"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 earl@earlcapps.org

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: http://www.thestate.com/2012/11/07/2511143/mcculloch-leads-finlay-by-just.html#storylink=cpy

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.

The Night of the Thurmonds

Last night was a good night for the Thurmond family.

While Strom Jr. rolled to re-election without opposition in a Midlands region Solicitor's race, his brother Paul returned to politics with a solid win for the Charleston area state Senate seat formerly held by Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell.

Paul's father served in the Senate, representing Edgefield County, for several years before moving on to higher offices. Like Paul, his father took the seat when he was in his thirties, opening the door to a long political career.

While many tell us the Solicitor brother is content to be a career prosecutor in the Thurmond family home region, we see Paul as one to watch in the future. He made it into the GOP run-off for the First Congressional District two years ago and battled through a series of court battles and primary contests for the chance to take on Democrat Paul Tinkler, proving he's a fighter.

Like his father, Senator Thurmond is a likable guy, humble and hard-working. These qualities will do him well in politics - and possibly pave the way for a future bid for a higher office.

Watch this guy. He could be going places.

A rough road ahead?

As Election Night fades into the rear-view mirror of history, there's a lot to suggest that taking down an incumbent President was going to be a tough feat. In modern history, Presidents almost always get a second term in office. Since FDR ousted President Hoover in 1932, only three challengers have unseated sitting Presidents: Carter, Reagan and Clinton.

But winning isn't always everything.

History shows that most two-term Presidents in modern history had things head downhill in their second terms. If they don't accomplish what they're after in their first term, they usually won't have much to brag about in their second term:

Mitt Romney: He can fix our problems

Ten months ago, the Blogland endorsed the candidacy of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination for President. We expect that few of our readers would be surprised to see that the Blogland stands behind that endorsement. We wholeheartedly stand behind him and encourage our readers to support him - and to get others to cast their votes for him as well.

We've endorsed Mitt Romney because has proven himself to be thoughtful, reasoned and accomplished in a number of areas that qualify him to lead our nation, most notably with regard to creating jobs, fiscal reform, advocating rational policy-making, and boosting national security. Romney is qualified, proven and ready to lead the way to fix the problems at hand and set a more constructive course than we've seen in the last four years.

The issues before the nation in January are still before us today. The economy remains stagnant, unemployment still hovers around the eight percent mark, deficit spending runs unchecked and our weak foreign policies continue to cost American lives and prestige abroad. President Obama has not lived up to his expectations, cautioning that if re-elected, the next four years could well look much like the last four.

That's unacceptable and it's time for a change. Mitt Romney has the track record and experience needed to lead the way for the kind of real and substantive changes that are badly needed.

The Power and the Pawns: Transparency issue and so-called "conservative" candidates

One of the key premises of conservative thinking asserts that the laws of the land are to be applied equally and consistently and that no man is above the law. This is why issues such as racial quotas and "hate crimes" are viewed with scorn on the political right - we believe that nobody should be exempted from the laws and standards that apply to everyone else.

Conservatives also say they believe that the ends never justify the means, but in South Carolina, we see blatant hypocrisy on the political right as candidates who rail against legislative incumbents over the need for increased transparency in government turn silent about the lack of transparency by shadowy groups who engage in political attacks on their behalf.

It's conduct we've seen a lot of in recent years and it goes to show how some of those who claim to be the most virtuous may want to take a look at the enemy in the mirror first.

Ryan Payne's Invasion of the Body Snatchers

One of the most unusual political moments we've had this year was when we found that Lancaster County state House candidate Ricky ... uh, we meant Ryan Payne, had photoshopped his face onto a professional model, wearing attire we found on a Men's Wearhouse website, and used the photo on the top of his campaign website.

When we pointed out that we had questions about the authenticity of the photo shown on the left, it was quickly replaced with what we'd like to call the "Disco Ricky" photo.

Yeah, that was a big improvement - but at least this political Invasion of the Body Snatchers was ended without any loss of life - although there was considerable loss of taste.

While we're curious if Men's Wearhouse or Ralph Lauren are entitled to any compensation for the use of the photo, we're glad the model got his body back.

In any event, Payne just completed his associate's degree at USC-Lancaster and still lives at home with his family,  hallmarks of a successful community leader who has to be a real hit with the ladies.

If he wants to make friends, he may not be doing too well as his attack on his county's GOP leadership over a resolution that had nothing to do with his candidacy didn't endear him to everyone in local Republican circles.

We're sure he's mastered the unspoken "International Language of Love" too.

Ted Vick's "The Jerk" moment

In the movie "The Jerk", Steve Martin's character gets excited over getting listed in the phone book, proclaiming "This is the kind of spontaneous publicity - your name in print - that makes people. I'm in print! Things are going to start happening to me now." 

Likewise, we're sure that getting his name listed in a web story as one of the twenty worst candidates in 2012 will mark a major turning point in the career of Ted Vick, a Chesterfield County Democratic legislator:

10. State Rep. Ted Vick
South Carolina House
“As a trained minister of the Gospel, Ted is a strong believer in traditional Southern family values,” announced Vick’s website earlier this year when he was running for a seat in the House of Representatives. Then he was arrested for drunken driving — in the company of a 21-year-old female college student he’d just picked up at a bar. Still, that really was a pistol in his pocket, and he neglected to mention to the cops that he was packing heat. So the indefatigable Vick is back to spreading his peculiar brand of family values on the local level, as he fights to keep his state Senate seat. Fresh allegations of illegal campaign contributions suggest that he has his work cut out for him.

We're sure Vick's constituents are proud of how he is putting them on the national radar screen. Whether it's pocketing farm subsidy money while living well, taking payments from a Solicitor after giving money to his campaign, or taking money in excess of legal campaign contribution limits, he's a busy kind of guy!

Radical left wing group for hire goes after Tom Rice in late campaign attack

The Working Families Party has a reputation for being two things: radically far left and willing to work for the highest bidder. It's brought them under considerable scrutiny in New York and now they're bringing their radical political thuggery to South Carolina.

In their attempt to help Gloria "The Green Quitter" Tinubu win the Seventh Congressional District race, they've produced a yet-to-be-aired ad featuring a Conway resident with a long-time vendetta against GOP nominee Tom Rice.

But there's a lot more to the story that Tinubu and her political allies didn't say in the ad - which probably isn't too surprising since Tinubu's become well-known for trying to hide the political baggage that follows her from place to place around the southeastern United States.

Fact-checking the attacks against Senator Martin

There's a new attack ad on the air by the "Liber-Tea Committee", taking more shots at the record of Pickens County Senator Larry Martin on behalf of former State Representative Rex Rice, who is attempting to return to the political arena after losing badly in a 2010 bid for the GOP nomination for Congress.

The attack ad makes two claims about Senator Martin - legislative travel expenditures and a bill which created a legislative pension for legislators over the age of seventy. In examining the facts behind both claims, what was turned up brings the credibility of the ad into question.

The fact-check on this ad will be a bit lengthy and it was a challenge to assemble, but we think the facts speak for themselves. Here's what we found:

State House races to watch

This year's House races take place in a very different environment than in years past. Over the last decade, the GOP House caucus' efforts have gradually swept almost every easily-winnable House district into their control, allowing the GOP to move to contest a collection of mostly-rural swing and Democratic-leaning districts.

However, this year's efforts have been complicated by the ballot court ruling, which forced a number of races that might have been settled in the primary to continue into the fall, putting some districts on the fall radar screen that might normally be done deals. In the House contests, petition candidates are playing a more prominent role in the House battleground than for the Senate, probably because the races are easier to work and more affordable than those for Senate districts. In fact, three House races we're watching have no candidates listed on a major-party ballot.

The House doesn't often see members who were elected as petition candidates. Bubba Cromer held a House seat in Richland County as a petition candidate for much of the 1990s and Billy Keyserling, the current Mayor of Beaufort, won a term in 1994 as a petition candidate (Rep. Shannon Erickson presently holds the seat). While Cromer regularly came out on top in three-way contests against Republicans and Democrats, Keyserling was first elected as a Democrat in 1992, barely defeated a Republican and didn't seek another term in 1996.

In looking around the state, we see tough fights worth watching in House Districts 3, 26, 39, 53, 56, 75, 78, 97 and 105:

State Senate races to watch

Election Day is less than two weeks away. While many legislative races were settled in primaries, with the biggest surprise being the large margin of victory by which Sean Bennett defeated incumbent Senator Mike Rose for the District 38 seat in the Summerville area, there weren't a lot of the surprises and most incumbents are headed back to Columbia.

However, there will be a few more races this fall, mostly due to Republicans getting removed from the spring primary ballots and running as petition candidates.

While most races either have un-opposed nominees or uneven matches which will have easy winners and no impact upon the bigger political picture, there are several Senate races that we think are well worth watching in Senate Districts 2, 6, 20, 23, 28, 35 and 41: