by Chris Haire
The S.C. Democratic Party is finally growing a pair of balls. And it couldn't have come at a more important time.
First, Charleston County Councilman Vic Rawl lost to the then-unknown Alvin Greene, and then the Dems couldn't defeat Nikki Haley, who was beset by a number of scandals.
To make matters worse, they lost the one office that Democrats seem to win election after election, the state superintendent of education.
And at the heart of it all was a reluctance by the Democrats to go on the offensive against their GOP rivals. Even a formidable candidate like Vincent Sheheen was far too timid when addressing Haley's issues.
But now, all of that has changed. Dick Harpootlian is back in charge of the state Dems. And while I've personally criticized Harpootlian's return — I think a guy who once used a homophobic euphemism to attack Lindsey Graham is not the kind of guy I want to see leading the progressive, minority-friendly party — it's clear that his presence has inspired the asses to kick back at the GOPers.
Take the state Democrats' latest move: calling for embattled Lt. Gov. Ken Ard to resign at a press conference this morning in Columbia.
Even better, three of the Democratic Party's young guns, Rep. Bakari Sellers (Denmark), H. Boyd Brown (Winnsboro), and James Smith (Columbia), announced that they would introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would allow the good people of South Carolina to recall statewide elected officials. Ard, who still has three more years to go on his term, is undoubtedly the target.
Brown says, "If he doesn't step aside and the Republican-controlled legislature doesn't do anything, the people of South Carolina should have a mechanism in place so they can go in and remove the guy from office. That's not the case now."
He adds, "If Ken Ard wants to [stick] this thing out and Republicans, as we've seen since this whole ordeal began, keep their mouth shut, we're stuck with Ken Ard to continue to embarrass us while he goes in front of the grand jury. It's time for us to give the people of South Carolina what they want, and that's a way to recall elected officials."
The trio will also introduce an ethics reform bill that would triple ethics fines.
As for the Democrats' newfound set of cojones, Brown credits their new leader. "To be honest with you, Dick Harpootlian was a shot in the arm to the party," Brown says. "I've had a saying here lately, speaking to other Democrats — 'We forgot what winning was.' We were a bunch of happy losers. Not to sound like Charlie Sheen, but it's time to put winning back in our vocabulary."
The Winnsboro rep adds, with "Mark Sanford going on a hiking trip and Nikki Haley and the lies she tells, it's easy for us to make a comeback. The message we need to get to the people of South Carolina is, you might not agree with us on 100 percent of the issues, but we're not going to embarrass you, we're not going to lie to you."
As for why both Haley and Ard's brief time in office has been marred by gaffes and scandal — some laughable, others tragic — Brown says, "I think it's a case of power going to their head. I just think that these folks all of a sudden got a lot of power and they're being reckless with it."
The 20-something-year-old Brown says that one sure sign that all is not well in the Haley administration is that Eleanor Kitzman, Haley's appointee to head the Budget and Control Board, is high-tailing it back to her home state of Texas after just a few months on the job. "With Nikki Haley's office, you've got a daycare over there on the first floor of the Statehouse," Brown says. "You've got a bunch of people my age running the state of South Carolina, who have no governmental experience, never worked in a governmental office before."
As for the reluctance of Haley's spokesman Rob Godfrey to speak to the press — we're one of a number news outlets who Godfrey and his ilk refuses to talk to — Brown says, "It's time for Rob Godfrey to actually be a real press secretary and go in front of some cameras and answer some questions."
The Democratic Party has also begun mocking Haley for comments she made last week — and which the City Paper first reported — regarding her commitment to personally drive South Carolinians to the DMV to get IDs, a new requirement under that state's Voter ID law.
Brown says that several of his older African-American constituents don't have IDs or birth certificates and other records for that matter, since they weren't allowed in some hospitals at the time. "When they call me and say, 'What do I need to do about getting a Voter ID,' I'm going to give them the governor's office's phone number and say, 'Call Nikki Haley. She'll be more than happy to drive you.'"
The Winnsboro Democrat adds that Haley is "going to have to rearrange her schedule to accommodate 170-some-odd thousand people."