It is no news that Governor Sanford has had a hard time dealing with the legislature of South Carolina. Despite agreement on most issues, and the Governor offering some great ideas for consideration, the two political entities just have not been able to get along.
Those on the legislative side cite the Governor’s lack of personal political skills. Things like aloofness from legislators and getting into primary races come to mind. One former legislator made it clear to me that Governor Sanford and his people were just “clueless” in knowing how to work well with other elected officials.
Friday’s vote revealed how deep Governor Sanford and his people have hurt the Governor’s office’s influence in the General Assembly. It is not that the Governor’s endorsed candidate, Charleston County Councilman Tim Scott did not win the bid to replace Thomas Ravenel as State Treasurer. It is the fact that not one member of the General Assembly stepped forward to even nominate the Governor’s choice for the job. That was a stinging blow the Governor’s credibility in dealing with the General Assembly.
More recent factors might have added to the now five plus year conflict between the Governor and the General Assembly. When a a blogger, who was once an employee of the Governor’s office, along with another blogger, passed on “rumors” about now Treasurer Converse Chellis days before the vote, political insiders and commentators smelled a smear campaign being launched. To some, it seemed unusual that a blogger with ties to the Governor could just innocently pass on a rumor about a sexual harassment lawsuit. The high road that Mark Sanford and his people always claim to hold in politics seemed to be gone. They seemed to be on the political low road.
The result was, as stated before, not one single member of the General Assembly stood up for the Governor’s candidate.
The Governor’s shrill response through a press release that seemed to be written before the vote even happened summed up his growing irrelevance in getting real things done in his remaining time in South Carolina.
It is a fascinating political paradox. The people of South Carolina elected Mark Sanford by solid margins to the office of Governor, but they also elected most of their members of the General Assembly by the same solid margins. So, politically, Mark Sanford seems strong. But, on the governing side of the politician’s equation, he is all but done, because the equally politically strong General Assembly simply does not want to deal with the Governor at any serious level.
The Governor is still Governor, and as such can do things like organize the state’s emergency responses, commute some death sentences, travel to promote economic development, and do other various administrative and public relations acts. The Governor can also us his office as a bully pulpit for his ideas. But, the actions of the General Assembly on Friday, August 3, 2007 make clear that the Governor has a very slim chance of getting substantial legislative packages through the General Assembly for the remainder of his time in office. The Governor’s response to those acts makes clear that he does not understand his situation or how to remedy it.
It is unfortunate. For it seems the personal stubbornness of the Governor and his people is going to prevent the substantial changes they hoped to bring about. It is ironic that the political misfortunes of a Sanford political ally, Thomas Ravenel, would make the situation so clear.