The Buzz

The Buzz: A morning in a political race 14 months away

ashain @thestate.comSeptember 14, 2013 

State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg

ANDREW SHAIN — The State

— The Buzz gets a first-hand look at how the sausage is made in S.C. politics.

So without the intestinal casing, here is the anatomy of a pair of quick Tuesday morning news conferences about the 2014 governor’s race that is still 14 months away.

News conference No. 1: The S.C. GOP called reporters to its Marion Street headquarters to announce the launch of its revamped attack website against Democratic gubernatorial challenger Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

S.C. GOP executive director Alex Stroman registered the domain name vincesheheen.com just before the 2010 election between Sheheen and then state Rep. Nikki Haley, R-Lexington. (Haley won. We have to say these obvious things to be clear.)

As talk about a 2014 rematch grew, the GOP started using the web address to direct people to the state party’s web page with news releases criticizing Sheheen’s record. The address went dark a few weeks ago and has re-emerged as a standalone site with an extreme close-up, black-and-white photo of the Camden lawyer and the headline “Convinced?” (Get it – it’s a play off of his name, Vince. It’s in red letters in case you miss it.)

Reporters crammed into a small lobby at the state GOP office to hear party chairman Matt Moore slam Sheheen, while state Sen. Katrina Shealy, a Lexington Republican who is among Haley’s closest allies, stood next to him. (She didn’t speak.)

News conference No. 2 : The Democrats announced they would respond right after the Republicans finished. (The Dems have their own attack site, nikkihaleyfacts.com, that launched about three weeks ago with a black-and-white photo of Haley surrounded by red type. The Buzz sees a pattern here.)

Reporters walked across Marion Street to a park where state Sen. Brad Hutto, an Orangeburg Democrat who is one of Sheheen’s closest allies, would speak.

But Hutto had “friends.” A couple of GOP staffers brought signs with pictures of their new website to hold up behind Hutto. He moved to stand in front of a tree, but the trunk wasn’t wide enough to block the signs. Dem staffers tried to stand in front of the signs but to little avail.

The post-script: After Hutto’s rebuttal, the ongoing name-calling spat over “Vince” started again. (The Buzz admits to having a small role by asking some questions Tuesday. Hey, that’s our job.)

See, Republicans have been calling Sheheen “Vince” in news releases in recent month, which has agitated some Dem operatives who call it a “childish distraction.” (Sounds sort of mob-like to us.)

S.C. GOP politicos claimed in tweets that Sheheen’s sign at his Senate office said “Vince.” The Democrats responded with a photo that showed it says, “Vincent.”

Anyway, Hutto revealed that some of Sheheen’s friends call him “Vince,” after all. Maybe that will put an end to this name game. (OK, not really.)

There you have it: How a mini-campaign drama takes place more than a year out from an election. Hope you enjoyed the sausage.

Friends at last

How incumbency cools the rhetoric of the campaign trail.

Vice President Joe Biden will stop in Charleston on Monday to tour the port and talk about the need to deepen the harbor before heading on to the Panama Canal.

About 20 constituents will have a front-row seat.

The man doling out tickets?

“The Vice President was kind enough to offer our office 20 tickets for constituents to attend and watch his remarks Monday morning,” newly elected Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford of Charleston wrote in a letter to constituents.

Sanford’s constituent office is doing what it is supposed to do, leaving partisan politics out of its service to the district.

But it is noteworthy that not too long ago, Sanford was debating a cardboard cutout of U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., during his race against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch for the 1st District congressional seat, tying her to the entirety of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Not to mention Sanford, now in his second stint in Congress, had previously voted against federal money for dredging the port. (Sanford said he did not oppose funding of the port dredging, but funding it through earmarks.)

Shortly after getting his old job back, Sanford said deepening the port would be a top priority – a sentiment he shares with the Obama Administration, which announced last summer that Charleston was one of five priority port expansions.

Shealy fights back

We told you a few months ago about Maggie Mae, the anonymous Twitter user whose mission in life is to tweet nasty things about Republicans. Most Republicans just ignore her, with one exception: State Sen. Katrina Shealy.

To say that Shealy fights back would be an understatement. On Friday, after Shealy (@KatrinaShealy) tweeted out a link to an article about her, Maggie Mae (@Beachtiger0412) tweeted back that the real reason Shealy was against Obamacare is because Shealy, who works in the insurance industry, would make more money without the national insurance plan.

“Shows how much you know – I don’t sell healthcare insirance (sic),” Shealy tweeted back. “Sorry forgot you can read just can’t comprehend.”

Maggie Mae told Shealy to “stay classy” and not be nasty, to which Shealy replied: “Honesty isn’t nasty.”

Shealy’s response does not surprise The Buzz.

After all, she is the only woman in the S.C. state Senate. To get there, she had to defeat Jake Knotts, arguably one of the state’s founding good ol’ boys. She once tried to get Knotts disqualified for allegedly accusing a political operative to a duel, which would violate the state’s Constitution. Her main piece of evidence was a tweet.

Does anyone remember politics before Twitter?

Staff writers Adam Beam and Jamie Self contributed.

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