With the DeMint Senate derby entering in its final stretch and an announcement coming soon, The Buzz breaks down the winners and losers:
Tim Scott: He was Charleston County Council chairman in 2008. He likely will be a U.S. senator by the New Year. Sounds like winning to Buzz.
Nikki Haley: One political pundit said Jim DeMint, R-Greenville, gave the Republican governor something the state Constitution doesn’t – power. DeMint’s resignation lets Haley pick a U.S. senator, a nice diversion from that nasty hacking mess. And the guv gets some solid time in the national limelight as she weighs her decision. If she picks U.S. Rep. Scott, as expected, Haley will add a noteworthy line to her legacy, having made a historic choice.
Lindsey Graham: Two significant statewide races in 2014 became three with the special election to fill the final two years of DeMint’s term. That splits yet again the field of candidates who might have challenged Republican Graham. Among would-be senators, interest will slide toward the DeMint seat. Why go after a two-term senator with millions in his campaign war chest when you can battle an appointed senator who has been in office for only 18 months? Perhaps it is time to take Graham off those lists of vulnerable senators.
Jenny Sanford/Catherine Templeton: Haley’s friends got to hear their names associated with a big job. Sanford’s mention generated a lot of blog entries and stories (like the one on the front page of a certain newspaper), and the idea she might one day enter politics – the job of her ex-husband, Mark. Templeton, the Department of Health and Environmental Control boss, landed a nifty addition to her storyline should she ever run for office. (“She was on the short list to succeed Jim DeMint.”)
Mick Mulvaney: The congressman from Indian Land went from No. 2 – trailing only Scott in the early handicapping – to off the chart – not even on Haley’s short list. What did he do? Depends on who you ask. Mulvaney was a bit too eager, some say. He is too acerbic for some peoples’ tastes. He did not poll well. Mulvaney can continue his fight to tighten the federal budget from the U.S. House – and, perhaps, ponder a run for the Senate seat that he was passed over for in 2014.
Henry McMaster: The venerable S.C. Republican leader was considered a serious candidate until Haley took the option of appointing a caretaker senator off the table. Was age-ism why he was not seen as a more permanent successor? At 65, McMaster is the oldest of the five finalists. (But, in Strom time, he has 35 years ahead of him in the Senate.) Or was it politics – people thought he is not conservative enough to fill DeMint’s ideological shoes?
Jim DeMint voters: Agree with his philosophies? Like how he stood up for his beliefs? Vote for him? Well, he’s walking out in the middle of the show. Sure, the senator will influence the conservative masses as the new head of the Heritage Foundation, but South Carolinians didn’t elect him to lead a think tank. To some, it seems like DeMint quit because the GOP didn’t win the Senate or White House, and he chose to take a big paycheck. Good for him. It’s America. Nothing wrong with moving up. But can the DeMinters get their votes back?
Blurring party lines
New S.C. House Judiciary Committee chairman Greg Delleney has appointed state Rep. David Weeks to lead Judiciary’s criminal laws subcommittee.
This normally would not be Buzz-worthy. But Weeks, from Sumter, is a Democrat.
Leadership positions for Democrats in the S.C. House have been scarce since Republicans took control in the mid-’90s.
That was not always the case. Former state Rep. Joe Brown, D-Richland, was chairman of the Medical, Military and Municipal Affairs Committee in the late 1990s, under House Speaker David Wilkins, R-Greenville.
And, before he was speaker, Wilkins was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee even though Democrats ruled the House.
But given today’s partisan environment, it is rare to see Republicans appoint Democrats to anything.
“This is a sincere attempt on the part of leadership of the House to try to be more bipartisan,” Weeks said. “It is commendable.”
Delleney, from Chester, said he appointed Weeks because of his strong background as an attorney. Also, Delleney said Weeks was one of the first lawmakers to support his run for judiciary chairman.
“A well-respected person of great integrity,” Delleney said. “We needed somebody with experience as a lawyer and someone who knows criminal law, and he was the best person that I could come up with.”
Huh? Since when have lawmakers chosen someone because they were the best person for the job? If it becomes a trend, well ...
Courson ready for picture time
State Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, can relax now that he unanimously won re-election last week as Senate president pro tempore .
Courson was feeling extra relaxed last week when he told The Buzz he would be going back on some pain medication for his ailing back. “Tell Boyd Brown to come by the State House if he wants to get some good pictures of me,” Courson said.
That, of course, is a reference to the now-infamous campaign mailer paid for by the state Democratic Party earlier this year. It showed Courson sleeping on a couch in the Senate cloakroom, his feet propped up on a table. “Now, 28-year incumbent John Courson enjoys taxpayer-subsidized naptime,” the mailer said.
Courson said he was on pain medication at the time that made him drowsy.
The photo in the mailer was taken by former state Rep. Boyd Brown, a Fairfield Democrat who did not run for re-election.
Told of Courson’s comments, Brown told The Buzz: “Good for him. He must be on (medication) quite often, given the fact he sleeps as much as he does.”
Leave ’em laughing
Lexington County councilman Smokey Davis displayed his puckish humor a final time last week at a celebration marking his retirement from politics after 16 years in office.
Davis administered an oath to the 100 people in attendance, having them swear never to reveal “all the stupid questions and comments” Davis made while on public business. But Davis promptly absolved partiers of that pledge, calling it his way of getting the last laugh.
Davis will be succeeded Jan. 1 by Kent Collins, a Lexington lawyer.
Staff reporters Adam Beam and Tim Flach contributed.