The "Rusty Re-Do": Another moment in Florence County cronyism

Last year, an effort to give the job of Florence County Administration to Rusty Smith, who serves as the Chair of Florence County Council, blew up badly with a high-profile backlash that went so far as to generate an opinion against the move from the state Attorney General's office. Smith ultimately withdrew and Council hired a professional administrator

But a little more than a year later, it looks like the "Florence Fix" is about to become the "Rusty Re-Do".

Last week, the administrator announced his resignation amid reports that he was having trouble running the county's government (we're sure the Council Chair and his buddies on Council had nothing to do with this ... wink, wink ...). This came along with news that Smith's Council colleagues are planning to move quickly to give the job to Smith - without the usual search for a qualified replacement that is conducted extensively and in the public eye.

Since Smith didn't fare well with highly public vetting processes before, so we could see why Smith and his cronies would want to avoid the kind of embarrassing and highly-public spectacle that killed his first attempt to get the job.

Guest op-ed: Charlie Lybrand - "Thankful"

Today's guest op-ed comes from long-time Charleston politico Charlie Lybrand. He has served as Charleston County's Register of Deeds since 1994, and served on Charleston County Council for several years before that. 

We invite our readers to join in the discussion via guest op-ed submissions, so if you've got something to say, e-mail it to us.

As most of you know, from time to time, I like to pontificate. Well today is no different, so I wanted to take a second or two and give thanks for yesterday. 

The Presidential Election is over and the people have spoken. President Obama has won and he deserves our support and our prayers. For some of us, he wasn’t our first choice but that was yesterday. A new day has dawned and as a Country, we move Forward supporting this President and the awesome task that lies ahead of him. I for one, will keep him in my prayers. 

I don’t know if you’ve given any thought to this, but we are a nation of over 300 million people and if you’re eighteen or older and a citizen, you get to choose who leads this great Nation. That’s just one of the things that makes us the greatest county on earth. Someone once said, if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain. That makes sense to me.

Walton Cartoon: Obamation

The False Prophets of "Reform" blow it

As the dust settles on the 2012 elections in South Carolina, one of the most noted outcomes is the near-total defeat of the so-called “reform” candidates who challenged a number of GOP legislators. 

The only candidate who prevailed was Katrina Shealy, who ran against a Senator who did plenty to sink himself. Others lost handily: Rex Rice went down 2-1 to Senator Larry Martin , Joe Thompson 3-1 to Senator Wes Hayes, and John Steinberger was trounced by House Speaker Bobby Harrell by 4-1. Dee Dee Vaughters got hammered by Senator Nikki Setzler – the only elected Democrat in the Aiken-Lexington region. And the list goes on from there.

These candidates often thumbed their noses at others and refused to work with anyone who wouldn't agree with them lock-stock-and-barrel. Mostly newcomers handicapped by a lack of understanding of the legislative process, they said they'd show the "establishment" something - and by getting their clocks cleaned, I suppose they did just that.

If those who want to change state government want to succeed, they would do well to consider the examples of those who’ve succeeded at winning elections and enacting agendas – and spend more time listening to voters and look at the approaches used by those who’ve actually won elections and implemented reform agendas.

2012: The GOP's Southern hold deepens

Two years ago, the GOP sweep of the South was stunning. All but one GOP candidate seeking a statewide office in the South won and the GOP swept into control of many of the remaining Democratic-held legislative chambers. Adding several chambers which tipped since then, the Democrats held just two legislative chambers: the House and Senate in Arkansas, which dangled by slender threads, along with a handful of Congressional seats held by white Democrats.

On Tuesday, they added to their southern political chokehold, taking the last remaining Democratic U.S. House seats in Arkansas and Oklahoma, ousting four of the six white Democrats holding majority-white Congressional districts in the South (three in NC and one in KY) and seizing control of the Arkansas General Assembly, giving them majority control of every state legislative chamber in the South.

Clearly Republicans in the South have come a long way from 1994, when they took their first majorities in Southern legislative chambers.

Finlay holds House 75 for GOP

While Republicans were afraid that Democrats had flipped Columbia-based House District 75 last night, it appears that GOP nominee Kirkman Finlay won the seat after all. 

When all absentee ballots were counted, Finlay went from 46 votes behind to 265 votes in the lead, taking the seat with 6,771 votes to 6,506 for Democrat Joe McCulloch.

Read more here:

Democrats intend to contest the seat and McCulloch has yet concede defeat, but most recounts don't swing these races more than several dozen votes. Thus we expect Finlay will hold the seat which was vacated when House Judiciary Chair Jim Harrison decided not to seek re-election after holding the seat since 1991.

Finlay owns the well-known Doc's BBQ, a favorite stop for USC game tailgaters and a favorite lunch spot of the Blogland and friends. If you haven't been there, you really need to.

After securing District 75, Republicans have scored a net gain of two House seats by picking up Democratic-held District 11, as well as two Democratic seats which were redistricted to the coast: District 56, now in Horry County, and District 120, now in Beaufort County. They lost House District 78, also based in Richland County. They now how 78 of 124 seats in the state House.

The Night of the Thurmonds

Last night was a good night for the Thurmond family.

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

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

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

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

Watch this guy. He could be going places.

A rough road ahead?

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

But winning isn't always everything.

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

Mitt Romney: He can fix our problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Payne's Invasion of the Body Snatchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ted Vick's "The Jerk" moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fact-checking the attacks against Senator Martin

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

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

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

State House races to watch

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

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

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

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

State Senate races to watch

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

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

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