Showing posts with label election 2008. Show all posts
Showing posts with label election 2008. Show all posts

Thursday: Talking politics in the Pee Dee

We're honored to be the featured guest on the new political webcast by Bill Pickle, the Florence County GOP Chair. The show - "The Pickle Barrel" - is streamed live from Bean Groovy, 848 Woody Jones Blvd., Florence, SC. The hour-long show starts at 6:30PM.

We look forward to having a fun conversation with Bill about the year in state politics, as well as the ongoing campaigns for the Seventh District and for President, where we've seen lots of fireworks taking place (including here in the Blogland).

You can bet we'll do our part to keep the show lively, including some fun surprises that will keep you in stitches the whole time.

If you're in the region, drop by and watch the show. Otherwise, tune in by visiting his website:

Punky Brewster for Coroner?

One of this year's more amusing candidacies was waged in Spartanburg County, where Punky Brewster lost her bid for County Coroner.

Some of you may recall that Punky Brewster was the main character of an 80s sitcom series. While we're sure she's not the same person, there've been a number of occasions when we passed one of her signs and couldn't help but conjure images of some happy go lucky kid be-bopping through the morgue, or making cheezy sitcom-eqsque jokes at some horrible fatality scene.

Pretty scary thought, ain't it?

Perhaps one of our Spartanburg County readers, such as Mr. Beltram, would have some commentary they'd like to add to this, because eight months after we started seeing her signs, we're still not sure what to make of this candidacy.

While the Punky Brewster of the 80s was definitely not a politician, Montgomery Brewster, as played by Richard Pryor in the movie "Brewster's Millions", proved to be rather insightful about contemporary American political culture and had some helpful advice on what voters should do:

2008 electoral gains limited for Democrats at the state level

While we're having a great time at the annual Workforce Board planning retreat, we decided to take a break to crunch some numbers and share some electoral data with our readers, this time looking at the nationwide outcomes in the state races.

While Democrats fared well at the national level, most notably in their bid for Electoral College votes for Barack Obama (you don't hear Democrats complaining about it this time around ... ) and Senate seats, the state level picture wasn't as impressive.

While the GOP had finally reached relative parity to Democrats in the number of legislative chambers held (about half of the total of 98 partisan chambers), they lost control of a number of legislative majorities in the midst of the 2006 Democratic electoral wave. While one might have expected state races to again mirror the federal races, it seems as if the GOP was able to dodge this bullet, only losing one Governor's office and a very minor number of legislative seats to the Democrats nationwide.

According to state election data from the NCSL - the National Conference of State Legislatures, the GOP's legislative seat losses in 2008 were much less than those seen two years ago:

Nationwide partisan Senate seats, by election year:

2008: 1026 (53.5% ) DEM / 891 (46.5%) GOP - Change in share of seats: 0.8%
2006: 1011 (52.7%) DEM / 906 (47.3%) GOP - Change in share of seats: 3.0%
2004 : 953 (49.7%) DEM / 964 (50.3%) GOP

Nationwide partisan House seats, by election year:

2008: 3064 (56.8%) DEM / 2330 (43.2%) GOP - Change in share of seats: 1.6%
2006: 2975 (55.2%) DEM / 2410 (44.8%) GOP - Change in share of seats: 5.1%
2004: 2708 (50.2%) DEM / 2687 (49.8%) GOP

The slight difference in the totals is because non-partisan and third party legislators were not included.

It's interesting to note that there was very little in the way of losses in what was supposed to be a bad year for the GOP, especially since many of these legislators will be casting votes for reapportionment plans

Phil Bailey, the state's best Democratic campaign operative, felt this outcome reflected a trend among independent voters to split their tickets:

The Republicans had a hell of a 72-hour operation in South Carolina. Nationwide, I think the middle-of-the-road voters wanted to balance their votes by voting for change in national races, but then voting for some incumbents, which favored the status quo at the local level.

Jim Merrill, the outgoing State House Majority Leader, felt voters assessed state races differently than national races:

Voters more closely scrutinize local races. They were mad at the national-level Republicans, but on the local level, many voters still saw the Republicans they knew in state offices weren't part of the problem.

For a little broader perspective, we talked with Mark Lisella, a Lowcountry native Republican strategist who consults state legislative and congressional races nationwide. He believed a news media bias existed towards upper-ballot Democratic candidates, thus helping convince voters who normally voted for the GOP to split their tickets:

The depravity of the mainstream media rarely shocks me, but their behavior this election cycle was astounding. They abandoned any pretense of impartiality or journalistic integrity to ensure a Democratic victory in competitive races.

This bias is clearly reflected in the election results of the higher profile campaigns. Generally speaking, the campaigns with more media exposure benefitted the Democratic candidate.

Missouri is typically considered a bellwether state. This cycle, no Republican seats in the Missouri State Senate were lost, and three were picked up -- enough seats to override the new Democratic governor. This was the largest increase in the country for a Republican-controlled chamber. The Democratic candidates at the top of the ballot received a disproportionate amount of media coverage, which was more favorable than unfavorable, and that's reflected in the election results.

Ok, now that the experts have spoken ... what do YOU, our readers think ... ?

The long road back

In spite of an 11th hour rally by GOP voters, Tuesday night was another stunning defeat for the GOP.

While a McCain victory would been a symbolic victory, it is hard to see what it would have accomplished. Both the Bushes who sat in the White House contended with Congresses run by the opposition party, and spent those years unable to push through agendas or get the American people to hold Congress accountable for their role in the nation's problems. It is hard to see how McCain's experience would have been much different had he won.

For McCain to win on Tuesday, he had to run against both the perception of the GOP as a party of corruption as much as he was running against the Democrats. It was a task which was far more than he - or anyone else - could have accomplished. Over the last two years, many Republicans have lost for the same reason, and until things change - and convincingly so - more will likely lose in the future.

There is now a certain simplicity as Republicans will no longer have to play political defense or try to convince voters to split the blame amongst a divided government. If the economy is slow, foreign conflicts drag out, deficits persist or tough cuts have to be made to stem the growth of the national debt, voters can only blame the Democrats. But if Republicans wish to settle to play the kind of "blame and wait" game which the Democrats played for the last eight years, it might be a long time before they'll return to majority status.

The last two times the GOP suffered staggering setbacks, in 1976 and 1992, Republicans recovered fairly quickly when they presented pro-active agendas - Reagan's campaign messages in 1980 and Gingrich's Contract with America in 1994 - which focused on a few very simple themes, including fiscal restraint, ethical reform and sound foreign policies. In light of this, Grover Norquist's advice to "politely step away from the Bush presidency and say we're going back to basics" seems wise counsel.

In our humble opinion, the downward slide began the day former House Speaker Dennis Hastert repealed term limits for House committee chairs - the first of many ethical and fiscal sell-outs by Hastert and company, who were soon running interference for a handful of outright crooks and helping themselves to pork earmarks and bridges to nowhere. Even many Republicans disagreed with this direction, like an absentee corporate board of directors, they allowed the company to be taken over by scoundrels, and over the last two years, have paid the price. To change course, they will first need to clean house from within, and then challenge the Democrats and offer voters positive visions of what can be.

There lies a long road ahead before Republicans can return to majority status, but perhaps now the path is finally clear for that process to begin. We agree with Dick Morris' take on the present situation:

The Republican Party's role is to rebuild in the shadow of the frustrations of the Obama presidency. Just as built the massive grass-roots base that yesterday impelled the Democrats to victory, so Republicans must go down to their grass roots, get in touch with their base and rebuild an opportunity to win national elections.

Power has been bad for the GOP, sapping the party's soul and eroding its purity. But opposition, especially when a socialist like Obama wrestles with the practical problems of capitalism, will be a heady experience for the Republicans. The conservative movement can be reborn in opposition in a way they never could have been as the governing party.

Towards this end, we've been outspoken about the problems we've seen, as well as ideas that can offer positive solutions to problems. We intend to continue doing so, because we believe the future of our state and our country is too important for us to sit on the sidelines.

We hope you'll join us.

What now?

Today, we're sure a lot of you are going to vote, and we hope you do. Especially if you're a Republican.

But no matter who wins or who loses, the world is gonna be here tomorrow, so where does the Blogland go from here? Well, our official position is that we're gonna get a life. To that end, there's a lot planned for the Blogland's "Straight on to Gettin' a life Express" ...

  • Tomorrow night, it's off to Myrtle Beach for a Workforce board planning retreat for the rest of the week.
  • Volunteering to teach Red Cross First Aid and CPR classes two Saturdays in Bluffton between now and the end of the year.
  • Lots of work on the Interstate 26 project.
  • Catch the new James Bond movie.
  • Spend more time at church.
  • Figure out how to use up the last stray vacation days left before the year is up.
  • Get ready for the evening adjunct professor gig, which starts in January.
  • Increase the weekly cycling time from four to seven hours a week.

... those are some of the personal things on our plate for the rest of the year. But don't worry, we're gonna include some agenda items that the Blogland's politically-obsessed readers should find of interest:

  • Begin talking about important issues for next year's session of the General Assembly, including getting roll call voting reform passed, calling for real budget reforms, as well as renewed attention to the issue of predatory lending ... with more issues to come as they develop.
  • Welcome the new faces, returning friends, and follow the upcoming legislative leadership races.
  • Watch the upcoming judicial elections, feature some candidate interviews, and as before, bring you news you won't find on other blogs and MSM outlets along with our endorsements for deserving candidates.
  • Bring you more of the Inside Interviews that helps our readers take a closer look into the many facets of government and politics in the Palmetto State.

Whatever happens tonight, there's nothing to worry about here, except how to juggle all these balls that life is throwing this way. One of the nice things about being a politico with a full-time job in the private sector is that the bills get paid no matter who wins.

At the risk of starting another Splatter the Shatner round with Mike Reino, we'd like to share this sage advice from Captain James Tiberius Priceline:

GOP wins landslide victory in the Blogland

Early voting numbers are in for the Blogland precinct, and ... yep, you guessed it - the GOP ticket won in a landslide, including:

John McCain
Senator Lindsey Graham
Representative Henry Brown
... and the rest of the Republican ticket.

We've also endorsed the following candidates for various offices across South Carolina as being worthy of your vote:

State Senate races:
Dee Compton, District 10 -Abbeville, Greenwood, Laurens Counties
Shane Massey, District 25 - Aiken, Edgefield, McCormick & Saluda Counties

State House races:
Marvin Rogers, District 49 - York County
Phil Lowe, District 60 - Florence & Sumter Counties
Nikki Haley, District 87 - Lexington County
Jill Kelso, District 108 - Charleston, Georgetown & Horry Counties
Shannon Erickson, District 124 - Beaufort County

County offices:
Dean Fowler, Florence County's Treasurer
Sabrina Gast, York County's Coroner

In any event, we encourage you to not punch the master party button. Instead, use your head, think a little, and go for the sick and twisted pleasure of punching each Republican spot on the ballot.

For a little fun ... if there's an uncontested Democrat on the ballot, remember the write-in feature is easier to use than ever, with the touch-screen keyboard. In those cases, you may want to consider having a little fun by typing in the names of movie or cartoon characters.

As for uncontested Republicans ... what the heck - do it to them too.

But if you haven't already cast your ballot, please take a moment to watch this video, and be sure to share it with any of your friends who have yet to vote:

WASP on Barack Obama: "Call him what he truly is… a Marxist, in Socialist clothing!"

While we haven't always agreed with his political insights, we've found the frontman of Tipper Gore's favorite band - WASP - Blackie Lawless to be outspoken on issues. Us 80s headbangers remember how he took on that Democratic fascist pig and her PRMC gang. Here in the Blogland, we've talked about the WASP album, "Dying for the World", which was inspired by Lawless' rage over the attacks of 9/11.

Now, he's standing up to the latest fascist pig to rise up on the national political scene, Barack Obama, challenging the dangers that lie just below the surface in a posting on his website entitled "Read in case of National Emergency":

The books Obama has written about himself are very clear as to his true ambitions concerning his Leftist, Marxist views but the average person will not take the time to read them, In the 1920’s while in prison, a young Adolf Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) which outlined his entire plan for World Domination and the extermination of the Jewish race. No one would read it, and then when they did it was too late…. any book that was not approved by the Nazi Party was burned. The “Communist Manifesto” by Karl Marx at one time, was required reading in our schools. This book is Obama’s “How To” guide with his ideal of the “Redistribution of Wealth”. If you don’t think so, go back and look at the above radio interview. Somewhere Karl Marx with his Godless, Utopian vision is laughing in delight.

If it is true that “What is Past, is Prologue” then we need look no further than Obama’s books. His blueprint is there in black and white. Literally and figuratively.

I will vote for McCain, not because I believe in all he stands for, but as a mandate against Obama, to keep him from becoming President. Yes, I will cling to my guns and my religion, and continue to believe in the Constitution, the Cornerstone of our society and trust that this is STILL a ”Government of the People, By the People, For the People”.

The point of all this is, that no matter whatever any of us encounter in life, look for the truth. The truth can and will stand up to anything. If that truth cannot stand up to scrutiny then you must see it and call it for what it truly is.

If any would be Messiah comes along and he looks like it, acts like it and smells like it then you call him what he truly is… a Marxist, in Socialist clothing!

Amen, brother.

This'll be our last post on the subject, because for the next few days we here in the Blogland are gonna be doing all we can to stop that lying SOB and his militant cohorts from winning the White House.

They wanted a fight, so we're gonna give 'em one!

Elect Jill Kelso - A fresh new voice in the State House

Voters along the South Carolina coast have an opportunity to shake things up and send a great new voice to the State House by electing Republican Jill Kelso to House Seat 108, which covers the lower Grand Strand, the city of Georgetown, and much of northern Charleston County.

The incumbent, Democrat Vida Miller, has held the seat since 1997, appealing to crossover voters as a self-identified independent. Thus far, it has worked, but Kelso has worked hard and presented herself as a candidate whose affiliations and political philosophies are not in conflict. From what we've been told, she's made considerable headway in her candidacy.

Kelso has taken Miller to task for ignoring issues in the district, including being an absentee board member of a non-profit whose director had raided them for over five million dollars, and has campaigned hard on a platform based upon strong constituent outreach, supporting restructuring and challenging Columbia's pork barrel culture. While we see these as good things, the incumbent doesn't seem to think fixing the tax-and-spend culture that has created a state budget which roller coasters into disaster during every economic slowdown is that important.

When we talked with Kelso, she didn't take the conventional partisan tack, but rather talked about issues and ideas with an eye on solving problems, not scoring political points. That is just the kind of leadership our state needs.

We would never presume to call someone with Miller's record of community service unethical or corrupt because such charges wouldn't be true. But sooner or later, mistakes are made, and when that happens, it's time for a change.

The time for a change has come, and Jill Kelso has shown us she's up to the task of representing District 108, which is why we're endorsing her.

Keep Dean Fowler Treasurer - Florence County's fiscal watchdog

Today, we couldn't help but notice our good friend Mike Reino actually beat us to the punch with something we were meaning to get around to writing when he endorsed Florence County Tresurer Dean Fowler for re-election.

While Mike captures what Fowler does at the local level, we'd like to take this to another level and tell you that Dean Fowler is recognized around the state as a go-to guy when it comes to running an efficient Treasurer's office with great customer service. That level of trust is an honor accorded to few people who hold such offices around the state.

But while many County Treasurers are content to sit back and collect taxes, that's not enough for Fowler, who has been a long-time critic of taxes and spending in local politics. He sees the real world impact taxes have upon Florence County residents, and he's not afraid to speak out to help protect them from excessive taxation.

Fowler's opponent was dismissed from his job as the Florence County Tax Assessor after an investigation turned up a wide range of problems with his office:

Florence County documents show there were numerous financial, legal and other concerns with former Tax Assessor Leval Williams who said charges during his grievance hearing were based on “misinterpretations and lies.”

The documents, released to the Morning News under a Freedom of Information request, also provided details of his grievance process which has upheld Williams’

Williams, now running for county treasurer, was fired March 14 from the tax assessor’s post.

- Documents detail concerns with former tax assessor, Florence Morning News, 10/25/08

Such allegations are troubling and Florence County voters can ill afford to take a chance on Williams. Especially when they have a strong incumbent in Fowler who knows the job and has done an outstanding job.

Doing your job well, and then going above and beyond the call of duty ia what real leadership is all about. That's what Florence County has in Dean Fowler, which is why Florence County voters should vote to give him another four years in office.

Beyond Election Day 2008: Declaring a winner

Regardless of who wins the White House next Tuesday night, the biggest winner of Election 2008 won’t be John McCain or Barack Obama, nor the party which controls Congress. The biggest winners of the 2008 election will be those whose pioneering efforts shifted political campaigning on the Internet from the fringes of American political culture into its mainstream.

In the 2004 elections, those who waged politics in the virtual world, such as Howard Dean and the blogger that debunked Dan Rather’s now-infamous Bush memo were like the Phil Sheridans and J.E.B. Stuart of the American Civil War - raiders who struck at the vulnerable flanks and rear of the battlefield, sometimes affecting the larger picture, sometimes not. This year, they are now among the Shermans and Stonewall Jacksons of the American political landscape – the leaders and orchestrators of powerful forces whose ranks and operations played key roles in the overall plans of the war.

We should not be surprised those who campaign via the Internet become the Grants and Lees of the 2010 and 2012 elections – the overall commanders of all the forces fighting for their cause. As with any profession, those who are successful at the lower levels – who often pioneer new tactics and approaches – ascend to the higher ranks. Someone who started as a blogger become a national campaign manager, or someone who started out organizing via MySpace or Facebook chair the DNC or RNC.

In his book
“Being Digital”, penned in the mid-1990s, Nicholas Negroponte described the early years of the Internet explosion, in which he predicted that these changes were inevitable and that radical changes upon how people communicate were soon to come:

The change from atoms to bits is irrevocable … Why now? Because the change is also exponential - small differences of yesterday can have suddenly shocking consequences tomorrow.

The difference between the electronic world and traditional campaign methodologies is stark – television ads and direct mail pieces which take days to produce and distribute to audiences are losing their influence upon voters, as web-delivered content, which can be rolled out in a matter of hours, wields increasing amounts of influence. While television campaigns have gradually shrunk from minutes in length to thirty seconds or even less, web videos on campaign websites are often one to three minutes long. This suggests that voters who skim newspapers, toss the direct mail pieces after a cursory glane, and won’t sit still for a 60 second tv spot will go online and spend several minutes watching an online video or reading a blog posting. This shift represents a profound change in the landscape of political communication.

The other effects of political activity on the Internet have also matured: the ability to recruit, organize and rally supporters of candidates, serve as primary sources of fundraising, and to influence the agendas of both traditional and new media outlets. It’s now difficult to imagine how today’s political candidates for offices higher than county dogcatcher can wage successful campaigns without incorporating internet tactics and tools into their campaigns.

In looking at the South Carolina political landscape, few will likely remember when yours truly authored the now-forgotten Evacuate Hodges website. While that website represented something new to South Carolina politics in its time – the use of the internet as a primary source of information dissemination – blogs, aggregator websites, comment sections in the web-posted new stories of traditional media websites are now commonplace, wielding considerable influences upon electioneering and public policy in South Carolina.

When you think about it, this rapid evolution and growth of influence sounds a lot like the changes Negroponte predicted. Today, Palmetto State politicians, strategists, lobbyists, and interest group leaders routinely seek the support of online political activists, and seldom a day goes by without some traditional news media outlet quoting (often without due credit) some website author or blogger.

The consequences of these changes are not just important for our own nation. American political tactics and strategies have both direct involvement and indirect influences upon campaigns waged in many of the world’s democracies, as what is proven effective in American campaigns is quickly exported elsewhere to win elections. Those who change how campaigns are waged here will end up influencing how democracy is practiced on a global scale.

Whether you’re talking about South Carolina, or the national political scene, this is the year the change from atoms to bits produced fundamental changes upon how we campaign for public office, as well as how we govern. These profound and lasting effects which will reach farther and last longer than the tenure of the next President. While John McCain or Barack Obama may shape the course of a nation, netroots culture will shape the future of democratic governance on a global scale. In doing so, those who have moved internet-based politics from the fringes to the mainstream have won the greatest victory of the 2008 elections.

Beyond Election Day 2008: A tough act to follow

In modern times, same-party Presidential succession has been a difficult task. Since FDR, no American President has succeeded a President of his party and went on to serve two full terms.

While Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and George Bush were able to follow Presidents of their own party, all of them struggled in their administrations: after ascending to the White House after the death of FDR, Truman barely won election for his full term, Johnson was soon mired in Vietnam and dropped out of the 1968 election, Ford lost his bid for a full term, and Bush struggled through a wildly-swinging ’88 campaign, only to lose re-election. Adalai Stevenson, Richard Nixon (1960), Herbert Humphrey, and Al Gore all lost their efforts to keep the White House in the hands of their party.

That’s not a very good record, but there’s may be a good reason. In his book “Tides of Consent: How Public Opinion Shapes American Politics”, James A. Stimson looks at American attitudes on issues, as indicated by research data obtained from decades of American voter opinion surveys. His findings show a clear cyclical pattern in the mindsets of the American public, showing the presence of a political center in which a bloc of voters oscillate between the parties in sufficient number to sway Presidential elections between the two major parties. 

Based upon overall identification on issues, his research indicated that voters shifted towards the left on positions by just under 15% during the Eisenhower administration, 12% during the Reagan-Bush tenure, and towards the right by about 8% during the Clinton years. While it suggests voter opinions shift gradually under GOP administrations, they shift more quickly under Democratic administrations – which might help to explain the electoral romps of the GOP in the 1978 and 1994 elections, both presidential first mid-terms.

In looking at the average of polling data on public support for spending for education, health care, urban programs, and welfare programs, as well as increased taxes, voter support for these positions dropped to an average in the low 40s in the latter days of the Carter administration, then peaked near sixty percent when Clinton took office, only to shift back below the fifty percent mark at the end of the Clinton administration.

Stimson’s findings point out a major reason for these shifts: when a Presidential administration acts on an issue, voter opinions on that issue begin to shift away from that position. Stimson provides plenty of data to back up this position. We can see wide swings over a number of issues, typically shifting only when the party in the White House changes or significant actions like the 1982 tax cuts or 1996 welfare reform take place. Typically once an action is taken to address an issue where voter support has soured, or an administration has been seated which promises action on those issues, voters feel less averse to that issue.

While the Bush administration was often not very conservative, it was perceived as that. Domestic spending, long a concern of fiscal conservatives, skyrocketed, swelling the national debt and annual deficits and souring voters on the GOP brand name. But Stimson's data shows the same shift away from the Presidential party post-Watergate for Republicans and during the Carter and Clinton years for Democrats.

Those who argue the best thing for the GOP would be for McCain to lose may be right. The GOP quickly recovered from the post-Watergate years thanks to Carter’s blunders, but its party ranks withered and it lost considerable ground between the second Reagan mid-term and the election of Bill Clinton. If McCain pulls off a small win, a battered GOP may not be of much help to him, or be able to regain ground lost in recent years.

However, there is not a single Democratic President since FDR whose administrations went smoothly – Truman lost Congress and struggled to resolve the Korean War, JFK dealt with the Bay of Pigs, a growing Vietnam War and divides in his party over civil rights, Johnson with Vietnam, civil rights and widespread urban violence, Carter with foreign and energy policies and a massive recession, Clinton with his bungled first two years and the Monica Lewinsky affair. This doesn’t bode well for an Obama administration. Not only that, but history usually dictates that a party’s upswing will not last for long – typically two election cycles before stagnation sets in or the course reverses itself.

This should give both candidates, and their parties, much to think about and watch out for over the next two and four years.

Beyond Election Day: Looking ahead

Post-graduate school life has been a time for reflection – the process of pondering what one has accomplished. Along the way, that has included going back over papers from research projects, re-reading old journal articles and books, looking at a lot of stuff that was set aside for future research projects on a “just in case” basis, going to some conferences to present past research and show support for friends who are still in the graduate program.

One of my special areas of research in the field of communication, not surprisingly, was political communication. This being an election year, a lot of what I’m rummaging through is helping me understand what is going on out there.

Those who’ve attended my lectures know I’m fond of giving out some of my favorite book titles. I also enjoy giving them as gifts. Not the usual political books which present distilled writings of well-known politicos, but those who have great insights and/or experience in the campaign world, as well as those who’ve studied the political process and factors which help inform and guide the voting public. I find these works useful because I can, without knowing the affiliation of the authors, hold them up to what I see out there and find that they help me better understand what is going on, as well as predict what is to come.

In “Beyond Election Day”, I’m going to touch on some of this research to help better understand what is going on with this year’s voters, explain why it’s happening and help predict where we’ll go from here. Tomorrow will feature “A tough act to follow”, where I discuss the underlying historic voter trends, followed the next day by “Declaring a winner” - my prediction of who will really win on Election Day. This will include some keen insights from some of my favorite books and research authors.

As is the usual Blogland style, what you expect and what you end up getting are often very different. I promise this series will be no different, and hope it will give you some useful insights to ponder.

Legislative race watch - Part 3: The Senate races

In this year’s Senate races, there aren’t a lot of seats that are contested, but a surprising number of those that are contested are pretty heated. Much of this is due to the fact that there are a handful of swing and GOP-leaning Senate districts that have remained in Democratic hands, often due to the presence of longtime Democratic incumbents in those seats.

Senate District 10 (Abbeville, Greenwood & Laurens Counties) – open Democrat:

Dee Compton ran a strong campaign in the primary and won the nomination big. He rolls into a fall race against Democrat Floyd Nicholson, the current Mayor of Greenwood. The last serious challenge the GOP waged for the seat was against John Drummond, the retiring incumbent, back in 2000. In that race, Republican Hunter Eddy waged an underfunded campaign against Drummond and still got 41 percent. Since then, Greenwood County, the core of the district, has turned from a Democratic-leaning county into a Republican one, with the GOP in control at the courthouse.

Without Drummond’s star power to hold the seat, Compton’s momentum and the GOP lean of the district puts him in the driver’s seat in the race for this seat, but Nicholson has a record and a support base in Greenwood. While Compton held a decent lead after the GOP runoff, there are those who think the race has closed considerably, giving Nicholson, who has doggedly hung on, an opportunity to hang on and keep the race close.

We think Compton will win, but this could be a close one. But if the GOP can’t win this one, then they might be on their way to having a very tough night statewide.

Senate District 11 (Spartanburg County) – incumbent Democrat:

Democratic Senator Glenn Reese has ridden out the rising GOP tide in the Upstate. Holding a seat he’d won in a special election following the Lost Trust conviction of Republican Rick Lee, he’s on his 17th year in the seat. Without fail, the GOP always finds a challenger and gives him a strong race. But while he’s never broken the sixty percent mark, he’s not lost either.

This time around, his challenger is Mike Gardner, a former Highway Patrolman. He’s got the county’s formidable GOP establishment solidly behind him, which never misses a chance to go after Reese in this GOP-leaning district. But this time, Gardner’s got extra help that Reese’s past outgunned challengers haven’t had – mailings by SCRG which are touting Gardner and attacking Reese. This time, Reese is going to have a tough challenge on his hands, and we don’t see any landslide coming for either candidate.

We think this race will be one to watch, and Gardner could make some surprising headway in a race that could come down to the wire. But a Gardner upset win will rely upon a strong GOP turnout, which is possible, but not assured.

Senate District 16 (Lancaster & York Counties) – open Republican:

In 1992, Greg Gregory scored a big upset win, ousting Red Hinson, who’d held the seat for a generation. While Gregory may have caught Democrats off-guard, the Democrats aren’t going to underestimate the GOP candidate this time around. Their candidate, Mandy Norell, is waging a strong campaign against Republican State Rep. Mick Mulvaney who represents about half the Senate district. A modest majority of the rest of the district is in the heavily-Republican precincts in the Fort Mill area, and the rest of the district is in central Lancaster County. If Mulvaney wins his House District precincts, he’ll be a sure bet to carry the seat.

We hear Mulvaney’s got a lead in this race, but both sides are still fighting hard for the seat, which says it’s closer that either side would like for it to be.

Senate District 25 (Aiken, Edgefield, McCormick & Saluda Counties) – incumbent Republican:

Last year, Shane Massey was one of several Republican candidates who entered the race to replace retiring Senator Tommy Moore. He raised eyebrows when he led in the primary and then scored a landslide run-off victory against Moore’s longtime campaign manager, and then scored an unlikely, but razor close, victory, beating a veteran Democratic House member in a seat with a 36% black voting population.

Knowing that ’08 would be a tough year for Republicans in his district, Massey never really quit campaigning to try to build a slight lead for re-election. Not surprisingly, the Democrats see the district’s demographics as giving them an opportunity to win the seat back and they’re giving it all they’ve got. This race is about a perfect toss-up, and it’s going to come down to turnout. The side which can turn out two or three hundred extra voters on Election Day will likely win this seat.

Senate District 28 (Dillon, Horry, Marion & Marlboro Counties) – incumbent Democrat:

Four years ago, Democrat Dick Elliot faced a challenger with little name recognition or resources, and barely held the seat. This time, he’s got a real fight with Republican Bill McKown.

McKown has worked the district well, including Democratic areas, most notably took sides with Marlboro residents in fighting a proposed regional landfill, and he’s raised a ton of money. But Elliot expected his close ’04 finish would lead to strong challenger this time around, and has fought back hard to fend off McKown’s challenge, including puzzling support from Buddy Witherspoon, who recently blasted Senator Graham for cozying up to Democrats, and County Auditor Lois Eargle, who was well known for backing Governor Sanford’s Democratic challenger.

If Horry County’s GOP turnout stays high, and is augmented by many of the new GOP voters who have moved into the coastal portion of Elliot’s district, McKown could score an upset. In any event, this race will be close and bears watching. If the GOP can turn their voters out and keep them united enough to win this seat, it’ll probably be a signal that they’re having a pretty strong night throughout the state.

Legislative race watch - Part 2: Lowcountry House races

House District 97 (Dorchester County) – incumbent Democrat:

This seat has changed parties in all but one election since 2000, and nobody has won this seat by more than a couple of hundred or so votes in that time. In 2000, George Bailey gave it up to make a bid for the State Senate, and took it back two years later. In 2006, he lost the seat to Democrat Patsy Knight. This time, he’s the challenger and she’s the incumbent, and both sides are working hard to edge the other out.

We think this race could go either way, but you can expect that the outcome will lbe about as close as the last four races waged for it.

House District 108 (Charleston, Georgetown, and Horry Counties) – incumbent Democrat:

Since Vida Miller won an open race for this seat in 1996, the GOP has tried repeatedly to win the seat back. Beating an incumbent often requires recruiting the right candidate and running them in the right year, where favorable turnout would push them over the top. Thus far, these efforts have fallen short – either with good candidates in bad years, or bad candidates in good years. But this year, Republican Jill Kelso is running a surprisingly strong challenge to Miller.

Kelso has worked the ground aggressively, while Miller seems to have made some mistakes in her re-election bid. Kelso has taken advantage of every opportunity to challenge the incumbent, and Miller’s people seem to be playing catch-up, which is unusual given Miller’s usual ability to keep the high ground in her past races.

Miller hasn’t held onto this GOP-leaning seat for twelve years by being a lousy candidate or leaving re-election to chance, and this time is no different. But this time, Kelso is giving her a hell of a fight in a race that could be close.

House District 115 (Charleston County) – incumbent Republican:

Two years ago, Republican Wallace Scarborough streak of easy rides in this district ended when he won in a close race to Democrat Eugene Platt. While Platt was itching for rematch, Anne Patterson Hutto argued that a more serious Democratic candidate could have won the race, and Democratic primary voters gave her a chance to do so this year.

Two years ago, Scarborough’s divorce issues were played up in the news media, costing him considerable ground that Platt was eager to exploit. While he’s resolved the divorce and moved on (and we’ve discussed some of that here), Democrats still feel these issues are still around. Political history usually suggests that if an incumbent survives a race where these issues surface, the negatives usually fade and voters move on. We’ll see if that’s the case this time around.

This House seat hasn’t changed hands very often in the last three decades, reflecting the cautious mindsets of the quiet middle class residents who make up much of its population. But when they do get a new legislator, they’re not afraid to boot the old one out. Of the four people to hold this seat since 1980, two of the four were ousted for re-election: Republican Woody Aydlette in 1988 and Republican Lynn Seithel in 2000. Scarborough almost became the third out of four to get the boot two year ago, and he’s fighting hard to avoid that fate this time around.

It seems Scarborough’s campaign is a little better organized this time around and he’s ready for a fight. Which is a good thing, because this time around, he’s got one.

House District 124 (Beaufort County) – incumbent Republican:

Last year, Shannon Erickson won this open House seat after the incumbent won a special election to go to the State Senate. The Democrats, who haven't run a candidate for this seat in years, found one with local defense attorney Jim Brown.

Brown has received a round of negative publicity here and elsewhere in both new and print media over outstanding criminal charges for a disturbance in a Beaufort area school, while Erickson has remained focused on her message of hard-working constituent service and her accomplishments at getting legislation moving through the General Assembly - which is something few freshmen have the ability to do.

The district’s voting population is 36% black, which means the Democrats have a good core voter bloc to start with, but Erickson has worked hard and the most of the rest of the district’s population is overwhelmingly Republican. The yellow-dog Democrats that her challenger needs simply don't exist in that district. While it’s not likely that Erickson can run away with a big win, we think this race is still hers to lose.

Legislative race watch - Part 1: Upstate and Midlands House races

House District 29 (Chester, Cherokee and York Counties) – incumbent Democrat:

Two years ago, the race for this seat was the closest in the state, with Democrat Dennis Moss edging out Republican Danny Stacy by just a couple dozen votes. This year will see a rematch between the two that many expected.

Cherokee County has trended Republican in recent years, and the York County precincts are a mix of Republican and swing rural precincts. Last time, Stacy being edged out in his home county hurt and Moss’ 110 vote lead in Chester County made the difference, but if Stacy can turn Cherokee voters his way and the York GOP’s strong organization can increase his lead in their precincts, the Chester precincts won’t save him this time. The sum total of these factors is a race that should be close, no matter what.

House District 45 (Lancaster and York Counties) – open Republican:

In the latter half of the 20th century, this House seat was a breeding ground for Democratic power brokers – Tom Mangum, a former House Ways and Means Chair, and Jim Hodges, who chaired Judiciary and went on to serve a term as Governor, both held this seat. When Hodges left, the GOP ran a strong race for the seat, and again in ’04. When Hodges’ successor, Eldridge Emory, gave it up in 2006, GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney pulled off a close win.

Two years later, the seat is open again, and both parties are running hard for it. While the District’s precincts in the Fort Mill area draw in hundreds of new mostly-Republican voters every year, it has a history of close races and the Democrats will fight to gain this seat back, in hopes of regaining control of the Lancaster County delegation. Deborah Long, the Republican candidate, probably has the edge in this race, but we’re expecting the race to be close.

House District 49 (York County) – open Democrat:

After 16 years in the House from York County, Democratic Representative Bessie Moody-Lawrence has decided to call it quits. For this district which is composed nearly equally of strongly Republican white suburban and rural voters and Democratic black urban voters, the race should have favored the Democratic nominee, John King, over Republican Marvin Rogers. But this race has been anything but normal or usual.

In Marvin Rogers, the Republicans have a candidate who has sold himself well to voters throughout the district, and with John King, the Democrats have a candidate with no ties to the district, and a political resume mostly in another county. Republican voters seem sold on Rogers, while King is failing to lock in the Democratic voter base – this means the race is unusually competitive. Also, Moody-Lawrence, popular in the district, has been silent in this race. Rogers has not missed a beat and is campaigning aggressively, not only to ensure his GOP base, but also to crack the Democratic networks that usually decide the outcome of races for this seat, with a fair degree of success.

While the demographics say the Democratic primary should have decided this race, Rogers has made a solid effort to put it in play. Expect the race for this seat to defy traditional political thinking, and don’t be surprised if it’s close.

House District 60 (Florence and Sumter Counties) – incumbent Republican:

The Pee Dee region is clearly Democratic turf. The region’s legislators are almost entirely Democratic, with just four GOP House members and one Senator mostly holding turf based in the few Republican enclaves in the region – four of the five in Florence and Sumter Counties. Two years ago, Phillip Lowe ran for this open seat after Republican Marty Coates had struggled to hold it. A lot of people didn’t give him a chance to prevail, but he stunned everyone with a 60-40 win. This year, the Democrats found a new candidate in Zachary Cooper, and they’re trying again.

With a 40% black population, Lowe’s big win in ’06 was a major surprise and he’ll be hard-pressed to pull off a second big win. For Lowe to win, he has to lock in an overwhelming edge with the district’s Republican and independent voters, enough to offset the expected surge in Democratic voter turnout.

If anyone can do it, we believe Lowe can. But whatever happens, expect it to be close, perhaps the tightest of all House races.

House District 79 (Kershaw and Richland Counties) – open Republican:

This was a close race two years ago, and we think it will be again. Two years ago, the Republican field was divided between GOP incumbent Bill Cotty and a petition candidacy by perennial GOP candidate Michael Letts and driven by SCRG attack mailings. Democrat Anton Gunn made the most of the opportunity and almost won the seat. This year, Cotty decided sixteen years of service was enough, and Gunn is running again, facing GOP nominee David Herndon.

There’s a modest Democratic base in the district which combined with Gunn’s charismatic appeal, will count for a lot. But this time around, the district’s GOP voters are no longer divided by a high-dollar campaign for a far-right petition candidate. This means that while Gunn can wage a strong candidacy, this race should favor the Republican candidate. But this district’s voters are very independent-minded and often vote for candidates as individuals, as evidenced by Democratic Senator Joel Lourie’s close 2004 upset win of the overlapping Senate district. That means Herndon can lead if he is a strong candidate, but if he’s not, Gunn could pull off a close win.

State legislative race previews start tomorrow

With just three weeks to go before Election Day, the races for seats in the General Assembly are starting to heat up.

Two years ago, we picked seats we thought would be close, and we came up pretty good. All but one of the seats where the winning percentage was under 55% made our list, and only one race we picked as close came in over that mark. Since we did so good, and got some interesting responses from our readers, we're going to do it again, looking at House and Senate races across the Palmetto State.

This election year offers, at best, marginal change in the makeup of the General Assembly. Many of these seats made our list two years ago, or were Senate races that were close four years ago, mostly due to demographics of the districts. As such numbers don’t change overnight, we’re not surprised to be looking at races in many of the same districts that were close last time around.

Thursday morning, we'll kick the three-part series off with the first batch of House races, so be sure to come back and check it out!

Beaufort House candidate 'fesses up to school incidents

Weeks after we were the first to tell you, the folks at the Beaufort Gazette were invited to a press conference held by State House District 124 candidate Jim Brown, where they learned him and his wife had been arrested for a series of incidents involving Beaufort County schools.

This is just one of many cases in the blogosphere where you get the news well before the folks at "credible, traditional news media outlets" get around to talking about it.

When we'd initially talked about it, we were well aware of his wife's connections to the issue, but declined (to the frustration of some of our readers) to bring her into our story, because she's not a candidate for public office. We figured that if you want to hear all about someone's family and personal issues (we all have them), there are other websites you can go to.

In considering the claims made by Mr. Brown in the Beaufort Gazette story, we've been left wondering about several questions:

1) Why would she have her husband, who generally handles criminal defense, handle her lawsuit, instead of an attorney who might be more suited to this type of case? Even if it's not a professional conflict of interest to have a family member provide legal counsel, it doesn't feel right to us.

2) Is there a connection between her arrest in May of 2006 and the lawsuit, which was settled out of court in January 2007?

3) Brown is a criminal defense attorney. He could easily have pushed to have this case brought to trial, dropped, or stalled in hopes the case dies on its own. Since he essentially admitted his guilt, then we wonder if he was stalling to avoid an embarrasing conviction which would have hurt his candidacy.

4) What else is out there? Knowing he would do this at a public school isn't very reassuring.

While Mr. Brown may have hoped to have put the issue to rest, all we see is someone who wanted to make an issue of his family, admitted he's a loose cannon, and in doing so, raised even more questions. That's unfortunate, because such a move should normally be intended to bring clarity and resolution to difficult issues, not stir the pot further.

As an aside, we've heard of many cases where sexual harassment lawsuits against governmental entities in South Carolina are often settled because it's cheaper than fighting the charges, with no regard for the personal and professional reputation of the accused, or consideration that settling lawsuits may invite more. For the benefit of the taxpayers, especially given the current financial picture, perhaps this policy needs to be revisited.

Post and Courier questions Bidens "alternate universe"

For all Joe Biden's supposed foreign policy expertise, it's a little puzzling how such a seasoned politico has managed to come up with some of the really strange whoppers he's put out there over the years. Yesterday, the Post and Courier nailed two of his latest big ones.

Al Gore may have invented the Internet, but in a recent interview, Joe Biden told us FDR was on television decades before it was invented and years before he was elected to address the nation:

This brings to mind Sen. Biden's remarkable comment to Katie Couric on Sept. 22 describing how President Franklin D. Roosevelt went on national television after the October 1929 stock market crash to explain what needed to be done. Never mind that he wasn't president at the time, and that television wasn't in use until 20 years later.

Joe Biden speaks of the recent days of peace and brotherhood in Lebanon after the liberation of that country by the invasion of US and French forces (it never happened, but if it did and the French were involved, wouldn't they have lost?):

BIDEN: When we kicked — along with France — we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, 'Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't ... Hezbollah will control it.'

P&C: In the real world, Hezbollah was never "kicked out" of Lebanon, so there was never an opportunity to move any foreign forces — NATO or otherwise — to Lebanon to "fill the vacuum."

... and Palin's critics call HER kooky?

Mark your calendar

This Wednesday, October 8, the Young Adult Catholics of Columbia will be holding a political event featuring two speakers, one from each party, who will discuss the positions of their parties candidates relative to the concerns and values of Catholics.

One will be our fave GOP strategist, Wes Donehue, and the other will be state Democratic Party third vice-chair Joey Opperman. These two have a history of locking horns, having led their respective parties at USC at the same time, as well as hanging out and drinking. We're sure it will be a pretty neat reunion, and an entertaining show for all of those who attend.

They'll be speaking (and drinking) at Delaney's down in Five Points on Wednesday (October 8) at 6 p.m. If you're in the Midlands, go down and check it out!

Clarendon GOP to open headquarters on Sunday

The Clarendon County GOP is opening their campaign headquarters on Sunday:


Be sure to mark your calendar!