When Linda Ketner announced last November that she'd work to keep her supporters organized and involved after her four-point loss to Congressman Henry Brown, most eyes looked toward 2010 and predicted a rematch. Last week, Ketner announced she'd sit out this election cycle, but remain active on issues like combating the influence lobbyists have in Washington, finding energy alternatives, improving public education, and getting more women in politics.
Ketner's campaign caught national attention in the weeks running up to Election Day last year, with some wondering if the "change" election would produce results this far south. Though she lost, Ketner's close race has prompted members of Brown's own party to seriously weigh a primary challenge. And the Democratic National Congressional Committee has already committed money toward Brown's 2010 ouster, including a targeted media campaign earlier this year.
Spend five minutes with Ketner and you'd be convinced that she's ready for any electoral fight. But spunk and political acumen were never her problem. Instead, it was the challenge of cobbling together the right campaign to take on a well-heeled, four-term incumbent.
"I learned a lot from the last election about how to run," she says. "To me, to do it the right way and put together the right team and have enough money to win it, it's a four-year plan, not a two-year plan."
After Ketner announced she wouldn't run, Statehouse Rep. Leon Stavrinakis (D-West Ashley) said he'll consider running and will likely make a decision this summer. Ketner says she's okay with losing the opportunity if another Democrat unseats Brown in 2010.
"I figure there's an office somewhere with my name on it," she says.
Until 2012, Ketner says she'll remain a fierce advocate on the issues she highlighted in the campaign.
"My dream is to start a citizens movement that demands some accountability from our elected representatives," she says.
It's not a crazy dream. Ketner was a driving force more than a decade ago for the Alliance for Full Acceptance, a Charleston-based nonprofit that advocates for gay rights and educates the larger community through outreach and media campaigns.
She's not sure what this new movement is going to look like going forward, but she'll focus first on getting people's attention.
"People aren't listening," she says. "The world is more complicated than it's ever been. It feels like a trick that we're less questioning now than we've ever been."
For now, she's maintained a presence at lindaketner.com through frequent blog updates.
"People thought I kept that website because I was going to run in 2010," she says. "I didn't. I kept it because the more I learned in running, the more upset I got about what was happening in government. I'm trying to let people look at it and dig a little deeper."
Ketner says she'll continue advocating for alternative energy, which she sees as a solution to South Carolina's energy crunch and jobless numbers.
"We're the Saudi Arabia of wind here," she says. "We could light the whole state with wind power and produce some 20,000 jobs."
She also wants to see improved educational opportunities.
"If we could solve that, we could recruit better industries and get better jobs here," Ketner says. "If we could solve that, we wouldn't all live five minutes from somebody who is desperately poor."
Usually politically savvy, Ketner made news earlier this month when, in a conversation about the role her sexuality played in the 2008 election, Ketner named three prominent S.C. Republicans who have been rumored to be gay. Last week, she apologized and stated she was speaking in presumed confidence regarding rumors, not fact, and that she wasn't trying to "out" anybody.