City Watch

Smith Again Shows Leadership, Sheheen Again Shows Weakness

By Kevin Fisher
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
“A Richland County legislator, no longer willing to wait to pick a new county election board, has taken matters into his own hands. Monday, Rep. James Smith sent out an Aug. 15 meeting notice — and an explanation for why he was going around the delegation’s chairman. Smith said ‘we must act’ to complete the legislative process.” — The State, Aug. 4.

“State Sen. Vincent Sheheen finally released a statement this afternoon regarding Monday’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on same-sex marriage, calling for a ‘pause’ in the state’s legal defense of its anti-same sex marriage law. Since Monday, reporters had been asking for Sheheen’s reaction to the news.” — Free Times, July 31.

Those two passages from recent news reports tell you pretty much all you need to know about why the Democrats are running the wrong candidate against Gov. Nikki Haley. Separate from the fact that Haley defeated Sheheen in 2010 when she was a little-known, much troubled Lexington County representative, she now enjoys the power of incumbency and all that goes with it. She is also still a far superior campaigner to Sheheen, both on the stump and on the air. That’s why I wrote this about the gubernatorial race last year:

“I think the Democrats would have been stronger with a different candidate, rather than the one Haley already dispatched. While Sheheen is a fine representative from Camden in the family tradition, he is not a politician who has excited voters outside of Kershaw County. He had his chance, and his party should have moved on. I suggested that Richland County Rep. James Smith would be good for the Dems, citing his combination of legislative experience, forthright demeanor and combat service in Afghanistan as a profile that could appeal to independents and disaffected Republicans.” – City Watch, July 10, 2013

It is that legislative experience and forthright demeanor that Smith is again demonstrating in his bold move to get the Richland County legislative delegation up off its collective, enormous and thus far worthless backside when it comes to fixing the problems of the 2012 election debacle and establishing a new Board of Elections prior to the fast-approaching 2014 vote.

How any member of the delegation can fail to realize that the entire county — Democrat and Republican, black and white, male and female, young and old, rich and poor, and any other demographic groups you want to list — is demanding action is beyond comprehension, yet as the weeks and months slip away there has been no action to appoint a new board to replace the group that “supervised” the last general election and its aftermath.

As The State reported: “Without action in selecting new members, three longtime board members have continued to oversee county elections, despite criticism of secrecy, botched elections and ham-handed management decisions under their watch.”

Finally, Smith had had enough. He bypassed delegation chairman Rep. Joe Neal, who for whatever reason has failed to act on this fundamentally important matter, and called a delegation meeting for Aug. 15 to select new board members. As he told The State, “I’m going to try to leave there with a decision” on the names to send to the governor for appointment. Hear, hear.

Meanwhile, it took the ever-indecisive Sheheen three days to issue his empty statement on the 4th Circuit’s gay marriage decision. His lack of political courage on this issue is now part of a pattern, including when a GOP group attacked him for having provided legal representation to several men accused of domestic violence.

Just as it took the South Carolina Bar Association and others to come out in defense of the right to legal representation, so it has taken the ACLU of South Carolina and South Carolina Equality to step forward in calling for the state to drop its challenge to gay marriage.

Sheheen doesn’t seem to realize he is the Democratic candidate, and that both gay voters and equal protection voters expect him to live up to that mantle. Those folks just might start looking to independent candidate Tom Ervin, who said, “government does not belong in the bedroom and further action on the case wastes taxpayers’ money.” Hear, hear.

Fisher is president of Fisher Communications, a Columbia advertising and public relations firm. He is active in local issues involving the arts, conservation, business and politics.

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