The race of Lt. Governor of South Carolina is quickly becoming a race between two unlucky men. Incumbent Lt. Governor Andre Bauer suffered injuries in a plane crash back in May. Bauer's opponent, Democrat Robert Barber recently lost his family owned Bowens Island Restaurant to a fire. The bad luck of both candidates has created news stories that overshadow the issues of the race.
There is nothing new about such sideline stories having prominence in a Lt. Governor's race. In 1994 and 1998 I learned first hand how something like a large plastic cow can get better press than a candidate's position papers. In 1986 and 1990, successful candidate Nick Theodore was better known for his "Hey buddy," greeting and personal charm than about any issues he stood for. In 1978, Nancy Stevenson enjoyed favorable press being the first woman to be a major party nominee for the job.
This year ought to be different. In years past, Lt. Governors have ran for an office that was long ceremony and short of substance. However, that changed when the Department on Aging was put directly under the Lt. Governor. The bad luck stories of the two candidates should not get in the way of examining the record of the incumbent on actually doing the job.
Lt. Governor Bauer is rightly criticized for his dangerous driving, but, as the first Lt. Governor to essentially head a state agency and do the ceremonial duties as Lt. Governor, Bauer has done an outstanding job. The critics of Lt. Governor Bauer dwell on the personal. They call him "immature." They call him "irresponsible." However, they offer little criticism about the actual job he has done. That is telling.
Barber's campaign has aired some rather strong negative ads about the Lt. Governor, citing his speeding behind the wheel and his conversation with highway patrolmen at the scene. I believe the Lt. Governor should take more responsibility for the very high speeds he drove at along I-77. However, Barber's ad shows the conversation between Bauer and a trooper along I-26. In that incident, Bauer was going supposedly 77 in a 65, and got a warning. Barber wants us to believe we would not get such. He is wrong. Everyday people get warnings for such instead of tickets. Such is the shell game of political ads, take the good footage from an incident and talk about one in which you don't have good footage. Regardless, the attack ad is about something personal.
Now, if Barber had ads that said something like, "The Department on Aging is in shambles," or "The Lt. Governor fails to even show up to preside over the senate," Barber's attack ads would have more weight in my eyes. The reason Barber does not run those kind of ads is because he can not truthfully, even when playing by the fast and loose rules of politics.
Like Lt. Governor Bauer or not personally, he has performed the duties of his office well. All Barber has to offer is a record of lobbying and some really good personal attack ads against the Lt. Governor. That makes Lt. Governor Bauer the better choice between two unlucky men. Regardless of who wins, I hope both men have better luck from here on out.