Friday, April 03, 2009
Rumors about the 2010 Attorney General race
It is not proper political etiquette for Republicans interesting in running for Attorney General in 2010 to express open interest until the incumbent, Henry McMaster, announces he is not running for the post and is in fact running for Governor. That does not prevent a certain buzz about who will run for the likely open office in 2010. Several names keep popping up around the state.
The first is Trey Gowdy. Gowdy has served as Solicitor for the 7th Judicial Circuit since his election in 2000. Prior to that Gowdy worked as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office. By most accounts, Gowdy is considered to be an able prosecutor who runs an efficient office. The biggest factor working against Gowdy might be where he is from. In 2000, Gowdy was the benefactor of the turmoil that is Spartanburg County Republican politics in that he knocked off a longtime incumbent in the primary. However, there is a recent pattern in which Spartanburg Republicans seem to "eat their own" when it comes to one of them rising to some sort of statewide position of power, (i.e, Bob Walker, former SC House Education and Public Works Chairman defeated in the 2008 primary), or run for statewide office, (i.e., the aborted campaign of John Hawkins for Attorney General in 2002 and the lackluster home county support of defeated Superintendent of Education candidate Karen Floyd in 2006.) Secretary of State Mark Hammond seemed to survive the Spartanburg mess to be elected, but if one looks closely at Spartanburg politics, Hammond is the exception that proves the rule.
The second name being tossed about is SC House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison. Harrison has served in the SC House for nearly twenty years and has an impressive resume, including a stint as general counsel for the South Carolina Alcohol Beverage Commission. Harrison also served in the Army Reserve and was deployed to the the Desert Storm campaign, and the operations in Haiti and Bosnia. Harrison knows the ins and outs of Columbia, but his lack of prosecution experience could hurt his chances.
The third name that comes up is Ken Wingate, the darling of Christian conservatives. Wingate, the son in law of a former Governor, ran for Governor in 2002 and lost in the GOP primary, but gathered a following. That propelled his state senate race in 2004, in which Wingate lost to Joel Lourie. However, Wingate remained a popular figure withing certain Republican party circles, and Governor Mark Sanford tapped Wingate to be Interim State Treasurer in the immediate wake of the Thomas Ravenel cocaine scandal. Wingate's character is lauded even by his opponents, so do not be shocked if his name comes up again. However, Wingate's lack of prosecution experience and his failure to win in the past will be detriments to any possible run.
The fourth name out there is Alan Wilson. Wilson, the son of Congressman Joe Wilson is no ne'er do well political son seeking to ride on his father's name. Before recently joining the prominent law firm of Willoughby and Hoefer, Wilson spent his legal career prosecuting crime in the 11th Circuit Solicitor's Office and in the South Carolina Attorney General's office. Wilson is a proven crime fighter. Add to that his service in the South Carolina National Guard, in which he holds the current rank of Major. Wilson was deployed to Iraq in 2004. Wilson also served as clerk for the late and respected Judge Marc H. Westbrook. Further, Wilson's wife Jennifer was one of the most popular reporters for the largest television station in South Carolina, WIS. That said, one of Wilson's greatest assets, being the son of Joe Wilson and learning first hand from him, could be a detriment in that Mike Campbell's clumsy 2006 campaign for Lt. Governor soured voters towards legacies. That is not fair to Wilson, who has an impressive resume all his own, but it is reality.
The fifth name that keeps coming up in conversations about the Attorney General's race is US Attorney Walt Wilkins. Wilkins has an impressive resume that includes many awards as an assistant US Attorney. More recently as US Attorney, Wilkins led the effort to bring corruption charges against the Mayor and Zoning Director of the city of Union, SC. Wilkins is a Greenville native with strong upstate political ties. It is likely that President Obama will replace Wilkins in the coming months, so it makes sense that Wilkins might seek the office of Attorney General. Wilkins will be able to raise money to mount a serious campaign, but the detriment he faces is being so closely tied to Greenville. For whatever reason, with the exception of Jim DeMint, modern coastal voters do not embrace Greenville ties.
It is the coast that has VUI curious at this time. Talking to several old political hands around the state about the 2010 Attorney General's race, no coastal Republican came up in conversation. There has to be someone out there from the coast. If any reader knows of such a candidate, comment and let us all know.
The Democrats have to be mentioned as well. One Democrat VUI talked to expressed how much he wanted to see Columbia attorney Steve Benjamin seek the post again. Chance are, that is not going to happen. It appears that the former Democratic nominee for Attorney General is going to run for Mayor of Columbia.
That leaves Democratic Solicitor David Pascoe of the 1st Judicial District as the Democrat getting the most political buzz for the office. Not only do political hands in both parties mention his name, but Pascoe made clear his interest in considering a run in an article in the Orangeburg Times and Democrat newspaper. Pascoe is a career prosecutor who has served as Solicitor since his election in 2004. In order for Pascoe, or any other Democrat to have a legitimate chance at the job, they have to have no real primary opposition and start running for November early. Rumors are Democrats are trying to do that with all statewide offices, as they did in 1998, their last successful year.
That concludes the rumors VUI is hearing from various sources now. If you know of anyone else, in either party, to add to the mix, feel free to comment. It promises to be an interesting race, providing Attorney General McMaster does as expected and seeks the Governor's office instead of re-election.