The Buzz: Richland County delegation ‘allergic to meetings’

Posted by Cassie Cope on July 12, 2014 

Joe Neal

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The Richland County Legislative Delegation has yet to select the five members of the county’s Elections and Voter Registration Board, which hires the director of the office that manages elections.

“We have a delegation in Richland County that is allergic to meetings,” said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, a Democratic member of the delegation.

But Rutherford says that is a good thing. “We don’t just meet and waste people’s time for the sake of meeting.”

Delegation members said they typically meet once a year, around December.

Other delegations are more prone to meet.

Republican state Sen. John Courson, who is a member of the Richland and Lexington delegations because his district includes parts of both counties, said the Lexington delegation meets at least every quarter.

Richland delegation chairman Joe Neal, the Democrat who must convene the delegation, said attempts have been made to meet but summer vacations and the Fourth of July have interfered.

When the Richland members do finally meet – there were unsuccessful attempts in May and as recently as Friday – they are set to select the five-member elections board, which attracted 51 candidates that have been narrowed down to 10.

Two incumbents – Adell Adams and Elaine DuBose – made the final cut, selected by a delegation committee.

Some delegation members want a complete overhaul of the board, eliminating anyone who was on the board during the 2012 election debacle, which saw voters wait in line for hours.

“The 2012 election, which they oversaw, was just an embarrassment to the county,” Courson said, adding it discouraged voters from having confidence in the election system.

Some delegation members feel a sense of urgency to pick an elections board, including Republican state Rep. Nathan Ballentine.

“The delegation needs to show we’re doing something to the voters of Richland County, who are wondering if we’ve completely forgotten about them,” Ballentine said.

Democratic state Sen. Joel Lourie agreed.

“The only way, in my opinion, we can restore confidence for the voters of Richland County is if we have a brand new board that comes with a fresh perspective,” Lourie said.

While saying he wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, Lourie also questioned the authority of the current elections board. Those questions only can be resolved by having a delegation meeting and selecting a new board, he said.

Other delegation members, including Rutherford, say they are satisfied with the incumbents seeking re-election.

Rutherford said he would have to have clear evidence of a board member making a mistake before he would support getting rid of someone.

“I don’t agree with half the stuff we do in the General Assembly, but I don’t want to get thrown out because of the bad stuff other people are doing,” Rutherford said, who expects the delegation to meet before the November general election.

Neal also supports the incumbents who are seeking re-election.

“I am looking at trying to keep some kind of potential institutional memory there,” Neal said.

Neal also is supportive of former board member Samuel Selph, who ran the June primaries and runoffs.

Selph, who was not on the elections board during the 2012 debacle, has been serving as interim elections director.

But Selph said he is not interested in remaining director for longer than needed. “I will serve until they pick a new director, then I will go back into my retirement.”

But first, the Richland County delegation must meet.

Leatherman, the locomotive

Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman wrote a column in The State on Friday.

The Florence Republican said much had been said and written about the “power of that position.” (The Buzz wrote about his powerful positions last Sunday, including serving as chairman of the state budget-writing Senate Finance Committee.)

“I don’t see it as a power position, but as one that makes the train run on time without running over fellow senators,” Leatherman wrote in his column, lauding the value of compromise.

But as drivers in Columbia know, trains lumber through downtown daily, blaring their horns and dictating traffic.

That’s locomotive power.

Last-minute dough for GOP schools chief candidates

In the Republican Primary runoff for superintendent of education, some last-minute money flowed in for candidates Sally Atwater and Molly Spearman. Spearman even borrowed money for the first time.

From June 11, the day after the primary, until June 23, the day before the runoff, Atwater raised $47,200. During the same time period, Spearman raised $32,654. She also borrowed $40,000.

Spearman won by a landslide with 57 percent of the vote to Atwater’s 43 percent.

Buzz Bites

•  A new Zogby Analytics poll of 282 likely and eligible voters in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries has S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley in the running. Barely. Haley was favored by 1 percent, tied with New Mexico Gov. Suzanna Martinez and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

• Senate Democratic Caucus director Phil Bailey is leaving that post to work for the S.C. Democratic Party. Bailey has been the caucus director since 2005.

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