The Buzz

The Buzz: So much for firsts, and don’t mess with the chairman

jself@ thestate.comFebruary 9, 2014 

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— Maybe it takes declaring a first to find a first.

If she wins in June’s primary, Meka Childs, a candidate for state superintendent of education, would not be the first African-American woman to receive the GOP nomination for a statewide constitutional office, as her campaign announced last week.

A campaign spokesman said the Childs camp did its research, consulting with GOP leaders and historians to find out if Childs would be the first. No other names surfaced. But Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, R-Richland, recalled one.

It turns out, another African-American Republican, P.T. Williams of Sumter, ran in 1982 as the Republican nominee for state superintendent of education. Williams was thought to be the “first black nominee of a major party for statewide office,” according to an Associated Press article printed in the Nov. 1, 1982, edition of the then-Sumter Daily Item.

The story profiles the race for the state superintendent between Williams and Democratic incumbent Charlie Williams. P.T. Williams, who lost, focused her campaign on “the significance of the fact that she’s the first black nominee of a major party for statewide office since Reconstruction,” the article said.

Williams, whose first name was Pontheolla, according to another news article about her, was 53 at the time she ran, and a professor of English at Morris College in Sumter. She received a doctorate in education from New York’s Columbia University and, previously, had taught for a decade in public schools.

“She has called her nomination the most important political campaign of the century and congratulated the Republican Party for seeking her out,” the 1982 article said.

At a campaign event, Williams “decried the state’s low performance on the SAT, chided the incumbent for making excuses for it and said ‘quality teaching’ and teacher training were the keys to improvement.”

The Buzz really wanted to interview Williams to find out what she thinks about those statements now. Unfortunately, she passed away in 2003.

RIP, Pontheolla T. Williams.

Don’t mess with the chairman

State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, who wants to replace U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, was schooled Tuesday on how a senator’s prized proposal gets buried.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee took up Bright’s Constitutional Carry Act, which would allow anyone to carry firearms – concealed or not, with or without training.

Bright got his air time: “Are we going to require our citizens to have training to assert a right, and is training considered an infringement? That’s where the debate is.”

Anyone thinking they should be allowed to require training or fees for carrying a gun should “change the Second Amendment because I think an infringement of a right, whether it be training or a fee, is still an infringement,” Bright said.

Then, the unwritten rules of how to get things done percolated to the surface, where such things are seldom mentioned, as two senators sarcastically mentioned that the supporters of Bright’s bill had accused committee chairman Larry Martin, R-Pickens, of blocking the bill that the committee then was discussing.

State Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, jokingly asked Martin, “Just for clarification, this is the bill that you’re blocking? That you’re preventing us from taking up?”

“Yeah, I thought I was blocking this,” Martin replied, explaining later that an email was circulating among the bill’s supporters soliciting money and accusing Martin of blocking Bright’s bill.

State Sen. Shane Martin, R-Spartanburg – like Bright, a member of the Senate’s ultra-conservative William Wallace Caucus – attempted to clarify that some people are concerned that Bright’s bill was moved to the bottom of the Judiciary Committee’s agenda.

The chairman replied to Shane Martin: “The senator from Spartanburg (Bright) knows full well why it got put to the bottom of the agenda. You were in the room, close by, when I said what would be the result of an attempt to amend 308 (a bill that passed allowing licensed concealed weapons in bars and restaurants) on the (Senate) floor. I mean, there was no misunderstanding, and I did exactly what I said I would do. There’s no blocking about it. I could have taken it off the agenda, but I didn’t.”

After a lively debate about the bill, state Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, asked to table Bright’s proposal, which would, barring a miracle, doom the bill for the year. The tabling motion would have passed by a 10-9 vote. But, after the vote tally, state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, jumped in, voting against killing Bright’s bill, leaving it on the agenda.

In the past, Democrat Malloy has allied with Bright and others representing the Senate GOP’s rabble-rousing, leadership-bucking Wallace faction.

Asked why he helped Bright’s bill, Malloy said “tabling was a bit harsh” this early in the session.

Then, he got to the point. “Every senator deserves the right to be heard over here, and if you’re not heard, if you really want to wreak havoc, you really could.”

Buzz Bites

Guns, guns, guns: “I carry two pocket knives on me all the time. Got ’em on me now. ... I could take either one of those pocket knives and kill you with it if I wanted to, but there’s no where in the law that says I have to pay a fee or take training to carry those things.”

State Sen. Tom Corbin , R-Greenville, during debate of Bright’s guns bill Tuesday

“They want to see liberty over security.”

State Sen. Shane Martin , referring to supporters, including himself, of Bright’s bill to do away with licensing and training requirements for carry firearms

Reach Self at (803)771-8658

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