I am not one to discuss politics, but as a South Carolinian, I have enjoyed following the race for the House seat in the First Congressional District. South Carolina has a rich history of controversial politicians from Strom Thurmond to Mark Sanford. Let me know what you think.
I very rarely delve into discussions about politics at home, with friends, or in the workplace. I believe one’s political views are personal, and I very rarely feel the need or desire to share these views with others. I’ve lived in South Carolina for all but 4 of the 38 years of my life, and I have seen the political machine at work for many years. From Strom Thurmond to Fritz Hollings in the US Senate to Carroll Campbell, Mark Sanford, and most recently Nikki Haley in the Governor’s office, South Carolinians have traditionally elected people who have worked to make our state a better place for all of us to live…for the most part. All of these leaders worked to carry out the wishes and desires of all South Carolinians even if that meant making unpopular decisions at times…like making video poker illegal. Thanks Jim Hodges!
Over the years, we have had the pleasure of allowing a number of misguided politicians fill leadership roles as well. A couple come to mind, but most recent award winners include former Lieutenant Governors Andre Bauer and Ken Ard. Bauer liked to drive fast, and Ard was charged with misappropriation of campaign funds. Some would say that Thurmond would fall into this group as well. Thurmond was a classic flip-flopper politician who once ran for President as a “Dixiecrat”, and was a Democrat and then a Republican starting in 1964. Talk about a politician who knew how to play to his constituency. Thurmond managed to stay in office until 2003 and was even accused by author Dave Barry in one of his columns of coloring his hair with Tang…you know the bright orange stuff.
All of us would say that Mark Sanford would fall into this group as well. Sanford, a real estate developer and a fiscal conservative, was originally known as the Congressman who slept in his office while in Washington because he didn’t want to waste taxpayer money. Sanford was elected to his first term as governor in 2003 and was on the fast track to becoming a possible Republican nominee for President in 2012 until he went “to hike the Appalachian Trail” which is code for going to Argentina to visit your mistress (Maria Chapur). To the citizens of South Carolina, Sanford appeared to be a happily married man to his wife Jenny, and the father of 4 children, but apparently, he was not.
Sanford claimed to “follow his heart” in order to find his “soulmate.” For all intents and purposes, his political career was over at that point. He completed his second term as governor, got divorced, went into seclusion, and eventually got engaged to Chapur. In late 2012, Senator Jim DeMint decided to hang it up and leave the dysfunctional world of the US Senate to run the Heritage Foundation, a highly conservative organization in its own right. This left an open Senate seat that needed to be filled. A couple of weeks later, Governor Haley selected Representative Tim Scott to fill the position. Scott would become the first African American member of the US Senate from South Carolina, however he left vacant a seat in the House in a notorious Republican district in SC (I know they are all Republican). Sanford, after talking with his ex-wife, decided to come out of hiding and throw his name in the mix. At first I thought his was strange, but then I thought at least he had the common courtesy to check to see if she was running first.
The Republican primary, which was held a month ago, was filled with a number of political novices who had very little name recognition and very little experience with the political machine. After a runoff, Sanford won the Republican nomination and advanced to meet the infamous Stephen Colbert’s sister, Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the election that will be held on May 7 for the seat in the First Congressional District.
South Carolinians are a forgiving lot. We keep re-electing Lindsey Graham even though he continues to hangout with John McCain, and we will probably give Arthur Ravenel’s son, Thomas, another chance at political office at some point even though he was convicted of federal cocaine distribution . Almost all of us believe that “Shoeless” Joe Jackson should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame even though he was part of the infamous Black Sox scandal in the early 20th century. We appreciate people with humility. That is a key characteristic displayed by Sanford. His ability to come across as just a normal guy who “followed his heart” resonates with the citizens of SC. That was the case until Mark Sanford decided to be a Dad on Super Bowl Sunday.
Apparently spending quality time with his son on Super Bowl Sunday was not part of his divorce settlement – especially when it’s spent at his ex-wife’s home. I guess the lawyers forgot to negotiate that clause. Once the National Republican Congressional Committee caught wind of this indiscretion, they stopped backing poor Mark, but that hasn’t stopped him. He continues to travel throughout the Lowcountry visiting restaurants, shaking hands, posing for pictures, and trying to connect with voters. He even posted a campaign ad that contained his cell phone number. I hope he has another phone for personal calls.
His personal life is a mess, but his political ideals still match-up with most South Carolinians. He has received a number of endorsements from many of his friends and colleagues, including the aforementioned Lindsey Graham and most recently Larry Flynt…that should really help, right?
Sanford still believes he has a chance to win, and I think he does too. Also, South Carolinians tend to pull for the underdog, and right now he is definitely a big underdog!
Would I vote for him? Probably.
Personal life aside, I agree with many of his views, but I still can’t discount the past even though he has always been one to take responsibility for his actions. He is a fiscal conservative, who has shown a willingness at times to work across party lines on more moderate social issues. That is typically where I fall in the grand scheme of things.
Tomorrow is a big day for my friends that reside in the Lowcountry. Do they vote for the lady whose brother appears nightly on Comedy Central and is a relative political novice, or do you vote for the underdog, the guy who many people have said deserves a second chance?
It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
I’ll be watching. Will you?