The Buzz: If a lawmaker gets a DUI and no one cares, did it happen?

abeam@thestate.comFebruary 17, 2013 

ADAM BEAM — Buy Photo

— A funny thing happened after news broke of state Rep. Bakari Sellers’ October arrest for drunken driving.


No cries of outrage. No calls for Sellers to resign.

That’s despite the fact that Sellers, D-Bamberg, refused a breathalyzer test. That’s despite the fact that, in 2008, Sellers voted to approve a law that automatically suspended motorists’ driving licenses for six months if they refuse a breathalyzer test. And that’s despite the fact that Sellers’ license was somehow only suspended for three months.

Instead, after the news first broke – somewhat inartfully in a badly produced sweeps-week promo on WIS – Republicans and Democrats took to social media to defend Sellers.

Republican operative and noted political scrapper Wesley Donehue said on Twitter: “Bakari Sellers is a human being who makes mistakes like every single one of us. He’s a good man with a good heart and good intentions.”

A conservative Twitter account called “Save Our Harpo,” devoted to criticizing the state Democratic Party chairman, said: “People need to cut @Bakari_Sellers some slack. It’s not like he’s @vickforcongress.”

Even blogger Will Folks, who never has met a scandal that he did not like, wrote Sellers’ arrest was “practically a non-event.”

The Buzz can’t help but ask: Where was all of this goodwill when state Rep. Ted Vick, D-Chesterfield, was arrested for drunken driving? Where was the “everybody makes mistakes” argument when state Rep. Kris Crawford, R-Florence, was convicted of tax evasion? Why was the guilty plea of state Rep. Harold Mitchell, D-Spartanburg, for failing to pay taxes not dismissed as a “non-event”? All three were excoriated (but remain in the Legislature).

The answer, as in most things in life, goes back to high school.

Sellers is popular at the State House.

And for good reason. He is smart, funny and level-headed. He is good at his job. And, yes, The Buzz adamantly believes Sellers is “innocent until proven guilty.” But if the standard in South Carolina when a politician screws up is to throw bombs, Sellers should not get a free pass.

Maybe things are changing.

As S.C. Republican operative Joel Sawyer quipped on Pub Politics last week: “Only a hit job on a well-liked guy can bring Democrats and Republicans together.”

State Rep. Chip Limehouse isn’t aging well

The Buzz couldn’t help but notice last week that state Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, is getting shorter, older and balder.

On Monday, a House Budget subcommittee met to decide what provisos should be in the 2013-14 budget. A proviso, a very powerful legislative tool, is a temporary law that directs how to spend state money. (Think of it as the legislative equivalent of a congressional earmark.)

Limehouse, a member of the proviso subcommittee, skipped the meeting. Instead, he sent state Rep. B.R. Skelton, R-Pickens – who is short, older and balder – to take his place.

“My name is Chip,” Skelton jokingly said during the meeting.

House members were on furlough last week, and the proviso meeting was on Monday, a day that lawmakers traditionally don’t conduct state business. But, more importantly, the Buzz suspects, Limehouse is running for Congress, competing against 15 other Republicans in the 1st District primary that is a month away.

Limehouse politely declined to tell The Buzz why he skipped the proviso meeting, saying only what he did is “allowed within our rules” and he had “some other business I was working on.”

Paul Thurmond’s ‘no-door’ policy

State Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, is taking the “open-door” policy to a new level – he has a “no-door” policy.

Thurmond, the son of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-Edgefield, had the door removed from his state Senate office.

“I don’t think I need to have private conversations in the public’s office,” he said. “I’m trying to do the people’s business. ... Really, there is no reason to have a private conversation.”

That is funny because the state Senate is nothing but private conversations. Most of the deals get struck in a back room.

But maybe Thurmond is trying to change that.

We just have one request: leave the doors on the bathrooms.

There is only so much transparency Buzz can take.

Buzz bites

Former S.C. First Lady Jenny Sanford told The North Shore (Ill.) Weekend last week that she has learned how to cook grits (“They’re pretty easy”) and that “you never say never” about running for Congress. Stay tuned? ... Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, introduced a regulatory reform package last week. The only problem? He released it the day after Gov. Nikki Haley, R-Lexington, released her plan, so no one listened ... While Republicans have 16 candidates to choose from in South Carolina’s 1st District congressional race, Democrats’ choices are down to just two after Martin Skelly dropped out of the race to endorse Elizabeth Colbert Busch. (U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, endorsed Busch, better known as the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, on Saturday. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley did the same earlier in the week.)

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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