Local and State News

S.C. Progressives Turn Their Eyes to Fall Election

By Porter Barron Jr.
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The South Carolina Progressive Network — a driving force behind this year’s Truthful Tuesday protests, which called for the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare and led to 28 civil disobedience arrests — plans to redirect its energy from demonstrating outside the State House to calling out right-wing lawmakers in their home districts before November’s elections.

To that end, the group is holding its spring strategy session on Saturday at the Teamsters’ Union Hall in West Columbia, where, according to Director Brett Bursey, the network will polish its message and decide whom to target. The network’s three core issues are expanding Medicaid to the poor under Obamacare, funding education and protecting voting rights.

Bursey said Monday the planning process will involve calculating incumbents’ vulnerability and their voting records to prioritize them as targets.

“One list we’re looking at is the 31 House members that are sponsors of the reintroduced son-of-nullification bill” that aims to undermine Obamacare in South Carolina and would specifically outlaw an expansion of Medicaid, Bursey said.

The bill came about after conservative state legislators conceded that South Carolina does not have the constitutional authority to nullify the Affordable Care Act, a federal law. Bursey argues that such “extremism” is the will of only a tiny fraction of eligible South Carolina voters who, by dominating GOP primaries, have an outsized voice in setting South Carolina’s policies.

“You’re looking at single digits, like 4 or 5 percent of the people in South Carolina, that are anointing these tea party wackos in the primaries to set our state policy,” he said. “That’s insane. Literally, it’s insane, letting people that are against government run your government.”

“We’ll have [targeted incumbents] listed, and we’re going to try to prioritize them as far as who’s most vulnerable, like a triage. If a person is bleeding, we’ll go stir up the sharks. We want to go into the House districts and go to the churches that these people go to and ask the what kind of theology they’re spreading that Rep. So-And-So, who goes to their church, would be denying the least of us health care.”

It’s a name-and-shame strategy that Bursey says worked in 2012, when the group was trying to get a Senate floor vote on Medicaid expansion. He said the Progressive Network found like-minded congregants in the churches of Sens. Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown) and Paul Thurmond (R-Charleston), neither of whom could be considered tea party stalwarts, who were able to persuade the two Republicans to vote in favor of Medicaid expansion.

The Progressive Network’s spring strategy meeting is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Teamsters’ new union hall, 2604 Fish Hatchery Rd., West Columbia. The public is welcome but ther

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