Monday, June 30, 2008

Pray for Rain

As if rising fuel prices, medical care costs and food costs were not enough to deal with, the drought in the upstate of South Carolina continues to worsen. There have been a few thunderstorms here and there, but no drought busting rain.

On Monday, the state of South Carolina's Climatology office declared five upstate counties, (Oconee, Pickens, Greenville, Spartanburg and Cherokee), in extreme drought, the highest level it measures. The remainder of upstate counties remain in severe drought.

The visual effects of the drought in the upstate are clear in the state of Lake Hartwell, which borders South Carolina and Georgia in Anderson County. Bridges pass over grass, not water, in some spots, and some docks are simply dry docks now, with no water around them.

Voluntary limits on water usage are now being asked for by water authorities and local governments. However, if no large amount of rain falls on the upstate, mandatory measures are inevitable, along with complicated relations with Georgia and North Carolina about their water usages that affect the South Carolina water supply.

As it stands, the upstate's drought hurts primarily farmers, people who can not fish where they once could, and lakeside property owners who can not enjoy the waterfront property they paid for. However, a political firestorm could erupt if measures have to be taken to fine people for watering their lawns or washing their cars or even using too much water for cooking or in the bathroom.

I know the latter sounds a bit extreme. But, with the water supply at the level it is now and with the long range forecasts not promising, local and state leaders could face some hard choices. Those hard choices, if made, will have political consequences that are unpredictable.

The water shortage in the upstate reminds us that government, try as it may, can not control everything and make everything all right. Every local government could pass an ordinance calling for rain, and the state legislature could pass a resolution calling for the same, but it would do nothing. All local and state government can do is react to acts of God, and pray, as we all should, for rain.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

June was a month of change in Anderson County

June was certainly a month of change in Anderson County government. The sitting Sheriff and three sitting members of County Council were denied renomination by the voters in the Republican primary. Two other council members, who were targeted by the government establishment for defeat, won.

A number of factors were at work. First, the more conservative elements of Anderson County politics actually talked about things that hit home with Republican voters. Voters had endured a tax increase from council and a budget shortfall by the Sheriff. When it came to light that some rather interesting items and meals had been charged to county owned credit cards, the political icing was on the political cake. With gas prices so high, taxes going up, health care becoming hard to afford, voters seemed to have little understanding of why a county official had to spend a thousand bucks on dinner.

If Cindy Wilson is, as some government officials would have you believe, crazy as a blind squirrel, she found her acorn in the credit card usage. For as the old saying goes, even a blind squirrel can find an acorn every now and then. The questions being asked were not only from the usual crowd, but they were being asked by people at the barber shop, the beauty parlor and the local cafe.

Yet, the pro Preston/establishment crowd refused to see that. Instead they pursued a bunker mentality. People who asked questions were not simply asking questions, they were dubbed as "out to get" the Administrator and other officials. They were dubbed as "holding Anderson County back." They were called against progress, petty, and even out for some sort of financial gain of their own. The list of things I was called online and in personal conversations for daring to question is laughable. But, I was not alone. Anyone who dared question things was quickly personally attacked. That sort of mentality does not bring much success in politics or business. The object in politics is to reduce the number of enemies by finding common ground, not create more enemies by drawing hard lines on the simplest of questions. Picking fights with voters won't win votes. It is akin to thinking you can grow your business by picking fights with your customers or someone you work with who has a better idea.

Indeed, upper level business management college courses warn against such a bunker mentality. That form of "group think" often results in failure. The June elections are offered as proof of that theory.

The Council members who lost re-election lost by relatively wide margins. It is politically rare for three incumbents to all lose by such margins. Those margins show it was more than just a general mood of the voters against incumbents. The council's group think left them completely out of touch with the people they represented. Whether it was based on arrogance, ignorance or just a failed plan to circle the wagons is not known. Whatever the reason for the group think of the council, whomever suggesting it and promoted it does not know much about winning elections.

Sheriff Crenshaw, on the other hand, was caught up more in the general mood of the upstate and just had some bad political luck. People almost forgot how he let his driver's license expire and how he had a budget shortfall. But, as the election was nearing, they were reminded of that when a deputy fell asleep and wrecked his cruiser and another deputy had two handcuffed women escape from him in his cruiser. Crenshaw is a not a bad sheriff. But, he faced that old political enemy called fate. Close loses can be attributed to just a few turns here or there. Sometimes, it is just bad luck. It is not unlike a great football game. Two strong teams play, and they play well, then some kid fumbles the ball and the outcome turns on that moment.

Again the same can not be said for the county council defeats. Whomever was calling the plays in those contests did not know the political game had shifted. Further, they did not have the on the ground information needed to change plans and put a new strategy into play. If an incumbent loses a close race, it was just his time to lose perhaps. If an incumbent scores 40 percent or below, he ran a bad campaign.

That does not take anything away from Tom Allen, Eddie Moore or Tommy Dunn. Those men ran strong campaigns and knew how to take advantage of the weakness of the incumbents that they faced. Congratulations to them.

Time will tell if they will learn from those that they defeated. Come January, will those men remember how they got elected, or will they fall into the same political trap the men that they are replacing did? Time will tell.

Friday, June 27, 2008

DC v. Heller: a victory for civil rights

The case of the District of Columbia, et al versus Heller was handed down yesterday by the United States Supreme Court. The decision struck down the outright ban of handguns in the District of Columbia and defined, for the the first time in 200 years, the Supreme Court's take on the Second Amendment.

The decision was 5-4, with Justice Scalia writing the opinion of the court. Reading his opinion was like walking through the mind of a constitutional genius. Scalia's opinions are often logical, easy to understand and full of sound reasoning. Heller was no exception to that.

Scalia gave gun control advocates some hope in his words about reasonable regulations but Scalia's words could not better define what was at stake when he concluded, "what is not debatable is that it is not the role of this Court to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct."

Scalia's opinion touched on a sensitive time in American history, such as when armed groups of men in the South forcibly took arms away from African Americans in the aftermath of Reconstruction.

In my opinion the Supreme Court's decision in Heller made the right to have a firearm in the home for self defense a civil right. It appears that right is now as essential as being able to speaks one's mind about political issues, to be free to peacefully assemble, and the like. We basically have the right to protect our home and our families with a firearm if we so choose.

The other side of the issue is somewhat shrill in their response. The Mayor of Chicago spoke of how taxes would have to increase so he could be more police officers on the street to deal with more people having firearms in their homes.

I disagree with the Mayor. If more people have firearms in their homes, or at least criminals think more people could have firearms in their homes, chances are criminals will be less likely to invade or rob those homes.

That said, yesterday's Supreme Court decision is no cause to declare victory and not be vigilant regarding our rights. The decision was narrow, with a 5-4 vote. Just one Supreme Court Justice appointed by a President who did not support the civil right of bearing arms could change the situation. However, for now, the right to protects oneself and home with a firearm is finally affirmed.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How bad is it for McCain?

Now that the state primaries are over, it is time to look at the national picture. If one listens to the national media, things look dismal for John McCain. Some recent national polls have come out having him down by double digits.

If polls in June decided Presidential elections, Ronald Reagan would have lost to Jimmy Carter, Reagan would have lost re-election to Walter Mondale, George H.W. Bush would have lost to Michael Dukakis, and George W. Bush would have lost to John Kerry. For an example read this old New York Times article about Dukakis leading bush from 1988:

For whatever reason, Democratic Presidential nominees fare better in summer polling then they do on Election Day in November.

That is not to say McCain does not have a tough fight to face. The country is reeling from war fatigue, higher energy, health and food prices, and there is a an overall angst among the voters.

However, the Electoral College math still gives McCain an advantage as things stand. If McCain can hold the Bush states from 2004, he wins easily. If McCain loses New Mexico and Iowa, he still wins. It comes down to Ohio. The late Tim Russert described the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election as "Florida, Florida Florida." This year it is "Ohio, Ohio, Ohio."

Obama's presence on the Democratic ticket will lead to huge turnouts in Southern states. In those states, including South Carolina, the turnouts could lead to unexpected Democratic Party wins at the state and local levels. However, I don't think it will be enough to throw Southern states into Obama's column.

At this point Obama is not unlike the campaign of Micheal Dukakis in 1988. Like Dukakis, Obama has the favorable press and the favorable poll numbers as a so called agent of change. However, also like Dukakis, Obama has a record that will be held up to the American people's eyes come the fall. If the Obama folks thought the Clinton campaign brought up thinks like Rev. Wright and the like, they, as the old saying goes, "ain't seen nothing yet."

In other words, don't get too down or too up with summer polling numbers. The Presidential election is yet to go into high gear. It is going to be close, as the last two were, and it is really any one's race to win or lose right now. The VP picks will be the next indicator of how the race will go.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Sheriff Wells and the upstate's mood

The blogs and the chattering politicos will be spending the day spinning the victory by Jake Knotts against the Sanford machine and the Sanford machine's wins in the Spartanburg state senate seats. I also note that Tom Young pulled out a win against the Sanford machine down in Aiken County in House District 81. Good guys do win sometimes.

That said, one of the stories that might be missed is that Sheriff Howard Wells of Union county lost the Democratic Party's runoff. Sheriff Wells was a celebrity almost 14 years ago, when he obtained the confession of Susan Smith, the infamous mother convicted of drowning her two young sons after telling police the children had been kidnapped by a black man in a carjacking.

Wells was not two years into the job of Sheriff when he became one of the characters in a dramatic investigation played out on the national stage. His handling of the incident earned him the Order of the Palmetto and several law enforcement awards. Nearly fourteen years later, Sheriff Wells garnered only 43% of the vote against political newcomer David Taylor in the Democratic runoff on Tuesday.

I do not pretend to offer an explanation on the inner workings of a Union County Democratic runoff election, however, it is interesting to note that a Sheriff who was once the celebrated face of local law enforcement in South Carolina was swept from office. Wells joins David Crenshaw of Anderson as the second upstate sheriff defeated for re-election this month.

There are a large number of county and state officials in the upstate that were sent home by the primary voters in both parties. Some, admittedly, by their own political stupidity, others had to deal with out of state influences, but the mood of the voters in both parties to change things provided the needed boost to many winners over incumbents or other "name" candidates.

With gas approaching four dollars a gallon, increasing local taxes, increasing insurance and health care costs, increasing food costs, and by and large no increase in people's income, voters in both parties were ready in the upstate to try something different with their leaders.

All that said, here's a thank you to Sheriff Wells for representing South Carolina with dignity in one of our more infamous moments in the national spotlight. Voting under the Influence wishes him well with his pursuits after he leaves office in January.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why so much money in South Carolina?

It is pretty clear that South Carolina politics is now for sale to an alliance of out of state libertarian political activists and investors in private school related businesses. The results so far have been mixed but the final pushes in state senate runoffs in Lexington and Spartanburg counties could finally give those who have invested so much money in South Carolina politics a return on their investment. They have already picked off a House Chairman and three state senators.

The financial backing of Wisconsin’s Steve O’keefe, the man who formed the term limits movement in the 1990s, and New York’s Howard Rich and their organizations is impressive. But, some ask, why South Carolina of all places?

First, we have loose campaign finance laws for state campaigns. The state allows corporate contributions. The State Ethics Commission lacks the resources to go and physically find out if multiple corporate donors at one address out of state really exist in practice. If they found out that the corporations were created just to push around money, and I stress if that was found, there is no real teeth in South Carolina law to punish those who did so. Further, South Carolina law allows front groups to be formed that do not have to disclose who they get their money from or how much they got from this or that donor.

Add to that the fact South Carolina is a relatively small state, and targeted districts in the State House of Representatives and State Senate are relatively smaller than those in other states. While Howard Rich and Steve O’Keefe operate in other states, South Carolina gives them an almost perfect situation to influence elections with resources and have a state government doing their bidding.

South Carolina also is last in most major public education measurements. There are reasons for that other than performance, such as the fact South Carolina allows anyone who wants to take the SAT sit for the test, while top scoring states like South Dakota do not. Regardless, if the Rich crowd can get a friendly state government and just go up a notch or two by their acts or someone else’s, they can declare victory and sell their wares better around the nation, where the real political gains for some and financial gains for others are.

Then there is Governor Mark Sanford. The Governor is in tight with the Rich crowd and his allies. Sanford so far has not delivered much for the investment in him. The big push to get Sanford the tools he needs in the General Assembly is an effort to allow Sanford to showcase their shared philosophy without nagging questions from other elected officials. Knocking off a few sitting state senators, especially a vocal critic like Jake Knotts, will give Sanford and his out of state allies an intimidation factor. Sanford’s folks could say, “you remember what we did to Jake Knotts or Senator whomever,” when pressing for votes in the General Assembly.

Of course, the big influx of money in state government elections could backfire. In 1998, big money from video poker took down a sitting Governor and several constitutional officers. The result was the General Assembly acting to get rid of video poker in South Carolina. If Jake Knotts and Scott Talley are defeated, among others, on Tuesday, do not be surprised if there is serious consideration of tightening South Carolina’s campaign finance laws by the General Assembly. The irony is that if Mark Sanford wants a future in South Carolina politics, like Hodges with video poker, he will likely have to support the measures.

It is also ironic that the traditionally conservative notions of letting a state best decide its own course in local matters is put aside by the Governor and his out of state allies. It is apparent that those who are here trying to buy influence in South Carolina eschew the 10th amendment of the United States Constitution. To me there is little difference between some bureaucrat in Washington and some financial fat cat on Wall Street trying to tell South Carolina how it ought to do things. But, of course, I am a conservative.

RIP Doug Wiliams, USMC

My mother's younger brother, my uncle Doug Williams, died Saturday at his home. He was a Vietnam Era Marine who faced medical problems and personal demons since his service. He spent the last 30 years of his life in and out of VA and other hospitals.

Here's a thank you to Uncle Doug for his service to our country, and a request for all of you to keep his wife, his children and grandchildren in your thoughts and prayers. Be nice to those relatives who served our country and that you think are a bit different. Most of us have no idea the things they saw and had to deal with. Make an effort to simply tell them thank you for their service.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Think your vote does not count?

The turnout numbers for the June 10th primary were dismal. Despite the fact that around the state, primaries in both parties were essentially the elections for a good number of local offices, the people decline to have their voice heard in droves.

Those who did turnout made some incredible decisions. In Spartanburg County, were over 75% chose not to vote, a State House Chairman and a State Senator were ousted. I wonder how many people a year from now will call the soon to be former members of the legislature about a problem, not realizing they were defeated in a primary they chose to not participate in.

I realize there is an element, even among registered voters, who contend that their vote does not matter. Well, it would have if you lived in Florence, SC. In Florence, Mayor Frank Willis trails challenger Stephen Wukela by one vote. That's right, one vote. Willis is protesting that one vote, and has a challenge to be heard by the South Carolina Democratic Party on Saturday. It seems that the one vote margin comes from a challenged ballot.

The seventy plus percent of those who chose to stay home will not have a say in who is their next mayor in Florence. It will likely be decided by a group of Democratic Party officials in Columbia. What is even more striking is there were two precincts in that race in which no one voted. The contest is probably far from being over, but it will be party officials and the courts who likely decide the winner, not the people.

That outcome is the fault of the people of Florence. If just a handful more would have taken the time to vote for their next Mayor, the issue would be decided one way or the other. Instead, the lack of interest in their own affairs will give the people a Mayor that won with an asterisk.

Everyday I hear people at the barber shop, the gas station and other places tell me how they want this and that changed. Then they do not take the time to vote. I can not think of any other endeavor in life that would take from an individual about one third or more of that individuals income from them and an individual just shrugs and says, "whatever, I will will let someone else decide how to spend my money. I don't care. "

Think about it. Suppose some guy came up to you and said, "hey, look, give me a big part of your income, and don't worry about how much I need or how much I spend on what, just go on with your life." Well, most rational people would not agree to such. But, when they choose to not engage in the political process they do just that. Every time you throw up your hands and say, " I don't care...," you are really saying to government at various levels, " Hey, take all this money, do what you will, I am too busy, too whatever to care about what happens to me and my family and community." That is one sure way of making your vote not count and giving other people more control than they ought to have over your life.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Local runoffs are all about turnout

With no statewide office to draw voters to the runoff polls this year, there is not much buzz about next Tuesday's runoffs in the Republican primary. That is not to say there are not some hot races with real consequences.

However, those races will be won or lost on the ground. It is a matter of mobilizing voters to get to the polls to vote on what the weather forecasters tell us will be a pleasant summer day. Winning candidates will have to compete with the usual thoughts of the voters, such as paying the bills, what the kids are doing and the like along with the typical laid back attitudes that a pleasant summer day creates. It will be turnout, turnout, turnout.

There are several races that come to mind that will be hotter than the air temperature come next Tuesday.

In Lexington County, there is a real political war going on in Senate District 23. Incumbent Jake Knotts will square off with Katrina Shealy. It is usually bad news for an incumbent when he faces a runoff, but do not underestimate Knotts and his supporters. Shealy is formidable, despite the fact the other candidate in the primary endorse Knotts, Shealy has the support of the Governor and the big out of state money that comes with it that could be crucial on election day in getting out the vote. It would not shock me if this one was very close and involved the lawyers before it was over. It is an all out political war.

In Aiken County, the Governor's pet candidate for SC House District 81 is Scott Singer. You can bet the special interest money will flow from out of state to assist Singer, but with Knotts the real target of the Governor, the resources won't be ideal. Also, Singer's opponent, Tom Young, is tied strongly to Aiken and has proven in the debates and in questions and answers published in the Aiken Standard that he is a conservative with a brain. I think Young has the advantage with his ties to community, and his reputation as a "good guy." That, I believe will turn out voters to go vote for him more than the out of state funded mail will turn out people to vote against him.

The Governor has yet to get into the primary race in Senate District 10 in Greenwood and Abbeville counties. The battle between Dee Compton and Chip Stockman is for the seat of retiring state senator John Drummond. A formidable Democrat, Greenwood Mayor Floyd Nicholson, awaits the winner in November. Norman Outz, the other primary challenger, who closely missed the runnoff, declined to endorse either candidate. A recent hit mail on illegal immigration by the Stockman campaign against Compton has made the local news. Stockman seems to be investing his entire runoff campaign on the issue, as seen on his website.

Stockman's campaign's acts seem a little creepy. They are remindful of how Catherine Cieps's campaign filmed people working at soon to be Senator Tom Davis's home. People are not really comfortable with someone following around a candidate and filming his home and place of business in local politics. I think Compton has the advantage. He has an old pro running his campaign in Trey Ward, an old Campbell hand, and Compton has a good reputation in the community. Ward knows that turnout is the key now. We will see if he gets it done on next Tuesday.

To whet the local appetite, there is the lone Anderson County Council runoff. That runoff is between former state senator and incumbent council member Bob Waldrep and challenger Raymond MacKay. The pro Preston, pro big local government crowd has a lot resting on this race. After three pro big local government Republicans were defeated on June 10th, beating Bob Waldrep has become a high priority. It can be done. Unlike the three that lost, Waldrep represents a more moderate district. However, it will be seen if Republican runoff voters can stomach a nominee such as MacKay who voted in the January Democratic Presidential primary. Who has the advantage? Frankly, I do not know. The status of politics in Anderson County is fluid. If I had to pick one, I would pick Waldrep, his longtime service to the area and the fact that he probably personally knows more people in that district could carry the day. But, who really knows with the mood Anderson County voters are in? They just seem ready to throw the bums out, so to speak. One thing is clear. If Waldrep wins, that will be 5 votes against the Preston way of doing things, unless Preston can pick some off between now and January. The remaining two members of council are the most pragmatic in their approach. Ron Wilson and Gracie Floyd put thoughts behind what they do. (I know, I know, who would think I would praise Ron Wilson, but you gotta to give the man his due. He thinks on this job, as does Floyd. You gotta call 'em like you see 'em in this business. )

I realize there are more runoffs in both parties that have people interested and worked up. But, folks can and will only read so much. If you want my take on a race, comment and let me know. I'll tell you. If you want a private take on it, email me at

Thanks for reading and for commenting.

One year ago

Last year on this date, the Charleston Fire Department responded to a fire at a local sofa/mattress superstore. The result the world knows. Nine brave firefighters lost their lives that evening.

Mayor Joseph Riley of Charleston has been quoted by several news sources as saying that incident was the toughest to deal with in his many years as Mayor of the Holy City. By all accounts, the Mayor did his best to cooperate with federal and state investigators. In other words, I take the Mayor at his word. He was hit hard by the tragedy and did his best to make things different.

The South Carolina legislature tried to act to help prevent such another tragedy, but its own members defeated tough business sprinkler requirements and instead passed legislation giving tax credits to those private entities who installed such sprinklers. True to form, and as politically and personally tone deaf as ever, Governor Mark Sanford vetoed that legislation.

Indeed, the reaction of the South Carolina state government to the largest lost of firefighters since the attacks of September 11th seems to be "yawn, yeah, whatever."

Those brave men deserve better. Their families deserve better. It is an outrage that the Governor plays politics with this matter. Governor Mark Sanford should be ashamed of himself for his veto.

While I yield no great political power, and can not make our firefighters safer with my will alone, I will offer a simple prayer in memory of those brave men lost a year ago, and offer a commitment to make sure we hold our political leaders accountable for not acting to do all they can to make sure those who rush into harm's way on our behalf are protected as they should be.

Voting under the Influence offers full honor and tribute to those lost last year and sincere prayers to their families and friends as they continue to cope with the tragedy. Hopefully we all can agree, at sometime in the future, and this includes the Governor, that our politics end where the first responders' jobs begin.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'll be back

With my little brother's wedding and sorts of things going on, I will be offline until Monday.

There were certainly a few surprises on Tuesday, and a couple of well, expected upsets.

Thanks for reading and commenting, the fun starts again next week.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Go vote today

Remember, today is primary election day. In so many contests, both Democrat and Republican, todays vote will like decide who holds office. Take the time to vote, and then you can legitimately complain about the situation. :) Let your voice be heard, go vote.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Voting under the Influence's Losers: the Primary Edition

Some years ago, I paid tribute to the great Leonard Postosties by issuing my list of likely losers in politics. If you are not accustomed to Southern culture, Leonard’s Losers was a long lime radio show that predicted who would lose college football games. I have exchanged friendly emails in the past with ole Leonard’s nephew, who still keeps the family tradition. As stated in earlier posts I grew up listening to Leonard forecast his losers and the Leonard’s Losers show was sort of a family tradition I shared with my dad on college football Saturday mornings.

That said; let’s get ready for a round of Voting under the Influence’s losers, the primary edition.

The United States Senate: Lindsey Graham versus Buddy Witherspoon. Senator Lindsey Graham did plenty to tick off South Carolina conservatives, doing everything from joining the famous “gang of 14,” in the judicial hearings, to supporting President Bush’s immigration reform bill. Nevertheless, Graham hauled in big money for his re-election bid and got lucky in his opponent. BuddyWitherspoon seems to believe internet rumors that the United States, Mexico and Canada are going to form one nation together. Someone had better tell the Queen about it! Note to Witherspoon, Queen Elizabeth is till the Head of State of Canada. Voting under the Influence’s loser, in a big way, Buddy “they are coming to get me” Witherspoon. Perhaps only Joe Wilson in Second Congressional District will roll up bigger primary numbers come Tuesday.

South Carolina State Senate District 23: Jake Knotts versus Katrina Shealy, et al. Jake Knotts has been a thorn in Governor Mark Sanford’s side, and Sanford and his out of state funded groups are going all out to remove Knotts from his state senate seat. They found a good candidate in Katrina Shealy, who has strong Lexington County ties and who is working hard to take down Knotts. Some other candidate, whose name I can not remember off the top of my head, is running as well. This thing could go to a runoff, but in the end, I think the money and the solid ties to the working class will carry Knotts. I would not bet the farm on this one, for sure, as it could go either way. And, since I have to pick one….Voting under the Influence’s loser is Katrina Shealy.

South Carolina State Senate District 12: Rep. Scott Talley versus Lee Bright. Yet another race in which the out of state funded groups are investing money and time. Due to the rules of the South Carolina State Senate, it makes sense. A few senate seats picked off here and there will give those groups more power come January. It has been a hot race between Talley and Bright, and this one is a close one. But, in the end, the good guy Talley will likely prevail. Voting under the Influence’s loser: Lee Bright.

South Carolina State Senate District 46: Sen. Catherine Ceips versus Tom Davis. This is a battle of heavyweights. Senator Ceips is pitted against Governor Mark Sanford’s former Chief of Staff Tom Davis. If there is anything the Governor and his want more than beating Jake Knotts, it is getting Sanford friend Tom Davis elected. There are some local political problems that hurt Ceips in this one, and Sanford and his always do well along the coast. Voting under the Influence’s loser, in a close one: Catherine Ceips.

South Carolina House District 38: Rep. Bob Walker versus Joey Millwood. Yet another indicator that Spartanburg County is proving to be a real battleground in this year’s GOP Primary. Walker, the current Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee, is pitted against the young Millwood. Millwood is known more for his love of greyhound dogs than his politics. Despite the onslaught of attacks against Walker from the out of state funded groups, Millwood has little traction. Voting under the Influence’s loser: Joey “Greyhound Man” Millwood.

Voting under the Influence also offers this partial list of likely losers, with especially a note to local races.

Sarah Drawdy will lose in a close one to Chrissie Adams in the 10th Circuit Solicitor’s race.

John Skipper will lose in a close one to Sheriff David Crenshaw in the Anderson County Sheriffs race.

Those running for Sheriff of Abbeville County will lose to Charles Goodwin.

Doug Hooper will lose a close one to Cindy Wilson for Anderson County Council.

The people of SC Representative Thad Viers’s district will lose as Flounder will likely be sent back to Animal House for another two years.

Tom Allen will lose to Bill McAbee for Anderson County Council.

Eddie Moore will lose a close one to Larry Greer for Anderson County Council.

A number of candidates will lose to Dee Compton in the bid for John Drummond’s Senate seat.

The folks facing Michael Thompson and Bob Waldrep will lose their bids to Anderson County Council.

That is about it. The crack staff of Voting under the Influence could go on with a slew of predictions, some right, some wrong, but they are aware that the readers can only take so much.

What do you think? Comment and ask us about any race in the state and we will offer our take on it in the comments section.

For now, hat’s off for ole Leonard. What a guy. I can only hope to entertain you readers a fifth as much as ole Leonard entertained me and mine.

Friday, June 06, 2008

A second tribute to D-Day

Those guys deserve a second tribute. Those rangers gave the full measure of demotion. Again, I defer to President Reagan to make the point of the tribute

Remember D-Day and the men who gave so much

Sixty-four years ago, brave men fought and died against the most recognized force of evil the world has known. Those men fought and died for freedom and give us the chance we have today to be free Americans. Ronald Reagan summed it best. This video and his words is about the best tribute I can offer to those men who gave the full measure of devotion to us so many years ago.

Justice Beatty says enough

South Carolinians for Responsible Government, Club for Growth and their brethren are engaged fully in the upcoming Republican primaries. Part of their attack has been to attack Republican legislators who supported Justice Don Beatty in his election to the South Carolina Supreme Court. Those groups appear to be playing the race card fully.

In an article in the Spartanburg Herald Journal written by Robert W. Dalton, it is clear Justice Beatty has had enough of his reputation as a judge being smeared and enough of the campaign tactics of the outside funded groups. In the article the Justice is quoted as saying:

"It makes me wonder what their real reason is for attacking me," Beatty said. "It's because I'm an easy target, and they can use code words and my black face to appeal to voters that they might be able to enrage against legislators that supported me…These people give conservatives a bad name. I've heard them referred to on more than one occasion as the new face of the (Ku Klux) Klan. I'm almost about to believe that."

You can link to the story at

The words of Justice Beatty are harsh, but so are the tactics of the groups involved. After their pet candidate and official, Governor Mark Sanford, appealed to the state legislature to give qualified African-American judges a real shot at advancement, those groups now use the advancement of a qualified African American judge to try to score campaign points.

It is interesting to note those tactics are used especially against Rep. Bob Walker, the Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee, a man who dares to question the tax credit plan those groups champion.

It seems that SCRG and Club for Growth and their brethren will stoop to any level to attack elected officials, and even sitting Supreme Court Justices, who dare to question their agenda. Those groups will twist records and attack anyone who attacks their pet candidates who are chiefly funded from New York.

Hopefully, the voters will say “enough” to those sort of tactics on June 10th, and vote for candidates who will represent the interests of South Carolina, not the interests of a New York real estate magnet and the slithering groups in South Carolina that represent his interests.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Poor children to have health insurance, despite Sanford

Mark Sanford vetoed the funding and the necessary legislation to sustain the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Both the House and the Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto to fund a program that allows poor children to have health insurance coverage. The General Assembly should be applauded for overriding the cold, calculating mind of the Governor.

Sanford’s approach to the issue reminds me of one of the comedy routines of George Carlin. Carlin had a routine in which he attacked children. His punch line was “F$%& the children!” That pretty much sums up the Sanford approach to the issue.

Even Sanford and Club for Growth lackeys were uneasy with the Governor’s veto of the money to provide health coverage for poor children. As the Governor all but compares the General Assembly to the legendary “Animal House,” he and his must take pause that their own “Flounder,” Rep. Thad Viers of Horry County, voted to override the said vetoes. It is not known whether or not Rep. Thad “Flounder” Viers called the Governor and cussed him out as Viers pleaded guilty to doing with his ex-wife’s new man last year.

The Governor featured Thad “Flounder” Viers at the Governor’s signing of the Immigration bill, so perhaps all is well between Flounder and his buddies. The SCRG and Club for Growth crowd continue to support Flounder’s re-election. I suppose it does not matter how Flounder votes on other issues or who he cusses out on the phone, as long as he supports the tax credit plan for private schools. In their eyes, the dignity of office means little compared to having a lockstep vote on their single agenda.

Indeed, the defeat of the Governor in favor of helping kids get health insurance is not going to stop him or his group from pursing their agenda with education. That is paramount. Their determination and their political and intellectual acumen are in sync with Animal House’s Bluto who stated: "Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!” That quote to me sort of sums up that crowd.

And, folks, they have the money to keep it going, and send the likes of Flounder back to the House, even if he did tick them off.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

SC House District 38: A lifelong Republican versus a New York funded dog lover

The race for South Carolina House District 38 has become a target of Governor Sanford and Howard Rich’s political machine because the incumbent is House Education and Public Works Chairman Bob Walker. Will Folks recently ran a hit post on Walker as is expected from him as he is the web mouthpiece of the Sanford/Rich agenda.

It is frankly bizarre how the Sanford/Rich crowd will embrace almost anyone with a pulse against any Republican incumbent who dares to think for himself.

Bob Walker is a lifelong Republican, who is endorsed by South Carolina Citizens for Life and other conservative groups. Walker has a solid conservative voting record in the House on issues such as taxes, abortion and the like that matters to most Republicans. Since 1993 he has served in the House with conservative distinction. Before that he served for ten years with conservative distinction on boards of education in Spartanburg County.

What makes Walker a target of the Sanford/Rich crowd? Walker has questions about the tax credit program for private schools. Walker seems to get the idea that the tax credits really will not fix the problem of public education or the costs of government that go up if public education is not fixed. Indeed, Walker’s stand is perhaps the true conservative stand. Indeed, if millions are shifted from public education on a program that only rewards those who are already able to do better, it will not do one thing cut the costs of other government programs in law enforcement, prisons, and social programs. In the long term, the tax credit scheme championed by the Sanford/Rich crowd could end up as just subsidizing some folks who do not need a subsidy and making government costs bigger. A state representative who pauses to question such a thing should not be labeled a liberal or in the pocket of educrats. He instead should be praised for using his years of experience to make sure.

That is not the case. The Sanford/Rich crowd and their loosely associated groups have made a move against Rep. Walker. They embraced animal rights activist Joey Millwood against Rep. Walker in the June 10th primary in the Landrum area. Mr. Millwood states on his own blog his commitment to giving racing greyhounds a loving home. He states on that blog, “Save a greyhound and you save a life.” Perhaps. No one faults the man for his love of dogs. I have a basset hound. But the passion of Mr. Millwood’s life appeared to be the plight of dogs before the Sanford/Rich group came along. Now it is tax credits for private schools.

The Sanford/Rich crowd has been a help to the animal rights supporter running against Bob Walker. In Mr. Millwood’s latest disclosure, 82% of his contributions came from New York. Why would people in New York be so interested in a SC House seat in the Landrum area? Simple, Mr. Millwood wishes to be the Representative from Howard Rich. The contributors from New York match other Howard Rich like contributions. No other issue, other than helping create a private school system seems to matter to that crowd. They label who is conservative and who is not with their money and their groups over the fact a conservative Republican dares to question their agenda.

It is a shame. From hiring a guy who championed ending prayer before dinner at VMI to being active supporters of an animal rights guy for a South Carolina House of Representatives seat, the Sanford/Rich crowd eschews the common sense conservative approach of the Republican Party to champion their narrow agenda.
Here’s hoping that Republican voters in House District 38 see through the illusion of conservatism created by big money and big group hit mail outs. Bob Walker is a proven conservative across the board and a loyal Republican. He also has a brain and worries more about the people than the dogs. Bob Walker has earned respect and deserves support for re-election.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Anderson County, the Supreme Court and the future

I hate to comment on events in Anderson County politics two days in a row, but with the South Carolina Supreme Court handing down Wilson v. Preston on Monday, there is little choice.

First, the decision to deny Council member Wilson’s demand for a write of mandamus was sound. I agree with Chief Justice Toal that the matter was a political question.

Boss Preston’s faction in Anderson County could not be happier on the Cocklebur blog. They declare complete vindication of him and his tax and spend Republican allies.

I disagree. The decision was no victory for Anderson County. It was no defeat. It did not vindicate Boss Preston and his big government cohorts. It did show how ineffective the nutty approach of the current leaders of opposition really is.

Ms. Wilson and her crowd have chosen personal attacks and lawsuits instead of engaging in rational political debate. For far too long, their approach has been recognized as the conservative approach to government in Anderson County. The unreasonable nature of Ms. Wilson and her followers has blinded traditional conservatives to the fact that government in Anderson County grows more than the economy does.

Ms. Wilson and her ilk have failed miserably in convincing the council and the people to stop the growing government. They failed because they dwell on things that seem petty and irrelevant to the average voter. As a result, they give Boss Preston and his tax and spend allies on council a so called free ride.

Hopefully, the Supreme Court decision will allow someone else to step in and lead the conservative movement in Anderson County. What passes for that now has failed.

Mr. Preston might call himself and Anderson County the winners in the Supreme Court decision handed down. But, the people of Anderson County are yet to be winners. For the past eight years, the people of Anderson County have been presented with false choices. One side says,”Support bigger government or be unreasonable”. The other side says, “Support our wrong approach or be for bigger government.” The truth is the people deserve and can get better.

The truth is also that the people of Anderson County, the people who work hard everyday to pay their bills, raise their families, and make a life in Anderson County, are bigger than either Joey Preston or Cindy Wilson. Those people, the people who really make Anderson County what it is, will be the real winners the day that free, open and rational debate creates a county government that is limited and responsible.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The real life Boss Hogg

No county administrator in South Carolina, or in the Southeast for that matter, is as politically influential or as controversial as Anderson County Administrator Joey Preston.

County administrators are supposed to be paid professionals who are outside the give and take of politics. They are supposed to carry out the political policies of the council and just make the trains run, so to speak. Preston chooses another route. Preston's supporters are active in supporting elected officials at the polls who support Preston and active against those who do not. Preston and his supporters act in such a way as to shape the political policy decisions.

Preston takes the view of a typical big government tax and spend bureaucrat, and the growth of spending in Anderson County shows it. Programs that cause people to chuckle quietly at Anderson County, such as the Park Police, are embraced by Preston and the council members who dance to his tune. Never mind that the vast majority of the council who approve the constantly growing budgets are Republican in label. The fact remains that Joey Preston, through political skill, controls the county government in Anderson County.

Preston does benefit from the fact that some of his most vocal opposition is quite nutty and has done things like following him around and harassing his family. That is out of bounds and uncalled for. However, Preston and his folks have become skillful at taking people who ask legitimate questions about the growth of county government and lumping them with the crazies.

Only one Southern administrator in fact or fiction can rival the cunning and skill of Joey Preston and his. That is the fictional character of J.D. Hogg, the county commissioner of fictional Hazzard County in northeast Georgia, ironically in the same region of the Southeast as Anderson County, South Carolina. The character "Boss" Hogg would be proud at how Preston skillfully pulls so many strings in Anderson County. For like J.D. Hogg, Preston controls the political game. Unlike the vast majority of administrators at the county and city level who simply follow the policy decisions of the elected officials, Preston and his seek to control the policy decisions by influencing, directly or indirectly, the elections that decide the policy makers.

Though Mr. Preston and his might not see it as such, this post is actually a compliment to him and his for their masterful skills in the game of politics. They are among the best I have ever seen. As for whether or not those skills actually do good for Anderson County, well, that is another issue. But, one thing is sure, Boss Hogg sure would be proud of how Joey Preston and his rule with a politically iron fist. On June 10th, in the Republican Primary, voters will get a chance to show just how powerful or not Boss Joey really is.