Thursday, November 27, 2008

The 3rd Annual Thanksgiving Political Awards

This year’s Thanksgiving Day political awards are difficult to choose. The VUI staff has conferred within itself and with other bloggers and wise old political sages alike and came up with a list of nominees for the awards. However, it has been difficult to distinguish between the nominees for the various awards.

First, let’s start with Cornbread Dressing Award for Lifetime Political Achievement. The nominees are:

Bill Cotty, retiring state representative from Richland County
Cotty was both loved and hated by people in politics. That is usually is the sign someone actually doing an honest job.

Bob Walker, defeated for re-election to the SC House from Spartanburg County
Walker was the great white whale Howard Rich went out and defeated. However, before Rich and his money came along to redefine the word “Republican,” Walker was helping build the party of Carroll Campbell in SC.

Frank Willis, defeated for re-election as Mayor of Florence by one vote.
Willis brought a limited government approach to city government that would make Republicans proud, despite the fact he was a Democrat. His economic development efforts turned Florence into a boom town in a bad economy.

Howard Wells, defeated for re-election as Sheriff of Union County.
Sheriff Wells came to prominence during the Susan Smith saga in 1994, and showed professionalism and law enforcement could go hand in hand with a Southern Sheriff. Local politics are always tricky, but even some of Wells’s opponents cede he served the county well for most of his 16 years in office.

The last nominee, however is the winner. Retiring State Senator John Drummond started serving his nation as a pilot and then prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. More will be written about Senator Drummond in the next few weeks. John Drummond is a South Carolinian with distinction, the likes of which is few and far between in politics.

The next award is the cranberry sauce award for outstanding achievement at the local government level. This award is especially difficult to choose, because we seem to be choosing between big government types who want to grow local government and its tax burden versus the community nutcases. Add to that our 2006 recipient of this award turned around and voted to raise local taxes! Through the muddled mess of local officials, we choose Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randal Wallace as this year’s winner. There are some things VUI disagrees with Councilman Wallace on local government, but we bestow this honor upon him for his pro-growth stands that are sometimes unpopular and his honesty, which is sorely needed in South Carolina local government.

That brings us to the Holiday Ham Award. This award is given to the political figure who frankly, thinks way too highly of himself. Just when we were about to give the Holiday Ham award to someone from the Howard Rich takeover movement, along came Tumpy Campbell and his little brother Mike. The Campbell brothers are at it again; with rumors flying they want to run for Governor and Lt. Governor, respectively, off their late father’s name. One would think Mike Campbell’s defeat in 2006 would have sent some sort of message. It apparently did not.

Indulge me using a personal example to make my point about Tumpy and Mike. My father is sharp in textiles. Being his son, I gained a cursory knowledge of textile manufacturing that is probably a little better than folks without such exposure. However, it would take tremendous self arrogance to present myself to some textile manufacturer as able to work on a mill’s management team because my dad is good at the subject. The Campbells should note the road the Thurmond sons are taking, in that Strom Jr. and Paul Thurmond sought local elective offices. The Campbell brothers’ insistence on being handed big political jobs on their father’s reputation makes them hands down winners of the Holiday Ham Award.

The Fruitcake Award is self explanatory. You have to appear to the public to be a little politically nuts to be considered for this award. Frankly, there are a good many political candidates and pundits in South Carolina who fit that bill. However, VUI decided on defeated Anderson County Council Candidate Rick Freemantle. When you lose a Republican primary in a very traditionally upscale Republican district against an incumbent who raised taxes and is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch List; it speaks volumes. It is almost as if voters said, “That guy might be crazy, but at least he ain’t this other guy.”

That brings us to our biggest awards: The Golden Drumstick for Political Achievement and the Political Turkey of the Year Award.

The nominees for the Gold Drumstick are:

Second District Congressman Joe Wilson
Since his upset primary win for the state senate in the 1980s, the knock against Joe Wilson has been that he has not fought a real race. That changed in 2008. In a tough year for Republicans, especially one like Wilson who openly supported President Bush, Wilson’s personal political touch came into play as he solidly defeated the first “tough” opponent in 20 years.

State Senator Shane Massey of Aiken County
When Massey won the special election to fill the seat of Democrat Tommy Moore, pundits quietly argued that victory was a fluke. Massey worked his behind off to win a full term in the formally “true blue” district for Democrats.

Sam and Inez Tennenbaum
The former Education Superintendent and her political activist husband have been fixtures in the South Carolina political scene for years. However, their early and strong support of President-elect Obama, and their work for his huge primary win might compel the couple to the national stage.

Congressman Jim Clyburn
Congressman Clyburn played the Democratic primary very well. Clyburn took an “elder statesman” approach to the primary and thus did not alienate the President-elect or Hillary Clinton. And, as the Clintons seem to be having a big say in the upcoming Obama Administration, Clyburn’s approach appears wise and only solidifies his influence in Washington politics.

SC House Representative Bill Sandifer
Sandifer faced the blunt force of the Howard Rich Machine and whipped its behind. Even with the Governor of South Carolina campaigning against him, Sandifer racked up 72% of the Republican primary vote by keeping in close touch with constituents and local political matters.

Howard Rich
There are two approaches to Howard Rich. One approach is that he is a man committed to better government who is spending his wealth to see that happen. The other is that Howard Rich is hellbent on buying control of a small state and hiring political hacks and funding dirty campaigns to gain control. Regardless the take you have on the man, his money and his hired hands made a political difference in 2008.

Floyd Nicholson
The Greenwood Mayor won a tough fight for John Drummond’s old state senate seat in Greenwood and Abbeville Counties against a well funded Republican. Add to that the fact that Nicholson will serve in the senate as one of the rare African Americans in South Carolina history to represent a white majority senate district.

The winner of the Golden Drumstick is… and with apologies to my fellow Republicans, Floyd Nicholson. Enough can not be said about the local political personal touch of Nicholson and how he got Republicans to split their tickets in crucial precincts. People simply like the guy. Though Nicholson will probably face a tough challenge in 2012, Republicans had better not underestimate Nicholson’s ability to shake every hand in the room and show up at community events other politicians say “ho hum” about. Some might quickly dismiss Nicholson’s win as part of the Obama effect. They are wrong. Nicholson won where Obama did not. Nicholson is good at what he does, and well deserving of the Golden Drumstick.

That brings us to the Turkey of the Year Awards. The crackerjack staff of Voting under the Influence and those we consulted were excited about this award. Political turkeys abound this year. Here are the nominees:

The South Carolina Democratic Party
How on Earth can the South Carolina Democrats go into an election year with a very unpopular Republican President and the Obama factor and not find legitimate candidates for so many offices, including United States Senate? When you are dealing with perhaps the best year for your party in thirty years and your US Senate nominee is a right wing nutcase, you know you are in trouble. Where was say, a Jim Hodges or a Dick Riley? Anyone answering the phone for the SC Democrats?

The Greenwood County Republican Party operation
Obama is on the ticket, and you know folks in your area will turn out to actually vote against him, and you lose an incumbent Sheriff and an open senate state seat with a good candidate who is well funded? Good grief! VUI gave respect to Nicholson for his talents. You folks should have been aware of that fact months ago.

Bob Walker, Former SC Rep. from Spartanburg
I realize that the Howard Rich crowd thinks that this is their crowning achievement in SC politics. Their pet candidate knocked off the sitting House Education and Public Works Chairman. Whatever. Walker had local political problems a year or so out over a problem in his church. Walker compounded those local problems by not really taking his opponent seriously. As stated above, Walker served the GOP well for years, but in the spring of 2008, his campaign was lackluster and he lacked the attentive nature to local politics representatives like Bill Sandifer had. Walker lost the race more than Rich and company won it.

John Edwards, former US Vice Presidential nominee
The South Carolina Democrats’ favorite son laid a dud in his SC primary effort against President-elect Obama. Edwards followed it up by screwing (pun intended) himself out of a second consecutive VP nomination with a sex scandal. Note to John Edwards: you can only have the sex scandal after you are in office and survive politically.

The defeated trio of Anderson County Council
Bill McAbee, Michael Thompson and Larry Greer were all once respected Republicans. Then, they voted to raise taxes. Then, when asked about credit card expenditures, they ran away from questions. Never before have three men seemed so determined to end their own political careers. The voters showed them the door. The only thing more disappointing then watching these once good men go down to defeat was watching them create their own demise. It was painful to watch.

The winner of the Political Turkey of the Year for 2008 is…The South Carolina Democratic Party. I know Democrats will scream over that. They will claim the Obama win and the big national congressional wins. However, here in South Carolina, the SC Democratic Party blew their political chance. With all the Obama hoopla, Democrats left a large number of races uncontested. Other races had weak candidates. Again, nothing sums it better than the fact the Democratic nominee for US Senate was just an old ticked off right winger. In a year in which people were actually looking for alternatives, the SC Democrats offered few. That does not break the hearts of the staff of VUI. We don’t really want a true revival of the Democratic Party. However, we do call ‘em like we see ‘em, and when we do that, for missing their big chance, the South Carolina Democratic Party is the 2008 Political Turkey of the Year.
Happy Thanksgiving. Be thankful for the blessings you have and remember our troops and their families.

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