looking at the seat.

House District 68 race heats up

As expected, the race for Horry County's House District 68 is edging closer to four consecutive weeks of elections with three Republican candidates in the race for the seat which was unexpectedly vacated by Thad Viers, who resigned the seat last week.

In addition to Heather Crawford, two local Tea Party-affiliated candidates have entered the race: Tom Muse and Larry Richardson. With three candidates in both the special election primary on June 5 and the regular primary the following Tuesday, there is a possibility of run-offs in either or both contests, which would follow two weeks after each primary.

In addition to Crawford, who announced her candidacy several weeks ago, Richardson recently resigned his post as state Executive Committeeman from Horry County to run for the seat while Muse is a newcomer to politics.

"Roadkill" Hutto to enter race for McConnell Senate seat

As if drinking and driving dangerously weren't enough of a problem in the Lowcountry, several sources have informed the Blogland that former State Rep. Anne Peterson Hutto will be filing tomorrow for the State Senate seat recently vacated by Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell. This tentatively sets up a Democratic primary match-up between Hutto and former Charleston City Council member Paul Tinkler.

Something Hutto and Tinkler have in common: both were ousted from office by Republicans.

Observers give the tentative edge to Republicans to hold the seat, especially if a seasoned politico with high name recognition like Paul Thurmond enters the race (which is expected on Wednesday). We tend to agree as you can't win with those who were booted out of office - there's usually a good reason they were sent packing.

Dick's Last Term

2011 District

In an announcement made after filing has opened, it'll be interesting to see if this allows Democrats enough time to find a candidate willing to take a chance on holding the GOP-leaning seat without the benefit of Elliot's name recognition or incumbency. He joins two other long-time Democratic Senators - John Land and Phil Leventis - in opting not to seek re-election.

Several Republicans have looked at the seat. Current 15th Circuit Solicitor Greg Hembree announced for the seat last fall.

RINO of the week: York County's Gary Williams

We don't usually pay attention to County Council races, but sometimes you'll find a candidate who is begging to get drug into the spotlight.

Williams' offense: running as a Republican after reportedly maxing out his contributions to John Spratt, a Democrat who was booted out of Congress in 2010 in favor of Republican Mick Mulvaney.

Viers' prosecution: Your tax dollars (not) at work?

Questions are being asked about the new charges that may be filed against Horry County Representative Thad Viers.

Already facing charges for harassment, Viers resigned his House seat yesterday in advance of an expected indictment . This indictment would be yet another blow to Viers, who already quit the race for the state's new Seventh Congressional District and will not be seeking re-election to his State House seat.

But are additional charges really necessary? That's the question we've heard from some and we have to wonder the same thing here in the Blogland.

More names for McConnell Senate seat

The field of candidates in the race to replace Charleston Senator Glenn McConnell has grown to three, with more expected. New to the race are two Republican candidates:

  • Sean Pike. Pike ran for Democratic-leaning House District 116 in 2010, making the best showing ever by a Republican candidate.
  • John Steinberger. Steinberger is well-known in Lowcountry GOP political circles, as one of the leaders in the state's FairTax organization.

Earlier this week, James Island State Rep. Peter McCoy announced his intentions to seek re-election to his House seat, taking a pass on the Senate race. That decision is likely to open the doors for fellow James Island resident Paul Thurmond, who made it into the run-off for the First Congressional District in 2010, to run for the Senate.

No word on if West Ashley Democratic State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis will enter the race, even though his name has surfaced as a potential candidate for the seat.

Viers resignation sets off electoral train-wreck in House District 68

Candidates running for Horry County's House District 68 could be facing four weeks of consecutive elections in June.

In talking with GOP officials in Horry County, we've been told the resignation of Rep. Thad Viers, who represented the seat since it was moved to Horry County in 2002, may set up a parallel special election contest which closely overlaps with this year's regular election calendar.

This means the special primary election would take place on Tuesday, June 5, one week before the regular primary for the full term. As run-offs would take place two weeks after the primaries, it's possible that four consecutive weeks of elections could be held to pick Republican nominees for the seat.

Even more confusing is the knowledge that the special election will take place in the old district, while the simultaneous regular election will take place using the new lines, meaning campaigns will have to focus on two sets of voters - even though House District 68 will see very few changes.

What's more is that the special election contest will fill the seat only AFTER the legislature has adjourned, meaning voters will be asked to vote for essentially nothing.

Confused yet? We are - and we're sure we won't be the only ones.

South Carolina vs. Wile E. Coyote

If you're Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius, you might want to skip visiting South Carolina anytime soon.

A bi-partisan partnership of State House members are declaring open season on coyotes and wild hogs with Rep. Lowe's bill 4943. If passed, this bill would loosen normal hunting restrictions on these animals, which are growing in number rapidly around the state and increasingly wreaking havoc on rural farms in recent years.

The bill would allow night hunting of hogs, coyotes and armadillos from March through June and also allows the use of bait, lights and laser sights in hunting them down.

Democrat gets confused, runs for State House as a Republican

Ed Carter, a career government employee and past Democratic House candidate, seems to be suffering from an identity crisis. We suspect this because in spite of this history, this Dorchester County resident is seeking the GOP nomination to take on incumbent Democratic State Rep. Patsy Knight, who is facing a tough re-election fight in a significantly-redrawn district.

According to some we’ve talked with, some arm-twisting is taking place by Carter supporters around Summerville to help grease the skids for his primary race, where he’ll face Dorchester County GOP Committeeman Jordan Bryngelson.  Not surprisingly, many local GOP activists have not embraced Carter’s candidacy, including long-time Republicans who remember when Carter was Administrator for Dorchester County government.

Questions follow Sumter County Sheriff candidate

While Benny Webb may not have much of a sense of ethics or what he wants to be when he grows up, we've got to give him credit. In spite of a checkered career path that has rambled across South Carolina, he doesn't quit trying.

After being handled a landslide defeat in a 2010 State House bid, Webb has announced his candidacy for Sumter County Sheriff, joining a crowded bi-partisan field challenging incumbent Democratic Sheriff Anthony Dennis.

Webb has spent the last year or so working as the Town Manager for Atlantic Beach, where he continues to generate adverse publicity. Recently, he refused to return voting machines to Horry County government after a recent contested election in which the incumbent Mayor of Atlantic Beach was defeated for re-election, forcing local law enforcement to intervene.

We suppose it can be hard to check machines for tampering or fraud when you can't get the machines back.

Now we learn that he's leaving his job in Atlantic Beach. Apparently, someone changed the locks on Town Hall and SLED is investigating.

We couldn't make this kind of stuff up. Stay tuned.

Someone's doing LSD

After years of running unopposed, House Speaker Bobby Harrell has opposition.

We can honestly say we've seen few cases of incoherent rambling which top what we've read on the website for Bobby's opponent, one Mr. Larry Carter.

The website doesn't even have any picture of Mr. Carter, his wife, kids or even his shroom pasture or spaceship.

There's a lot we could say, but you might want to check it out for yourself: Hire Larry, Fire Bobby.

Growing field for McConnell’s Senate Seat

Names have begun surfacing for the twin races to fill the State Senate seat being vacated by Lieutenant Governor Glenn McConnell, the first being a summer special election to fill the vacant seat and then a second in November to fill the seat for the full term.

The first to file was Paul Tinkler, a former Democratic member of Charleston City Council who left council after losing a re-election bid several years ago. But Tinkler may not be the only Democrat in the running, as State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis is reported to be looking at entering the race - which would be his second Senate bid (his first one was a lopsided defeat by the GOP candidate - former Senator John Kuhn - in 2001).

On the GOP side, a number of candidates are looking at entering the race, most notably James Island State Rep. Peter McCoy and former Charleston County Council member Paul Thurmond, who left his seat in 2010 to seek the First District Congressional seat.

As the special election for the remainder of McConnell’s term will take place after filing for the regular election for the seat, the winner of the summer special election could face a re-match with the same candidates later in the year – unless those who lose the special election contest withdraw their regular election candidacies or choose not to file for the full term November election. This would force the two incumbent House members who are looking at running for the seat (McCoy and Stavrinakis) to decide if they're willing to gamble their House seats on Senate bids - an unusual twist as most special elections take place in the middle of terms.

McConnell, who had been in the Senate since 1981, surviving the switch from the system of at-large Senate seats elected from multi-county groupings to single member districts which took place in 1984, making him the only Senator in the history of District 41. In recent years, McConnell had only faced two major party challenges: a 1992 primary which he carried 80% of the vote and a 2004 challenge from a Democrat which he won by roughly 2-to-1, and has considerable support in the district which could allow him to play a key role in deciding who would succeed him.

Santorum campaign working to co-opt delegate elections?

While South Carolina’s delegates to the national GOP convention are locked in to support the candidates who won their respective district - or statewide – contests, this isn’t stopping the Santorum campaign from organizing efforts to elect delegates at the upcoming district conventions. According to a number of sources, the Santorum campaign is anticipating a “brokered” convention (which hasn’t happened in nearly 100 years) and is preparing to compete once nomination voting has gone several rounds and delegates are no longer obligated to support their voters’ choice and are then free to support the candidate of their own choosing.

But Santorum, long connected to K Street lobbyists and the game of Washington influence peddling, is no stranger to the kind of insider power plays that helped fuel the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress, as well as the TEA Party backlash which followed in the 2010 elections.

While they’re reportedly working statewide, their most intense efforts seem aimed at the Sixth District convention, where turnout is usually low and an orchestrated effort could give them control over the district’s three delegates. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich carried the Sixth, one of five of the state’s seven Congressional districts that he won. Mitt Romney won the First and Second Districts. Santorum led in none of the state’s districts, finishing third place overall.

Clarendon Cover-up State Rep launches Senate bid

Last year, Democrats almost handed a normally-safe State House seat in Clarendon County to the GOP when they nominated Kevin Johnson, the former Mayor of Manning. Questions about Johnson's mayoral travel were raised and stalled until after the special election for the House seat was over.

After long-time Senator John Land decided to not seek re-election to his Pee Dee region State Senate seat, Johnson was quick to announce his candidacy for Land's seat - a campaign he was planning even before Land decided not to run - less than a year after he was elected to the House.

While FOIA responses were initially stalled until after the House special election could take place, we're hoping to see a full accounting of where the money in Manning went - as well as where Johnson went - before Johnson's campaign for the Senate moves forward.

Given the many funny games we've uncovered by Clarendon County Democrats, we're not going to hold our breath waiting for the truth to emerge.

House Majority Leader race off and running?

As current Majority Leader Kenny Bingham will be moving on at the end of this year, the race is already on to replace him. Currently, two names have been circulated for this role, but more are expected to look at running:

Bruce Bannister - Greenville. A attorney by profession, Bannister won the race to fill the House seat held by former House Speaker David Wilkins when Wilkins was appointed ambassador to Canada during the Bush administration. He has been in the House since 2005 and currently serves as Assistant Majority Leader and Chairs the General Law subcommittee on Judiciary Committee.

Gary Simrill - Rock Hill. A Rock Hill businessman, Simrill is nearing twenty years' tenure in his York County House seat, elected to fill the seat once held by his father, Hugh Simrill. The first Republican legislator elected from Rock Hill and the second-ever in York County, his history in the GOP goes back to his high school years in the 1980s.

More Spartanburg legislative primaries

In addition to what is expected to be a heated Senate primary between Spartanburg County State Senator Lee Bright and former Senator John Hawkins, we've learned that there are two State House primary races brewing in Spartanburg County:

  • Incumbent Rep. Rita Allison will face a re-match with Jim McMillan, who challenged her as a petition candidate in 2010, only to get hammered 62-38.
  • Gayle Holt, the last President of the Palmetto House Republican Women chapter, will take on incumbent Rep. Mike Forrester.

Guest Cartoon: Walton - "Gas Prices"

Senate seniority no longer an electoral shield?

In years past, building seniority in the State Senate seemed one of the best ways to ensure a long tenure in the Senate. Senate long-termers like John Drummond, John Land, Hugh Leatherman, Glenn McConnell, Harvey Peeler and Verne Smith rarely face challenges (and usually crushed those challengers by lopsided margins) and the occasional ouster of a long-time Senator, such as Greg Gregory’s upset over a 28-year Senator in 1992, were the result of shifting voter demographics, not voter discontent.

In recent years, those Senators who lost seats were relatively low in seniority. In the last two election cycles, three Senators - John Kuhn from Charleston in 2004 and Ceips from Beaufort and Randy Scott from Dorchester in 2008 - were making their first re-election bids and had not accumulated much seniority.

This year could be different as two senior Republicans face what are expected to be strong primary challengers:

Two more Upstate Senate primary battles

Recently, the Blogland reported that Greenville County Senator David Thomas faced a potential tough primary battle for reelection. Now two more Senators in the Upstate will face what are expected to be strong primary challenges from former state Representatives who are seeking to make political comebacks.

  • Pickens County Senator Larry Martin will face Rex Rice, who gave up his Greenville-Pickens House Seat (which was moved to York County in the recent redistricting) two years ago to run for the Third Congressional District seat. Martin, who has held the seat since 1992 after serving in the House for several terms, has gone without serious opposition during his twenty-year Senate tenure, while Rice spent sixteen years in the House representing part of Martin’s Senate district.

  • Spartanburg County Senator Lee Bright will reportedly face a rematch with John Hawkins, who narrowly defeated Bright in a contest for the seat in 2004. Bright, who won the seat four years later when Hawkins decided not to seek another term, has clashed with fellow Republicans on the county’s legislative delegation and was associated with a failed 2010 petition candidate against Rep. Rita Allison.

While Hawkins may, having defeated Bright in the past, be able to wage a strong candidacy for the Spartanburg County Senate seat, we think Rice will face an uphill battle as House members – current and former – seeking to move up to the Senate, rarely prevail, especially when challenging incumbent Senators. Many current Senators who toppled incumbents to win their seats, including Tom Davis, Greg Gregory, Larry Grooms, Mike Rose and Danny Verdin, were non-legislators when they first won their Senate seats.

Will these challenges prove the rule or the exception? Stay tuned.

Blogland on leave?

The last week or so, I’ve been hearing from some of you who’ve noticed the Blogland had gone unusually silent (me shutting my mouth is a rather unusual thing). For those of you who make the Blogland regular reading, I want to apologize if my absence has taken something from your daily reading routines.

So where have I been?

My work has been putting a ton of work on my plate as of late. Having moved up into management, wrapping up the largest-ever project in company history has put quite a bit on my plate. Like 70-80 hour work weeks and having three days off since the first of the year.

Also, my usual teaching load – a couple of classes a semester, along with a number of lecturing, fill-in and other kinds of presentations – has added to that workload.

I’m expecting the workload to lessen in the next few weeks. With the upcoming primaries giving plenty of fodder for discussion, I look forward to being a part of the circus, as I was during the Presidential primary cycle.