The Buzz

The Buzz: How Carroll Campbell became SC’s Ronald Reagan

thebuzz@ thetstate.comJanuary 25, 2014 

— The late Carroll Campbell has not been a regular in the S.C. State House for 19 years, but the name of the former governor echoed through its halls last week.

Passage of a government restructuring bill that gives more control to the governor brought out the Campbell nostalgia.

“Carroll Campbell, the father of restructuring in our state, is smiling down on South Carolina this evening,” Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of Lexington said in her State of the State address Wednesday.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, dropped Campbell’s name in his statement after the bill passed: “Government restructuring was an initiative advanced by Gov. Carroll Campbell, a plan passed five times by the House and a reform championed by our state’s citizens.”

And state Sen. Ray Cleary evoked Campbell, who passed away in 2005, when asking Haley to back a potentially unpopular gasoline tax hike to pay for road and bridge repairs.

“I would like Nikki Haley to be a leader like Carroll Campbell was – and maybe not necessarily want to be loved and liked – but be honest with the citizens,” the Georgetown Republican said in an interview.

Winthrop political scientist Scott Huffmon said Campbell has completed his “beatification period.”

To meet the Campbell benchmark, a politician must be business-centric while not being too polarizing, he said.

“Carroll Campbell is the Ronald Reagan of Republican politicians in South Carolina,” Huffmon said.

One of Campbell’s sons said the family is happy to see modern politicians praise his father.

“We’re proud so many people hold him in such high regard,” said Mike Campbell, who is contemplating a run for lieutenant governor this year. “He wanted to make South Carolina a better place.”

What’s next, Glenn?

What happens to Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell if he does not get the College of Charleston president’s job?

“I’ll be a free agent,” the Charleston Republican said last week.

That makes The Buzz’s head swim with possibilities.

Would McConnell run for his old state Senate seat, now held by Republican Paul Thurmond? Would he run for governor? Go to Europe?

“I’m leaving all of my options open,” McConnell said.

Are state smokers blowing smoke?

South Carolina’s state workers are either very healthy – or liars.

That’s according to officials at the Public Employee Benefit Authority, which oversees the state health plan that covers nearly 450,000 people.

The plan charges smokers higher premiums. But the state does not test for smoking, relying only on an honor system.

“We think 20 percent of (South Carolinians) smoke. We collect the surcharge on 9 percent (of the health-plan users),” Travis Turner, the Benefit Authority’s interim executive director, told a House subcommittee last week. “We are either very healthy or people are not reporting it correctly.”

You be the judge.

Nikki Haley’s small talk

Turns out Haley’s State of the State address last week was not the shortest of her first term.

Her first address, soon after taking office in 2011, was 180 words shorter than Wednesday’s 5,440-word speech. (Lengths are based on the speeches as prepared for delivery.)

Haley’s longest address came last year – at more than 7,000 words – when she crammed in a few extra topics, including the massive data breach at the S.C. Department of Revenue.

The longest State of the State address by her GOP predecessor, Mark Sanford, was more than 6,660 words in 2006, when he was running for re-election.

After he won, Sanford had a lot less to say and gave a sub-5,000 word speech.

‘We’re not a part of the Confederacy’

Some reaction right after Haley’s State of the State address:

•  State Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee: “Hard to believe this is her fourth State of the State, yet she still has that new-car smell.”

•  State Rep. David Mack, D-Charleston: “It was too much anti-federal government. ... We’re one of the 50 states. We pledge allegiance to the flag. We’re not a part of the Confederacy anymore.”

•  Sen. Cleary, R-Georgetown: “I want (Haley) to handle my family budget if she can complete all of these things – corporate tax, income tax, roads, education and an extra $200 million more for health care – and not figure a way to pay for it.”

Staff writer Adam Beam contributed. Catch The Buzz everyday: Blog –; Twitter – @BuzzAtTheState; Facebook – atthestate

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