The Buzz

THE BUZZ: Mark, just announce already

January 13, 2013 

— Psst, Mark Sanford, The Buzz knows know you are running for Congress. And so does everybody else.

It’s a terrible open secret from Gervais Street to King Street, where you were spotted last week looking for an office for some – wink, wink – reason.

The “Sanford Comeback Tour ’13” is not official yet – though plenty of folks say you have gathered staff, lined up donors and done some polling. (Hopefully, the Lowcountry likes you a better than the 30 percent favorability rating that you received from a statewide poll last month. Ouch.)

Hey, you even told the (Charleston) Post and Courier reporter that the woman for whom you unhinged your final two years as South Carolina’s Republican governor, fiancé Maria Chapur, backs your candidacy. (The Buzz is hoping for a wedding invite, by the way. We own a nifty tux.)

Speaking of women in your life, we understand ex-wife Jenny is not going to add another Sanford to the ballot. At least, the family laundry aired in “Staying True” won’t be a part of TV campaign ads.

Anywho, we look forward to your campaign announcement this week since filing starts Friday for the seat once held by newly promoted U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston.

The Buzz already has a campaign slogan suggestion: “Return the Futon to the Capitol.”

Time to rev up the Ravenel campaign?

Sanford is not the only disgraced pol weighing a return to office with a bid for Scott’s spot.

Thomas Ravenel, who resigned in 2007 as state treasurer and served 10 months in jail after pleading guilty to a cocaine conspiracy charge, said he might want to run.

The Charleston Republican last was heard calling for the legalization of drugs and threatening to renounce his citizenship because he can no longer own a firearm due to his conviction – a stance he quickly rescinded.

“Yes, I am considering a comeback, but I’m not sure if the timing of this race is right,” Ravenel wrote Friday on Facebook. “Anyway, the filing deadline is not until January 28 so that’s 17 days for me to make up my mind.”

Ard dancing his way back

Ken Ard is not running for something. But he is dancing.

The former GOP lieutenant governor from Pamplico is the headliner at “Dancing With the Stars of Florence 2013,” an annual fundraising event for Florence County School District 1’s foundation, The Buzz gathered from its Pee Dee bureau.

Whether the fella, who resigned last year after he pleaded guilty to misusing campaign money, builds off this first step in public remains unclear.

The Buzz suggests looking for signs. Does Ard keeps his toes pointed and shoulders straight?

Experimenting on you

Luanne Lawrence’s job for 2½ years has been bolstering the image of the state’s flagship college, USC.

But in the week before the $237,000-a-year communications veep said she was leaving for Cal-Davis, Lawrence posted “confessions” on Facebook, which were circulated since her page is open to anyone in the public:

“While I love she-crab soup and banana pudding, after three bites, fried chicken loses its appeal. Shrimp and grits – not a good combo. Locally grown food – when collards and fatback – not to my taste. I don’t want to pick a pig – it’s gross to eat from the carcass. I long for fresh salmon, fruit off the trees, pesticide free veggies, free range beef and chicken. Thank goodness for Whole Foods. But there has to be a better way to not join the ranks of the Stroke Belt.”

In the next confession, the Pennsylvania native wrote: “I love to exercise. Three days at the gym and weekends on the mountains would be ideal. Standing up from the table at Lizards Thicket to get to the car is not my idea of an active life. Why can’t everyone live a well life and decimate obesity and the diabetes, heart disease and ailments that come with it?”

Lawrence continued with four additional “confessions,” including fretting about the end of the Gamecock football season – “Plays like the one (Jadeveon) Clowney just gave us, give a thrill!” – and praising the benefits of education – “I need to work harder on promoting the difference that education … can make.”

Then, she posted that her “confessions” actually had been a social-media research.

“While I care about the topics I wrote about, truth is, my New Year’s resolution is to be more strategic in my work. So, this whole week was an experiment. I’m not really so arrogant (as) to think I know great wine or can afford to buy $20 chickens at Whole Foods. I changed my tone and approach to figure out how I can use FB (Facebook) better in my work. When I changed; you changed. In fact, most of my comments elicited even more personal dialogue. I am intending to write a magazine submission on better use of FB and other social tools. I learned much from the week. Sorry if I offended anyone, but I learned much.”

When The Buzz asked for reaction to her posts, Lawrence wrote: “They did not reflect my personal feelings. … It was my week to test a theory for an article and a presentation.”

When 17 new jobs aren’t 17 new jobs

“That’s just stupid, and it’s not going to happen.”

That was state Rep. Jim Merrill’s response last week to a request from the Governor’s Office of Executive Policy and Programs for money to hire 17 people.

The reason? In October, the state Budget and Control Board eliminated 23 of the office’s positions because they had been vacant for more than a year.

Yet, three months later, the office was asking state lawmakers to add the positions back. That angered Merrill, R-Berkeley, because the Budget and Control Board – which includes the governor, treasurer and comptroller general – then could take credit for shrinking state government while claiming state lawmakers insisted on growing state government.

“I’ve got news for you, I don’t like being the one that is increasing by 17 (employees),” Merrill told Christine Glover, the office’s executive director. “In fact, I’m not going to be the one increasing it by 17 employees.”

Glover said she does not want to hire 17 new people. She just wants to change how they are paid.

Now, the 17 positions would be paid from “other funds,” that mysterious pot of state money made up of fines, fees and grants – basically anything that is not tax dollars.

State lawmakers hate “other funds” because they say they are not stable or transparent.

Still, if lawmakers approved the request it would appear – on paper – that they were adding positions.

“I have a problem with that,” Merrill said.

We are the champions, we are the champions

All of South Carolina’s political fighting and wrangling is good for something – and The Buzz couldn’t be prouder.

The Fix, The Washington Post’s political blog, named Palmetto land as the nation’s most interesting political state last week. (Take that New Jersey and Iowa! Hope you enjoy being the first and second-place looooooosers!)

A submission from AmanadaSC to The Fix summed up the state’s electoral history without using the words “blood thirsty” or “bareknuckled.”

“Where else can a person like Alvin Greene be connected by ‘six degrees of separation’ from statesmen like Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun, all by using relevant political persons/hot issues of the past 30 years? That’s right: Nowhere. After all, the quote that has been true for the past 150 years, as stated by former congressman and anti-secessionist James Petigru in 1860: ‘South Carolina: Too small to be a republic, too large to be an insane asylum.’ ”

Goodbye to a character who used 140 of them at a time

The Buzz was stunned to hear about the death Friday of Rick Stilwell.

Stilwell was better known as @RickCaffeinated, a “husband, dad, Christian, reader, writer, coffee drinker, social media hack, Gamecock fan” in Columbia and Cayce.

Stilwell was a local Twitter celebrity, known for his social media insights as well as cute interactions with his wife, Vicki, known as @MrsCaffeinated on Twitter.

He died Friday after suffering an unspecified medical event while driving his car, authorities said.

The Internet is filled with trolls – people who intentionally post inflammatory comments just to make you angry. But @RickCaffeinated used social media as a force for good, encouraging and supporting people that, in most cases, he barely knew.

Twitter users would do well to follow his example, both online and off.

Staff writer Adam Beam contributed.

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