Showing posts sorted by relevance for query cotty. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query cotty. Sort by date Show all posts

The "Ethics" of the SCRG

For a group whose name presents themselves as "responsible", the folks at the SCRG are quite puzzling in their adoration for funding high-volume attack campaigns. The more mud they throw, the bolder they get with the next round of sleaze.

But don't just take my word for it ... The State has also weighed in on the SCRG attacks.

It's far from the first time I've talked about their tactics this fall. In previous postings, I've looked at their shady tactics and distorted messages in the race for House Seat 115 and House Seat 119, both in Charleston County.

One of the targets of the SCRG is GOP State Rep. Bill Cotty in the Midlands, who faces a tough race with perennial candidate Michael Letts waging a petition candidacy on his right, and Democrat Anton Gunn on his left.

Outlasting such a squeeze play, in any event, is a tough proposition, but normally, a show of party unity bleeds a petition candidate on the right enough for the GOP candidate to make it through. But the direct mail attack campaign being waged by the SCRG is attempting to damage Cotty.

While their motives remain murky, many observers feel they are trying to aid Gunn's candidacy. We lean toward this theory, given Lett’s history of being repeatedly trounced in bids for this seat, as well as the history of petition candidates prevail in three-way races. To date, Letts has lost three races for this seat, as well as getting 38% in the GOP runoff for County Council two years ago. If Letts is a proven loser, then who else could they be trying to stack the deck for?

However, given Gunn's positions, including opposition to school choice, it's unlikely such an association is welcomed by the Gunn campaign, no matter how beneficial their attacks may be to his candidacy.

Their recent attack mailing against Cotty, entitled “Ethics Matter”, makes a number of questionable claims about Cotty:


Relationship with schools: As an attorney, Cotty provides legal counsel for a local school district. On the Education Oversight Committee, he is involved with overall policy review for the state. Two different bodies at two levels of government - so where's the conflict?

As a member of the SC Bar, Cotty is bound by their Rules of Conduct - http://www.scbar.org/member/conduct.asp to avoid conflicts of interest. Ass a public official, he is governed by the Rules of Conduct of the South Carolina Ethics Commission. http://ethics.sc.gov/rulesofconduct/. Acting in his own financial interest is expressly forbidden:

A public official, public member, or public employee may not knowingly use his official office, membership, or employment to influence a government decision to obtain an economic interest for himself, a member of his immediate family, an individual with whom he is associated, or a business with which he is associated.



As both an attorney and public official, Cotty is overseen by very explicit guidelines, with some very serious consequences for violating them. It's doubtful that with two watchdogs, he'd do something so stupid, or at the very least, he wouldn't get away with it for long.

That his opposition has chosen to make a campaign issue about it, rather than seeking an investigation, does much to suggest these charges are hollow, or at least they’re more concerned about winning elections than seeing any allegations of wrong-doing addressed.


Liquor contributors: Again, more blurring. Many legislators receive contributions from individuals associated with groups or companies who are on the bad end of state policy-making. So long as there are no offers of "pay for play", there is nothing illegal. In fact, Cotty was opposed to keeping mini-bottles, a position strongly opposed by the liquor industry.

Again, if there really WAS a conflict, we refer back to the above quote from the Ethics Commission regarding acting to benefit one’s contributors. If they had something, they could have just turned him in. They didn’t – which says plenty.

Legislative Allowances and Expenses: The mailing attempts to claim that Cotty received allowances and expenses while residing nearby, which he does, as does any legislator who incurs expenses on the job.

For that matter, it is common for most people in their jobs to be reimbursed for expenses. So what? I'll bet employees of the SCRG expect to get paid too ...

Also, the footnote “5” in that claim refers to the Mapquest website. One who visits it will not find any information about South Carolina legislators there, only directions and travel time and distance estimates.

Based on their continual attacks, it seems a safe bet to expect there will more of the same being piled on Cotty.

It's a shame this is the best this bunch could do.


As the SCRG says in their mailer, ethics DO matter. However, it is unfortunate that they can't do a better job of embracing them.

“He is so much more”: Bill Cotty, Distinguished Outgoing Representative

The Blogland has gotten to know Bill Cotty quite well over the last couple of years. We first met him back in 2002, when he was campaigning for former Representative David Owens, and in the fall of 2006, he helped introduce us to the growing threats presented by SCRG when we fact-checked a number of misleading attacks and questionable campaign tactics. After that, he did an Inside Interview with us, and since then, we’ve come to think the world of this guy, and we’re going to miss him now that he’s decided to retire.

Representative Cotty played key roles as a negotiator and deal-maker in the 1995 welfare reform legislation, the 2000 Confederate flag compromise and the 2006 property tax reform. One of his last major efforts in the General Assembly was helping lead the successful effort in January to seat Ninth Circuit Judge Kristi Harrington, whose candidacy was endorsed by the Blogland.

Representative Cotty didn't just endear himself to the Blogland - he also made a lot of strong impressions among his fellow legislators. In fact, we received far more responses than we could fit into this story.

One especially-insightful perspective was provided to us by freshman Representative Shannon Erickson noted his sometimes-humble approach to legislative service, when she pointed out to us:



He’ll tell you he’s just a dirt lawyer, but he is so much more. He has been a great teacher for those of us who are just learning how to be legislators.

State Treasurer Converse Chellis was Cotty’s seatmate when they served together in the House. Chellis was:


Always impressed with his constituent service and work ethic. You would find that Bill was very respected on the House floor for his knowledge of the issues, his willingness to work with people who opposed his legislation to make sure they understood what he was trying to accomplish, as well as his sense of fairness.

Nathan Ballentine, a fellow Republican House member from Richland County, had this to say about Bill:


Bill and I are in the minority on our local delgation. In fact, we're in the minority in the House in the sense that we just say what we feel and let the chips fall where they may. You always knew where Bill stood. He didn't sugarcoat it. Didn't care about personalities and personal feelings. He took positions on issues based on the facts, his opinions, and listenting to his constituents.

Bill's living proof about the old "sticks and stones" phrase. He's had a lot of people try to label him but I simply label him as this: very knowledgeable, straight-shooter, passionate.


Carl Gullick, a veteran York County politico about to start his second term in the House, praised Cotty, calling him:


A rare statesman in a place full of politicians. He doesn't follow opinion polls or take orders. He does what he believes is the right thing for his district, and has worked to make a real difference in the House.
We know Cotty is winding down his law practice with an eye towards professional retirement, as well as from the General Assembly. He’s got plans to enjoy more time with his wife and their family, including grandchildren. We wish them all well in the years to come and thank Bill for a job well done. His leadership has set a standard which we hope others will aspire to in the future.

For those of you who haven't seen it before, we'd like to share this clip of his appearance on Comedy Central's Daily Show with John Stewart:



Bill Cotty: Legislative reformer

Those of you who've been long-time fans of the Blogland know that among our favorite legislators is Representative Bill Cotty.

No look at Bill's long and distinguished legislative career would be complete without taking the time to recognize the important role he has taken as a reformer, taking on deeply entrenched special interest groups to reform the state's Constitution. We'd like to look back at one of those crucial moments during Cotty's legislative career:


Thanks to Bill Cotty, the evil grip of the mini-bottle monopoly over our state has been broken. Just one of several great accomplishments of Bill's career, for which we are grateful.

Inside Interview: Bill Cotty

Since 1994, Bill Cotty has represented NE Richland along with the Lugoff/Elgin in Kershaw County in the SC House. A self-described "dirt lawyer", Cotty was no stranger to politics and government previously having served two terms on the Richland Two School Board as well as having worked several years for South Carolina Congressman Tom Gettys in D.C. after graduating from college.

Last year Cotty prevailed in the face of several challengers in both the primary and general elections, including well-funded attack campaigns waged by outside interest groups like SCRG. I discussed some of these efforts on this blog last fall. Considering the ethical questions including out-of-state money, misleading attacks and possible collusion between a candidate and outside attack-dog groups, I was glad to discuss what was taking place in that race.

Some call him one of our smartest legislators ...some a RINO ...or a maverick ... and other things. In our interview he had no trouble explaining where he stands and what he believes we need to do as a state to address our challenges. His wife, Amelia, who he describes as his "reality check" joined us afterward for diner and was both charming and thoughtful. Overall, the interview was a great time and I appreciated their hospitality.

Let's throw some questions his way and see what he throws back at us:

What have been your biggest accomplishments?

I’m most proud of the role I’ve played in reducing taxes for most of our citizens, improving the budgeting process, toughening criminal laws and sentencing, and bringing accountability to public education. Under two Speakers and four Governors, I’ve served as House floor leader for welfare reform, protection of marriage, tax reform, liquor sales reform, DUI reform and addressing the Confederate flag. All of these involved bringing folks together across party, racial, and geographic lines.

Your last race was a close call. Why do you think it was so close, and what do you think you’ve learned from this?
I’m an advocate for public schools, and a fiscal conservative who is moderate to progressive on social issues. As such, I drew opposition from both political extremes and got caught in the middle. Those to the far right of my party targeted me with unlimited out-of-state funding for negative and misleading tactics in both the primary and general election. The leftists fielded a well-funded Democrat who attempted to portray himself as a moderate, while his history is that of a Clinton/Gore liberal.

In the end, it was a reaffirmation of what I always believed – if you are true to your values and speak out strongly for that which you believe to be right, while admitting that you don’t know everything and listen to the views of others with respect, voters will appreciate it and support your re-election. The people of District 79 are not stupid – they care, not just about themselves, but for our state as a whole. They listen to the issues, and their elected officials know what they think. They know I’m accessible, hard working, and where I stand and why, and that I’m not afraid to stand up and speak out for that I believe right.

What do you see as the priority issues in the ongoing term in the House?

Improving public education statewide. More than anything else, this will determine whether our state will offer the same, and greater, level of opportunity and quality of life five, ten, and twenty years from now. To succeed, especially in the poor and rural areas of our state where many of our failing schools are located, we must be innovative and partner with businesses and communities to find ways to help those areas catch up to the rest of the state.

Meaningful Worker’s Comp reform. We need a system where the vast majority of claimants can get a fair decision without the necessity of hiring an attorney- In addition, decisions should be appealed outside the existing Commission through either the Circuit or Administrative Courts.

Taxpayer Protections & Budget Reform. South Carolina as well as our counties, municipalities and school districts should have limits on increasing the tax burden on our citizens.

Gang Awareness and Crime Prevention. Gangs are real, and they are developing amongst our youth in all communities, urban and rural, irrespective of race and other demographics. Law enforcement needs our help to have the tools they need to fight gang violence.

What issues aren’t being addressed that you feel should be?

#1) Workforce development. We can’t get better paying jobs if we don’t have the people with the skills these companies need. They’ll just go elsewhere – or overseas.

#2) Health care. The wealthier retirees who are coming to our state can help leverage improvements in health care that will also improve health care for all South Carolinians, if we keep attracting them. Better prenatal and early childhood healthcare needs to be targeted, and a substantial increase in cigarette taxes is an appropriate way to fund this in my view.

#3) Balancing protecting our environment with jobs. Our quality of life and beautiful scenery help bring the jobs, tourists and wealthy retirees our state’s economy needs. We can’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

#4) Nuclear power. The Barnwell waste facility should be closed to out-of-state waste except from the two states with which we have a compact. At the same time nuclear energy production has a proven record of safe & efficient operations here and we need to take advantage of the expertise we have at the Savannah River Site and with our other nuclear power plants to secure additional nuclear facilities and support programs. Our state can attract major industrial investment in this area and help provide the additional energy needed by SC and much of the Southeast. We don’t have California brownouts here, and I want to make sure we never do.

Some of your critics have referred to you as a “RINO”? What do you think?I don’t let others define me.

If I’m a “RINO” it must mean something like Republican Independent Networking Opportunities because my prime mission in serving is to try and bring folks together across party, racial and demographic lines to address and resolve tough problems and challenges. You can’t do that taking one-sided, extremist positions and just pot shotting others from the sidelines. I want to be at the table where tough decisions are made and help lead others toward finding fair and realistic solutions.

If that’s being a RINO, I’ll continue to charge ahead and let the voters decide my fate.

Do you have any thoughts about bloggers and other “non-traditional” media outlets, such as websites or news websites?

Blogs are great – they let people present new points of view and be heard. Programs like John Stewart’s Daily Show, which interviewed me over the mini-bottle referendum, are also doing a good job opening up the debate on issues here and elsewhere and reaching new audiences. I’ve never taken myself too seriously and enjoy political satire and criticism, even when aimed at me. Those in politics who get upset over blogs or other forms of political ridicule need to lighten up a little and learn to laugh at themselves.

You spent a number of years in leadership roles in college and working for a former Congressman and then got out of the political arena. What brought you back?

We were upset over a school re-zoning issue and I spoke up for our neighborhoods. Next thing I knew my wife was organizing a campaign to elect me to the school board!

What are your plans for 2008?

I still have the passion to serve and believe I can make a difference- If my wife lets me, I’ll run for another term.

Your favorite album?

The Best of James Taylor!

Out-of-state money floods District 79 House race



For many of my readers, House District 79, which is located in Kershaw and Richland Counties, isn’t too far away. As this district touches I-77 and includes a nice chunk of I-20 between Camden and Columbia, many of us pass through it from time-to-time.

Being South Carolinians, we’re at least somewhat connected to the people of District 79, in the political sense: many of their issues of concern are shared by many around the state, their legislators vote on issues which affect us, and what our legislators do affects them. They are part of the shared realm that is South Carolina’s political culture, so it makes sense that we should care who they send to the legislature.

This year, District 79 is a three-way battle between a twelve-year GOP incumbent, Bill Cotty, Democrat Anton Gunn (a pretty decent and thoughtful guy in the emails that him and I have bounced back and forth) and petition candidate Michael Letts.

If Letts’ name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s run for that seat, and lost, as Republican three times before, as well as other offices in northeastern Richland County. After Cotty fended off a strong primary challenge, Letts decided to run for this seat … again.

Not only did Letts enter the race, but it seems as if his candidacy has allowed others to jump in, some from hundreds and thousands of miles away. If you click on the image to the right, you can see his contributors' report in full-size, showing all but one of his contributors from this filing cycle.

Political candidates often have friends, family or professional associations outside of the state, so it’s normal to see candidates getting a modest amount of out-of-state contributions. But when a staggering ninety-six percent of the Letts' campaign warchest comes from places which are no less than six or eight hours’ drive from South Carolina, it’s enough to make one wonder what is going on.

Of the $21,850 of contributions reported by Letts in his campaign finance report filed on Wednesday, just $850 was raised from South Carolina contributors - just under four percent of his total warchest. About half of his contributions came from two states - $5K from Pennsylvania and $6K from New York.

In fact, every single out-of-state contributor gave more than the total raised from in-state donors.

Why is this race so much more important to those who live outside of South Carolina than those who live here? How does the outcome of the race affect them … and what do they get out of electing Letts and ousting Bill Cotty, a twelve-year incumbent GOP legislator?

That’s a question worth asking those who’ve ponied up the bulk of contributions to fund Letts’ latest bid for this House seat. It’s also a question that the residents of District 79 may want to ask Mr. Letts.

As these contributors are giving the max to Letts’ campaign, they have to know him, and his history as a repeat loser. Either they have an amazing faith that this guy has suddenly transformed himself, or as we asked a few days ago, is this an effort to elect Gunn by splitting Cotty’s GOP voter base?

Whether they are seeking to elect Letts or Gunn, the outcome of the race may not affect these contributors very much. But it will affect those who live in District 79, as well as the rest of us here in South Carolina.

As always, your responses, either via email or blog postings, are welcome, especially if they can help shed some light on this matter.




... Democratic candidate Anton Gunn has promised to post comments, and we appreciate his taking the time from his campaign to think of us. Win or lose, he's a pretty thoughtful guy with a lot to say, and I hope he continues to say it here from time-to-time.

July 2008: the Month in Review

If you're reading this, it means you survived the month of July - congratulations!

It also means you didn't have anything else better to do. But if you're here now, join us for a look back at July 2008 in the Blogland:

July was a challenging month in the Blogland with the passing of a close personal friend -
Stan Spears, Jr.

We recognized two outstanding freshmen legislators: Rep. Shannon Erickson and Sen. Shane Massey, as well as two retiring legislators: Rep. Bill Cotty and Sen. John Drummond. On the other side, we dissed Barack Obama (again) for being a hypocrite on environmental issues - but our readers didn't seem very surprised.

There was good news for some. State Rep. Annette Young essentially got re-elected early when her opponent dropped out, five printed and bound copies of the Master's thesis arrived, and Secretary of State Mark Hammond began kicking butt and taking names, Dirty Harry style.

As always, we like to see what mattered most to our readers, who could be doing almost anything else in the world, but instead choose to spend some of their time with us.

So which postings did YOU read the most this month?

1)
Remembering Stan Spears, Jr.
2)
An early win for Rep. Annette Young?
3)
Is Mark Hammond South Carolina's Dirty Harry?
4)
“She knows exactly what she is doing”: Shannon Erickson, Outstanding Freshman Representative
5)
“He is so much more”: Bill Cotty, Distinguished Outgoing Representative
6)
South Carolina blogger pushing for Hawaii 5-0 remake
7)
Appoint Sabrina Gast Coroner of York County
8)
Is Barack Obama a corporate sell-out on environmental issues
9)
Rep. Erickson hosts event for Bronze Star recipient
10)
1st Blogland legislative awards

... and which postings did you discuss the most?

1)
“She knows exactly what she is doing”: Shannon Erickson, Outstanding Freshman Representative
2)
Video poker inspired by Sanford's ethical retreat?
3)
My thesis, in print
4)
Is Mark Hammond South Carolina's Dirty Harry?
5)
Appoint Sabrina Gast Coroner of York County
6)
“He is so much more”: Bill Cotty, Distinguished Outgoing Representative
7)
“A new level of enthusiasm”: Shane Massey, Outstanding Freshman Senator
8)
The Blogland’s Summer Painkiller Contest
9)
A little "Rock and Roll"
10)
South Carolina blogger pushing for Hawaii 5-0 remake

As always, we appreciate your readership. Be sure to stay tuned as we make August a fun month for one and all!

Following the Money: Ross Shealy & House #79

Ross Shealy presents an excellent bit of research of the concentration of out-of-state campaign cash. His findings piggyback on findings I reported on last year in Representative Bill Cotty's re-election campaign.

Ross' research is dead-on as his taste in BBQ, and his wit is just as good:

But votes in District 79 don’t come as cheap as some folks think: Letts earned a thousand fewer votes than he did petition signatures, and Cotty edged out his Democratic opposition just under 300 votes.

96% of an SC legislative campaign funded by the out-of-state voucher lobby... For a little perspective, there is more actual fruit juice in a box of Hi-C fruit drink than there was actual SC funding for Mr. Letts.


While I support school choice, which seems to be a major litmus test for these outside contributors, I don't support the wholesale buying of our state's elected offices to reach that goal.

April 2007, the month in review

It was another busy month at the Blogland, with a total of postings. As always, we covered a wide range of topics, and counted on you to throw in your ten cents' worth. Here are the postings that got ya'll stirred up and talking this month:

4/1: From the Blogland: Ceips news story
4/4:
Inside Interview: Wallace Scarborough
4/5:
Would you like fries with that?
4/7:
Change your light bulbs?
4/15: Back to Hell?
4/18: Shirley Hinson for the State Senate
4/19: Inside Interview: Bill Cotty
4/25:
Protecting the Camden battlefield

Also, now I have the ability to track traffic in considerable detail, so here are the ten most visited postings of the month:

Inside Interview: Wallace Scarborough (4/4)
Shirley Hinson for the State Senate (4/18)
Bill Mescher: The American Dream (4/8)
From the Blogland: Ceips news story (4/1)
Inside Interview: Bill Cotty (4/19)
Beaufort Senate election preview (4/22)
Florence Republican willing to consider VP slot (3/29)
Pascha - The Eastern Celebration of Easter (4/12/06)
Jesse Jackson assails Don Imus while JC Hammer mumbles (4/16)
Progress in Iraq? The McCaffrey Report (4/3)

... as you can see, there is a bit of a difference between what people read and what they talked about. Two of them weren't even written last month. Honorable mention goes to a runner-up that was also an oldie: Give 'Em Enough Rope: The Clash.

As always, thanks for caring enough to visit and share your thoughts. Remember that in the Blogland, we care at least as much about you, as you do about us. Be sure to keep coming back for more ...

My 2006 races to watch - how did they do?

For us political hacks, Election 2006 has been a hell of a ride in South Carolina.

The first round was primaries headlined with a last-minute surge by Governor Sanford’s GOP primary rival and a stunning run-off save by Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, who overcame a 2nd place primary finish to prevail over Mike Campbell in the runoff.

But the surprises reached down the primary ballots – five House members lost their primaries, including the senior Democrat in the House – Tom Rhoad – and the only Democrat to chair a House committee. They were joined by all but one County Council chairman who faced a primary challenger. In the larger counties, roughly half of all County Council members were ousted. It was not a good year to be an incumbent.

The GOP rode into the fall hoping to gain a seat or two. While it didn’t work out that way, their losses were as marginal as their original expected gains – a net gain by Democrats of one seat.

To look back for a moment, here’s how my "races to watch" turned out:


Races I called "very competitive":

  • District 29: DEM open seat in Chester, Cherokee, and York Counties-
    Dennis Moss - D 4,591 50%, Danny Stacy - R 4,525 50%
    Less than 100 votes!

  • District 30: DEM incumbent in Cherokee County-
    Olin Phillips - D 57%, Bobby Beattie - R 43%

  • District 45: DEM open seat in Lancaster and York Counties - GOP pickup
    Mick Mulvaney - R 51%, Alston DeVenny - D 49%
    Less than 200 votes!

  • District 60: GOP open seat in Florence and Sumter Counties-
    Phillip Lowe - R 60%, LaRue Kirby - D 40%

  • District 79: GOP incumbent in Kershaw and Richland Counties-
    Bill Cotty - R 45%, Anton Gunn - D 43%
    ... and Michael Letts - I 9%, John Nelums - UCP 3%
    Cotty holds by under 300 votes!

  • District 97: GOP incumbent in Dorchester County- DEM pickup
    Patsy Knight - D 51%, George Bailey - R 49%
    Less than 200 votes!

  • District 119: GOP open seat in Charleston County- DEM pickup
    Leon Stavrinakis - D 54%, Suzanne Piper - R 46%

Races I called "potentially active":

  • District 7: GOP open seat in Anderson County-
    Michael Gambrell - R 56%, Ron Gilreath - D 44%

  • District 75: GOP incumbent in Richland County-
    Jim Harrison - R 55%, Boyd Summers - D 45%

  • District 108: DEM incumbent in Charleston and Georgetown Counties-
    Vida Miller - D 56%, Ricky Horne - R 44%

  • District 115: GOP incumbent in Charleston County-
    Wallace Scarborough - R 5,938 50%, Eugene Platt - D 5,893 50%
    Less than 100 votes!

  • District 120: DEM incumbent in Colleton and Hampton Counties-
    Bill Bowers - D 55%, Joe Flowers - R 45%

I only missed one race where the winner came in under 60%: Dem rep Anne Parks, in Greenwood and McCormick Counties, who held District 12 by 1100 votes - 58% to 42%. I also predicted that the House 60 race would be very close, as it had been in the past, but GOP candidate Phillip Lowe scored a stunning 60% victory. Nobody I talked with expected him to run away with it.

But I can't take all the credit for calling what turned out to be pretty good shots ... much of the credit is due to those who contacted me, and provided me valuable insights into races which helped me fine tune my analysis. Thank you!!! Thank you!!! Thank you!!!

... your thoughts ... ?

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.

Inside Interview: Rep. Anton Gunn

One of the least low-key of the large pack of House freshmen is Richland County Representative Anton Gunn. Winning his second bid for House District 79, formerly held by Blogland favorite Bill Cotty, he has made a bit of a splash in Midlands politics. Holding a Master’s in Social Work from USC, where he played football (and looks very much like a football player), Representative Gunn makes his living as the President of Top Gunn Associates (but doesn’t look like Tom Cruise), a public affairs consulting firm.

He’s a regular Blogland reader and has been named one of the “Twitter Caucus”, regularly firing away tweets. From that, we seem to know what he’s doing on a daily basis – so much so, that sometimes we feel like a stalker. A rather outgoing guy, he’s always quick to greet whenever yours truly runs into him around Columbia, so it makes sense that he’d gladly accept an offer to do an Inside Interview.

1) You’ve been active in politics for a while as a policy advocate, and now you’re one of those who makes decisions. What are some of the more notable differences?

Making decisions? I would not call what I do in the House as decision-making. To me decision-making implies that you have definitive control over the agenda. In the House of Representatives, I am not privileged enough to dictate what happens or what issues get put on the agenda. However, I do get the opportunity to vote on issues that are put up by the leadership in the House of Representatives. So, I take my voting responsibility very seriously.

Your second question is about what’s different on this side of the policy table? I think the most notable difference between being a policy advocate and an elected member of the General Assembly is how we reach solutions. As a policy advocate I developed my position on issues by thoughtful discussion with everyone involved and I tried to develop a comprehensive solution that people on all sides could live with. In the House, I don’t get the chance to do that very much. We don’t spend much time discussing comprehensive bi-partisan solutions to common problems. Instead we develop Republican solutions or Democratic solutions, but not South Carolina Solutions. As an advocate, I didn’t get caught up in “the party’s agenda” or sticking together just because “we are in the same party”. Advocates discuss the merits of ideas and policies, it doesn’t matter which party it came from. Ideas aren’t democratic or republican, they are just ideas. They should be debated and supported as such, but in the House it’s not like that most times. There have been good ideas that have been voted down because it came from a member who was in the wrong party. Likewise there were bad ideas that were passed because they came from members who were in the right party.

I am annoyed by all the hyper-partisanship. I knew it was bad, but I didn’t think it was this bad. I think this is the main reason why we are not having success as a state. I thought we all would have understood that South Carolinians are fed up with the extreme partisanship. They want us to solve our problems together, but we don’t ever take off our “team’s jersey” and talk about issues together. We don’t sit down in meetings and break bread together to discuss the merits and ideas of our political philosophies, to come up with some consensus and principles that we can agree upon. This is what needs to be done to move forward. From there we should then strive to make good public policy. Instead, what happens is we make public policy based upon what the party or the think tank tells us to do.

2) What are some issues that aren’t getting the attention in the State House?

Wow, where do I begin? Let me start with the obvious--Job Creation. We have to address our 2nd in the nation unemployment. I don’t understand why it isn’t a top priority to pursue policy changes that would offer more incentives for small businesses to create new jobs. We also aren’t talking about our woefully inadequate infrastructure (roads, water, sewer and broadband). This infrastructure would help stimulate economic development (attracting large businesses that will bring in new jobs). I think being focused on getting our economy working again is the most important thing we can do for the citizens of our state.

Also, there is some discussion about restructuring government to make it more effective, efficient and accountable, but it’s not nearly at the level it should be. To address the long standing problems of education, health care, economic development we need to change the way our government does business. If there is any time to change how we do business in South Carolina, now is the time. Government restructuring should be higher on our agenda. I could go on and on with other issues that aren’t getting much attention, like the cost of health care, green energy, tax policies, and education reform, but I won’t go there. I could write a dissertation on the subject.

3) We were told that your family and faith are important to you. How do they influence how you approach politics?

My faith and family are what grounds me in my politics. First, my faith is the reason why I am involved in politics. God gives us all a purpose in life, that purpose is to be of service to Him. We execute that service to God through life ministries. Some people have the ministry to preach, teach, write, sing, minister, evangelize or even volunteer. I believe that my purpose in ministry is to serve in government. I believe that we need men and women of God involved our government, not to press our personal religious beliefs on others but to use our faith to be thoughtful and deliberate in our decisions because those decisions will impact His people.

We all should be willing to serve in government, just as we are willing to serve in churches, charities, even the military. So that’s my approach to politics. I take it just as seriously as I would volunteering in church, serving in the armed forces or helping in a nonprofit charitable organization. I see them as equally important. We should be mindful of how important it is for us to do the right things for people in where ever we work.

Second, my family is the lens that I can measure the effectiveness of my service in government. I have a beautiful wife who is a consummate businesswoman, mother and wife. She works very hard handling the day-to-day struggles of the real world; she doesn’t have time for politics or policy issues. She is the average Jane Q. She serves as a good sounding board on issues. I can talk with her about policy issues and she will give me “straight-talk” about how things would play out in her world. Tiffany helps me to see if things make common-sense or are they non-sense. Also, my daughter Ashley is a major influence. She is 4 years old. Every morning I get up, I think about what am I going to do today to make the world better for Ashley when she is my age? What kind of South Carolina do I want Ashley to grow up in? That’s what I think about. Then I think about, what I can do now to make our state better in her future, for all of our children’s future?

Lastly, my parents and my brother’s story influence my politics. My mother was an educator for 30 years. My father was a Naval Officer and is now a veterans’ counselor. One of my brothers, Cherone Gunn was in the United States Navy until he was killed 9 years ago in an Al-Qaeda terror attack aboard the USS Cole. Through his death and my parent’s example I have mastered the qualities of service, sacrifice and leadership. I live these qualities in my personal life. These are qualities that I bring with me into politics. These are the most important qualities, outside of faith in God, that I believe all leaders should have. So my faith and family are essential to my politics. I just think it’s so important.

4) You’re on Twitter, you read blogs – you’re very much a “new media” person. What are some of the big impacts that these technologies have had on how you do politics?

New Media is changing the way politics is being done all over America. These new mediums allow voters and others to see different sides of politics and politicians. In the past, all you learned from politicians were their stances on the issues. And you only learned it from their brochure or their media talking points. Now with New Media like Twitter and Facebook, you can see what are their interests outside of politics. Learning what people do for a living, what kind of music they like, where they shop or eat dinner gives voters and the public a 3-dementional view of the people who represent them. I think it also helps to hold people more accountable because it makes their role in government more transparent. It also allows the public to become active participants in politics. The more people actively get involved in politics the better government we will get. The more inclusive politics becomes the more effective government will be. I appreciate these new mediums because it not only has changed campaign operations, it is changing the governing process. New Media is moving politics from a process of exclusion and seclusion to a process of inclusion, transparency and accountability. That is what I love about New Media.

Looking back at 2008

Here in the Blogland, it's been a hell of a year, and we'd like to thank all of you who've come along for the ride through the chaos and carnage. It's been, without a doubt, a very active year as we've continued to run our mouth, and if you don't mind, we'd like to take a look back at some of the damage we've caused in this year's 420 postings ...

We started out the year jumping into a couple of judicial elections in which we endorsed Kristi "Handcuffs" Harrington, also known as Wonder Woman, for a seat on the 9th Circuit Court and Ronnie Norton for a seat on the 15th Circuit Family Court. We also set off a lot of fireworks when we talked about another candidate for the 15th Circuit seat. Both Harrington and Norton are on the bench, and we've received a lot of good reports about their service.

In February, we blew the whistle on efforts by the heavy-handed GOP leadership in Berkeley County to squash that which they could not control. Later that month, we went to Washington for the annual National Workforce Boards Conference. Meeting Newt Gingrich, who addressed the conference, was definitely the highlight of the event.

Our Inside Interview series chugged along, giving you more looks on the inside of government in the Palmetto State. We talked with State Reps Nathan Ballentine, Shannon Erickson,
Nikki Haley, Phillip Lowe, 9th Circuit Judge Roger Young, Charleston County RMC Charlie Lybrand, elder abuse legal consultant Erin Gaddy, two of the state's foremost political operatives: Democrat Phil Bailey and Republican Wes Donehue, and the two candidates for the 9th Circuit Solicitor's office - Blair Jennings and Scarlett Wilson. Our series wrapped up the year with an interview with our first Democratic legislator, Senator Joel Lourie.

The 2008 GOP national convention was very much on our minds. We endorsed delegates, followed them to the convention, and also endorsed Glenn McCall, the state's new national committeeman.

Our first Legislative Awards recognize two outstanding retiring legislators:
Senator John Drummond and Representative Bill Cotty, and two great freshmen legislators: Senator Shane Massey and Representative Shannon Erickson.

We also followed Erickson's Lauren Gentry bill and strongly pushed for its passage until it finally became law. Later on, we signed onto Rep. Nikki Haley's legislative transparency initiative. In 2009, we'll continue pushing for Haley's bill, as well as other legislation that catches our eye.

We also called new media types, such as bloggers, the real winners of the 2008 elections.

On the spritual side, we talked about the
Sunday of Orthodoxy, the Akathist Hymn, Pope Benedict's praise of Melkite Catholics in "A thriving future for the Melkite Church", Orthros once and Orthros again. Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom, and the Psalms,

On a lighter note, a round of William Shatner regurgitations erupted, starting with "
William Shatner raps Julius Caesar?". It got even sicker with William Shatner redoes "Rocket Man" and culminated with "Shatner serenades George Lucas". Reportedly some people won't even turn on their computers after that one.

Eight years of college at night - four for my BA and four more for my MA - reached the finish line when I passed my comprehensive exam, defended my thesis, walking across the stage, and then
having a great graduation party, complete with free beer and a roast of yours truly that went on for about 40 minutes (click to watch some highlights). Finally, printed and bound copies of my thesis arrived.

With graduation past, it was time to hit the road for some kick ass concerts: in Atlanta with Sebastian Bach and Dokken, and
DC with Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.

There were certainly a lot of other moments that have gone by over the last year where we enlightened our readers a little, probably motivated them a little, and probably pissed them off quite a bit. But for whatever reason, some of you still love us - or at least haven't found the time to track us down and shoot us. For your time, friendship, and patience, we thank you all and look forward to a great 2009.

Democrats not the first to challenge the Howard Rich agenda

Recently in The State, Ken Campbell of the South Carolina New Democrats tried to take the credit for being the first to take on the corrupting influences of Howard Rich and his front organizations. While he might like for voters to think his efforts were the first and that Republicans aren't willing to stand for ethical campaign practices, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Howard Rich's efforts were challenged long before the fall elections, and Republicans played key roles in those efforts. A group I was part of - Take Back South Carolina - included myself and recently-retired GOP State Representative Bill Cotty on its board. In the fall of 2006, several postings on this blog - hardly a Democratic forum - challenged a number of attacks made by SCRG, a front group associated with Howard Rich.

There are many Republicans who are concerned about the adverse effects of Rich's out-of-state cash and have been working to stop the buyout of our state. In doing so, we also joined with other South Carolinians of many political perspectives. In those early efforts, Mr. Campbell was nowhere to be found, but I'm glad he's decided to join the cause - so long as his motives are sincere.

Odds are that Campbell's efforts would not have received anywhere near as much attention had bi-partisan efforts in the spring not already warned voters and the news media about these well-funded out-of-state efforts. Many of the races in the June GOP primaries where Rich-associated groups targeted their resources, valued at tens of thousands of dollars in each of over two dozen General Assembly campaigns, began losing ground when and wherever information provided by critics of Howard Rich's efforts began showing up in stories and editorials presented by traditional news media outlets. This blog site and my Take Back SC efforts played key roles in getting the word out.

If Mr. Campbell wants to use Howard Rich's shadow groups to score political points on Republicans, that would be unfortunate. But if he wants to work to end the long history of well-funded special interests, like Rich or video poker in the 1990s, bullying state government and misleading voters en masse, then we in the Blogland welcome his help.

The Leaders of the Pack

This afternoon, the members of the Freshmen Caucus of the State House's 2009-2010 class elected a decidedly conservative and mostly Upstate leadership, with all four officers seen as staunch conservatives and three hailing from the Greenvile County:
  • Chair: Tim Scott from North Charleston
  • Vice-Chair: Dan Hamilton from Taylors
  • Secretary: Wendy Nanney from Greenville
  • Treasurer: Tommy Stringer from Landrum

"It's a huge honor to facilitate this Freshman Caucus a conduit for the best ideas of others and get them to the leadership of the House," Tim Scott told us this in an interview this evening. He sees his role as their Chairman as a facilitator who would help move good ideas forward and make sure his fellow freshmen would play important roles in the next two years. Given the large number of freshmen, including several who toppled incumbents, he will have his work cut out for him.

Given Scott's highly-visible candidacy and his long record as a leader on Charleston County Council, as well as a number of other Lowcountry organizations, we're confident that of any freshman who has the ability to lead the freshman caucus, he was the right choice. We want to thank those who supported him for making a wise choice.

Anton Gunn, a freshman Democrat who won the seat vacated by Blogland favorite Rep. Bill Cotty, made bids for three of the four freshman offices, including Chair and Vice-Chair, losing each time. That's a whole lot of ambition for a first-week member, and we have to wonder if it's not too much.

These freshmen will face tough challenges: a slumping economy, the likelihood of one or more tight budget years, and a highly-combative relationship between the Governor and the General Assembly. They will be expected to make some tough decisions that may entail more political risk for them than with others with more seniority who have stronger political bonds in their districts. But we're confident
many of them will put their duty as legislators above politics-as-usual.

To the officers of the Freshmen Caucus, we say "congratulations", and wish to extend to Scott and the other freshman our best wishes and prayers for successful two years in the House.

What can one say in a thousand posts?

As we look back at 1000 posts, we have to ask ourselves just what in the world does one do to fill up 1000 postings? Believe us, we never thought it was possible, except with a ton of mind-numbed drivel.

With the occasional worthy and profound commentary mixed in, just so y'all wouldn't think we were total morons.

So here's some of the damage that we've done in 1000 postings:


... and that's just a light sampling of some of what we've had to say in the first thousand postings. Who knows where the next thousand will take us?

But the most important thing of all isn't what we've had to say (Lord knows we've had plenty ...), but rather that you took the time to read and share some thoughts when you felt inspired. We've made a lot of new friends, confirming that wherever one may go in the Palmetto State, there are some darn good folks everyone.

As always, thanks for tuning in. It's been a hell of a ride, and we're honored to have you join us. In the words of Axl Rose, all of you are one in a million. That's what you are.

“One of South Carolina's finest examples of the Greatest Generation”: John Drummond, Distinguished Outgoing Senator

In recent years, most of the last of the World War II generation of state leaders have faded away into retirement, such as former Senator Strom Thurmond and Treasurer Grady Patterson. Citizens who first served their country on foreign battlegrounds, state political figures like Senator John Drummond learned the meaning of duty and commitment under far more difficult conditions than anything seen in South Carolina politics.

When we’ve talked with people from Greenwood, we’ve heard many a story about Senator Drummond – not the politician, but rather as a POW and senior American officer in a German POW camp during WWII. Many of these stories told us of how the Germans came to find out that the boys of Greenwood County don’t bend and never break.

According to his legislative bio, here is a summary of his WWII military service:



Mil. serv.: 263rd CA, 1939-41; (USAF, 1943-47) Fighter Pilot, Capt. 405th Fighter Bomber Group England, France, and Germany, 1944-45, Decorated Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart twice, Air Medal nine times, three Battle Stars & Presidential Citation.


Wow.

As with many politicos who came back from WW2, Drummond’s political outlook was tempered by a time in which he "never saw a young man die as a Democrat or a Republican, but as an American." That spirit of bipartisanship earned him the respect of Republicans and Democrats alike, including retiring House member Bill Cotty, a Republican from Richland County:


John Drummond is one of South Carolina's finest examples of the Greatest Generation. After his remarkable military service and demonstrated heroism in WWII, Sen. Drummond proved himself equally adept at business and politics in a career that to a large degree molded SC history in the second half of the 20th Century. All those who have had the honor to know and be friends with this fine gentleman will attest that his love for our Country and State were only surpassed by that he held for his dear wife who passed away several years ago.



Joel Lourie, considered one of the state’s rising Democratic stars, had this to say about Senator Drummond:


I am proud to call John Drummond my colleague, my hero and my friend. Generations to come will benefit from his service to our country and state. He is one in a million.


Longtime GOP campaign operative and blogger Brian McCarty at Voting Under the Influence also praised Drummond:

John Drummond is a legend in his community for his service to his country and his service to the state. Last year, my grandmother, ailing from Parkinson's disease, saw fit to fight to make her community in Ninety Six drug free. Among the leaders she called was John Drummond.

Why Drummond? Because he was known in the community to be able to get things done.

Drummond earned that reputation with his work in the SC legislature. My alma mater, Lander, called its sports teams the Senators for over 30 years in honor of the efforts Drummond made to make sure Lander stayed open as a state institution of higher learning.

Drummond is one the last old lions of South Carolina politics who worried less about party politics and more about serving the people he represented. Drummond supported Republican Presidents and worked with Republican Governors, all the while staying true not necessarily to his party, but the people who elected him to office.


Senate Democratic Leader John Land shared this story about the Senator from Drummond:

Senator Drummond and I used to sit next to each other in the Senate chamber. He and I really never spoke to one another. He was the known as the maverick of the Senate and we were often on opposite sides of the issues and engaged in heated debates.

This period of silence went on for good while early in my career in the Senate. One Thursday afternoon as the session was closing down for the week, Senator Drummond complimented me on the shirt I was wearing.

“John, that’s a nice shirt. Where’d you get it?” asked Drummond.

I told him from my haberdasher in Sumter. And that was it for our rare and brief conversation.

Over that weekend, I picked up two shirts and brought them with me back up to Columbia. I left them for Senator Drummond on his desk in the Chamber. We’ve been friends ever since.

A lot of folks said Senator Drummond could not be bought, he’s a maverick. But I got him for the cost of two shirts.


Phil Bailey, director of the Senate Democratic Caucus, has worked with Drummond for the last few years:

Working with Senator Drummond has been one of greatest opportunities I’ve had in politics. He’s been like a grandfather – telling great stories and keeping things in perspective.

I’m looking forward to continuing our regular lunch dates in Ninety-Six for a long-time to come and working with him to help Mayor Floyd Nicholson win the District 10 seat this fall.


The departure of Senator Drummond is not just the end of a political career, it is the end of an era in South Carolina politics and history. There is much to learn from his life and his times, and we are proud to recognize and honor his service.

Many will say they don’t make leaders like John Drummond anymore, and we’d agree with them. But we sure wish there were a lot more like him.

“She knows exactly what she is doing”: Shannon Erickson, Outstanding Freshman Representative

There are a number of freshmen legislators in the House, but in our humble opinion, there is one who stands above the rest, combining a positive “can-do” attitude with bulldog tenacity. Beaufort County Representative Shannon Erickson has earned our recognition as the Outstanding Freshman Representative.

Her win in a tough special election last fall showed this lady is a hard worker, and her willingness to get hands-on when it’s an important issue got our attention. We were glad to help push her Lauren Gentry law through a few weeks ago. Getting a bill to the Governor’s desk is always a big deal for a first-year legislator.

We also want to give her credit for keeping a pretty full website online for constituent service: http://www.electshannon.com/.

But don't just take our word for it. She’s earned a reputation for being hard-working, well-informed and respectful towards both the Columbia crowd and the folks back home. Here's what some of her fellow House members had to say ...

Nathan Ballentine, a Midlands Republican, praised Erickson for jumping into her job quickly once she took office:


Some freshmen come to Columbia and feel intimidated. They buy into the the "old guard" mantra that "freshman can't make an impact and shouldn't speak up." Luckily for Beaufort, they sent someone who doesn't follow that line of thinking. Shannon immediately made her presence known in Columbia.

Veteran House member Annette Young from Dorchester County praised her work ethic and her intent to keep on top of the issues before the General Assembly:

She does her homework before she casts every vote. She makes sure she knows exactly what she is doing, and why.

Fellow freshman Phillip Lowe from Florence County praised her initiative:

Shannon hit the ground running. She passed legislation and took the floor like a veteran. We proudly took her into the conservative freshman class that will and did make a difference. Best of all she has Florence ties..

Retiring veteran House member Bill Cotty praised Erickson as:

The ‘real deal’- smart and hard working. She hit the ground running after winning the special election and made a major impact in the House in her first year of service. Shannon's authorship and passage of a bill to allow high school victims of on-campus intimidation from forfeiting their right to play sports when they transfer schools under duress reflects effectiveness and the importance she places on constituent service.

This fall, she faces a Democratic challenger, but we’re hoping that voters will look at how far she’s come in one year, and vote to send her back so she can build upon what she’s accomplished thus far.

Inside Interview: Wesley Donehue

When it comes to looking inside state government to see who’s who and what’s what, it never hurts to look at the power behind the throne. If the Governor is a King, the cabinet officials Princes, and the Legislature feudal Lords and Barons, then one could argue that the knights of the kingdom would be the political operatives.

On that list of knights would be Lowcountry native Wesley Donehue.

Wesley grew up in Goose Creek, and went to USC. Currently, he is employed with First Tuesday Strategies (formerly known as TTS), where he serves as Vice President. Last year he won all 5 State House races for which he was senior strategist including Bill Cotty (which we covered here in the Blogland), Keith Kelly’s out-right win in a 3-way primary in Spartanburg County, and Mick Mulvaney – the only GOP legislative pick-up in the last election cycle. Wesley also just picked up a seat for the GOP in the State Senate as senior strategist for Shane Massey’s campaign, giving him credit for both of the GOP's two legislative gains since 2004.

Last year Wesley opened South Carolina’s only political Internet firm – Under The Power Lines. He serves as a web consultant to Senator Jim DeMint, Representatives Nathan Ballentine and Thad Viers, and Senators Shane Massey and Ray Cleary. His wife, Elizabeth, has another specialty in the political business as a successful fundraiser (www.donehueagency.com).

If political operatives are the “knights of the kingdom”, Wesley has never been a knight who shied away from a nasty fight. Just this year he made national news by creating a website attacking Senator Fred Thompson (and the Blogland stuck up for him, and got a few barbs from those who couldn’t take a joke).

But enough of our yakking - let’s see what Wesley Donehue has to say …

Q - How did you end up in political consulting?

First off, I think the term “political consultant” is WAY overused by people. There are people in SC and across the nation who have never even worked on a campaign or run a race who call themselves political consultants. It’s BS. I’m 28 and have worked on, run, or advised over 25 campaigns. Am I a consultant? Yeah, I guess so, but it’s still a term I like to save for the elders. Call me an “operative.” I like “strategist” too. It’s a good word.

I first got interested in politics between the 8th and 9th grade. I attended Westview Middle School in Goose Creek and was supposed to move on to Stratford High. The school board had other plans. They split Westview and made a few of us go to Goose Creek High instead and it was pretty obvious which few of us it was – the not so rich kids. I was pissed as hell. How could these people tell me I couldn’t go to school with my best friends? It didn’t make a bit of sense. That was how I got interested in the game.

I went to USC as an engineering major and during my freshman year Senator Bill Mescher asked that I page for him at the State House. There it was…I was hooked. I was then introduced to Rod Shealy who hired me to work on a few campaigns. I changed my major to political science and decided that I was going to be a professional political operative.

After working on a ton of different campaigns, I met Terry Sullivan who hired me to work on the DeMint campaign. Following DeMint’s win I went to run Mike Campbell’s campaign for Lt. Governor. I left in January of 2006 when Warren Tompkins, Terry Sullivan, and Heath Thompson opened TTS and asked me to run the firm.

Q - What are your thoughts about bloggers and other “new media” outlets?

I believe that one day every voter will get the majority of their news from the web. But that’s not going to happen in the next few cycles and it certainly isn’t going to happen today. Regular voters still get their politics from the opinion leaders - those who disseminate information to others, i.e. MSM, activists, elected officials, uber-informed voters...

New media is important because most opinion leaders get a large chunk of their news from the Internet. That in turn is disseminated down to regular voters. It’s called the two-step flow of communication. “The people with most access to media, and having a more literate understanding of media content, explain and diffuse the content to others.” Here’s how it works:

Joe lives in Columbia. He is 63 years olds, votes in every Republican primary, but doesn’t own a computer and wouldn’t know what to do with it if he did.

Bill is a reporter for the Associated Press who reads blogs every day. Today he read an interesting story on The Blogland of Earl Capps, investigated it a little deeper, and wrote his own story. After posting his story on the wire, it was picked up by WIS and The State newspaper.

Joe saw the story on the 11:00 news last night and read about it again in The State this morning. The story was written on a blog, read by a reporter, and disseminated down to the regular voter.


That happens all the time and it’s important that campaigns harness that power. This year we see campaigns hiring entire teams of bloggers and new media experts.

I have had a lot of fun opening South Carolina first Republican Internet strategy firm called “Under The Power Lines Netroots | New Media.” We don’t just build websites. We use the web for votes by creating a web strategy that fits into a campaign’s overall strategy. We then build the tools necessary to complete that strategy. Check us out at politicalnetroots.com.

Q - Last year, we watched a multitude of bizarre political scenes – airplane crashes, herds of cows wearing campaign signs, and the Grim Reaper endorsing candidates for Governor and Comptroller. Does this suggest that the Grim Reaper may be planning to take strong role in our state’s political process, or is this a sign that the end times are near?

The Grim Reaper and the cows are way cooler than Jim Hodges’ Bubba, but not nearly as cool as Jim DeMint’s codgers.

That’s funny. Not until I wrote that did I realize that both Bubba and the codgers were used to whoop up on David Beasely. The Bease just brings out the creativity in people I guess.

Anyway…No, I don't know if the end times are near. That's a question for Mike Huckabee.

As for the cows and the Grim Reaper, they could be plotting something. All they'd need is a blog.

Q - To date, which campaign(s) have been your favorite? Why?

That’s an easy one. By far it was Jim DeMint’s campaign. We had a great team that worked really well together. Terry built the most well oiled machine I’ve ever seen.

Working on a US Senate campaign is stressful and exhausting. Sometimes your nerves are so wound up that you can’t sleep for days. But with Senator DeMint I can look back and know that every single second was well worth it. Jim DeMint is an amazing Senator and every American is lucky to have him serving us in Washington. At times, he seems to be the only one still standing up for our conservative values, and that makes me very proud.

I also enjoyed serving as Deputy Campaign Manager to Mike Bouchard’s US Senate campaign in Michigan. Mike is one of the best men I have ever met and it was very sad to see him lose, but running a campaign in a state so different from South Carolina really expanded my skills. And as Napoleon Dynamite says “girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” Everyone always asks how I landed a wife so much cooler than me. Guess that’s how.

Q - Since we’re all about great music here in the Blogland, we’ll close by asking what’s your favorite album and/or artist?

When I’m at work I like to hear O.A.R, Guster, and Weezer because it gets my blood flowing. I listen to a lot of rap in the car because it’s the only time people aren’t yelling at me to turn it off. I like a lot of old Wu Tang and Bone Thugs. It’s the Goose Creek in me. I’m not into a lot of the new rap except for Souljah Boy…because I’m learning how to “crank dat.” At home I listen to Bob Marley, Jump, Little Children, Hootie, and Dave. Elizabeth makes me listen to Kenny Chesney a lot.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Stay tuned tomorrow, when we hop to the other side of the political fence for a chat with Phil Bailey with the Senate Democratic Caucus ...