Ed Greenleaf is running to represent South Carolina’s 2nd congressional district — talking equality, public service, the necessity of compromise and taking aim at Republican Joe Wilson, who’s held the seat since 2001.
Meeting a reporter at a humble strip of office space on Columbia’s Millwood Avenue, he displays a mix of boyish excitement and knowing confidence, an appropriate pose for a political newcomer — but Greenleaf appears to be sitting on a secret.
“I think America is going to be surprised in November,” he says, almost giddily.
He’s been hitting the district’s streets, which stretch from Columbia southwest to the Savannah River and down the state line to the Atlantic Ocean, talking to the voters, and he claims he’s getting very positive feedback on his candidacy.
But does an openly gay Democrat stand a chance in a district that’s been reliably conservative since it sent fire-eating secessionists to Washington in the 1800s?
Greenleaf says yes.
“I’ve been in a committed relationship for 29 years,” he says. “I’m not running for congressman of the Castro. Me being gay is the same as me being right-handed. It’s genetically predisposed.”
While Greenleaf downplays his sexuality as only one aspect of his character — “a blessing and a curse” — he acknowledges he’s running for office in South Carolina, where right-wing activists still bash Sen. Lindsey Graham with public allegations of latent homosexuality.
Briefly shedding his boyishness, he says, “There are not many [openly gay] folks who have run because they’re scared. Guess what? I’m not scared. Bring it on. Tell me why I shouldn’t be treated equally.”
This former supporter of Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush says his commitment to human equality is the basis for all of his positions, and that’s why he’s running as a Democrat. “You support women’s rights, a woman’s right to chose. The Supreme Court ruled on that. Why do they keep tampering with it? The Violence Against Women Act, our congressman voted to de-authorize that. It wasn’t widely reported. It’s called the Violence Against Women Act. It’s a no-brainer. Why do you vote against that?”
According to Greenleaf, Wilson’s neglect of the district is readily evident in the condition of federal highways and problems at Columbia’s Dorn VA Medical Center, where the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General has reported a breakdown in services. One performance index, the Healthcare-Associated Infection and Patient-Safety Indicator, has the hospital ranked an abysmal 127 out of 128.
“At the time, our current congressman said, ‘Oh my Lord, that’s just horrible.’ Well you know what? Why wasn’t he there ahead of that?” asks Greenleaf. “If he was listening to the needs of the veterans, you don’t wait until your investigative body tells you you’ve got a problem. If you don’t know you have a problem, you’re not a congressman of the people.”
Greenleaf isn’t afraid of populist appeals either. To hear him tell it, Wilson dwells in a political echo chamber, oblivious to his constituents’ concerns at home.
“Our congressman lives in a different world. Look at his background. He was born South of Broad in Charleston. I came from nothing. He came from the silver spoon. His name is not Joe Wilson. It’s Addison Graves Wilson. Report his name properly,” he tells a reporter.
At the same time, this proud son of a paper mill worker displays a reverence for his forbears typical of South Carolina politicians — reeling off a lineage that includes the Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier [online copy corrected], Sen. Daniel Webster, Nantucket’s early proprietors and the first man to survey North Carolina’s Great Dismal Swamp.
As for his resume, Greenleaf just left BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, where he went from entry level to executive over a 27-year span, to commit himself to campaign life. Since graduating from the University of South Carolina in the 1980s, he’s been active in Columbia civic life, serving on committees for numerous organizations such as the United Way of the Midlands, Sistercare, the Richland County Transportation Commission, the Historic Columbia Foundation and the AIDS Benefit Foundation.
Wilson’s office did not respond by press time to a request for comment on Greenleaf’s candidacy.
A two-day outdoor art and crafts show celebrating its 38th year. Being held on September 5 & 6, 2014, Click for details
Not Your Typical Greek Restaurant
Ariana’s in West Columbia serves up delicious all-natural, low carb dishes, as well as homemade bread and baklava. Come try the best salad dressing in town! Location info and hours here.
Delicious Downtown Breakfast
Tony’s is open for breakfast every day from 7:30-10:30! Conveniently located on Washington St. right off Main. Stop in for something filling and delicious before work! Follow us for updates on specials.
Happy Hour and Sushi Specials All Week
Red Bowl in Lexington now has great early bird and late night sushi specials 7 days a week, as well as 99-cent kids meals on Saturdays! Click here for special information and hours.
Make Your Own Beer and Wine!
Come get started on your “liquid hobby” and help us celebrate our 46th year in the Columbia area. Bet Mar Liquid Hobby Shop: 736 St. Andrews Road.
Back to School Tattoo Specials
Magnum Ink is offering 1/2 off all tattoos for students over 18 as well as 2 for $60 on letters or numbers for state employees. 1405 Rushmore Road, Suite B, right off of Broad River.
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U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Pool Cleaning-Full and part time available. Must have a clean driving record, be organized and have a professional appearance. Starting Pay is $10.00 per hr, please call for an interview, please bring a copy of your Driving record and a list of all past employers with duration of employment listed as well as telephone numbers for references. Cal 803-865-1200
Company seeking carpenters, plumbers, masons work is year around with a 40 year old company. Starting pay is $10.00 but experienced individuals will be compensated accordingly. Must have a clean driving record and must bring a copy of your driving record to the interview. Please call 803-865-1200.
Real Estate Spotlight
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com