An agriculture commissioner indicted for cockfighting. A state treasurer indicted for cocaine use. A married governor caught lying about an international affair. A lieutenant governor spending campaign contributions on iPads. A state House member indicted on tax-evasion charges. Another state House member arrested on harassment charges.
What do all of those politicians have in common? They are all SC Republicans.
South Carolina is a solidly Republican state, as any casual review of past statewide election results will tell you. But, with so many of its elected leaders stumbling so publicly, is the Republican Party vulnerable?
South Carolina Democrats certainly hope so.
Well be painting them with that corruption brush. It doesnt take much effort to do it, Dick Harpootlian, chairman of the SC Democratic Party, said Thursday, pointing to the fall elections. These folks are not an organized political party, they are an organized crime syndicate.
None of the nine SC constitutional officers elected statewide all Republicans is up for re-election in November. But every seat in the state Senate and House, both controlled by Republicans, is on the ballot. And SC Democrats hope to paint the Republicans as scandal-ridden.
But Scott Huffmon, a Winthrop University political science professor who has done extensive polling in South Carolina, says convincing SC voters that there is something wrong with the GOP will not be easy to do.
On election days, the turnout by SC Republicans always is at least 10 points higher than that of SC Democrats, Huffmon said. Thats a big gap, even for these history of scandals.
But the scandals could lower turnout among Republican voters who are sick of politics. That could give Democrats a better chance to win in some not all races.
Even if Democrats get turnout equal to Republicans, they will have to somehow sway all those independents (who lean Republican), Huffmon said. Thats an uphill climb. A serious one.
Chad Connelly, chairman of the SC Republican Party, insists the GOP wont be hurt by scandal, in part, because we try hard not to uphold a person as the party.
We hold up the principles and values of the party, Connelly said. (Scandals) make people look at folks and say, Now they are just like me. They are fallen and they make mistakes, too.
State Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, said Thursday the scandals have shaken voters confidence in the governance of the Palmetto State. But he said that loss of confidence does not threaten the Republican Party, only scandalized officeholders. He predicted good results for Republicans in November, adding he expects the GOP presidential nominee to increase Republican turnout statewide.
But if Lt. Gov. Ken Ard the Florence Republican who is the focus of a state Grand Jury investigation into ethics violations is indicted, as widely expected, that will give Democrats ammunition, said state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington.
Its an issue the people of South Carolina are going to have to take notice of and pay attention to, he said.
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.