April 5, 2014

The Buzz: How Lazarus (the mammoth) rose again

The story of a third-grader who bested on the state’s most powerful senator over a fossil

The Buzz is pretty sure the nation’s founders never said, “Every just cause should have a third-grade champion.”

But just think how different things would be if they had.

Consider this: Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, was on a principled mission Wednesday to put an end to naming South Carolina official symbols, animals, “whatevers.”

That’s why Peeler blocked a bill to name the Columbia mammoth the state’s official fossil.

But the proposal Peeler wanted to eradicate just so happened to be the brainchild of Lake City third-grader Olivia McConnell – an 8-year-old and, unknown to her, a budding politico.

When Olivia heard that Peeler had dashed her dreams of the Columbian mammoth getting the recognition it deserves, she skipped the red herrings and the I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I’s and told her mother, Amanda McConnell, that she had three good reasons to name that mammoth the state’s official fossil.

“Now, for a senator to object to this, does he have three good reasons why we don’t?” her mother said she asked.

But it turns out Peeler’s Gaffnese was no match for Olivia’s political prowess.

Phone calls started rolling into Peeler’s office – from possibly everyone in the Pee Dee, he said – “and it wasn’t friendly comment.”

“I’m here to teach third-graders how to read, not to break a third-grader’s heart,” Peeler said, vanquished at the Senate well, announcing that he was removing his objection to Olivia’s mammoth bill.

“If we’re going to name this mammoth something, we’ll name the mammoth Lazarus,” Peeler said, “because we’re bringing that mammoth back to life.”

One flame-thrower less to dodge

Amanda Loveday left her job as director of the S.C. Democratic Party recently to become U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn’s spokeswoman.

When the S.C. House presented her with a proclamation honoring her on Wednesday, someone could not hold back his joy.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, congratulated Loveday, then said, “Speaking for all the Republicans in the House, we’re pleased to see you go off to Congressman Clyburn’s office.”

The body erupted in laughter.

Been fun, Dave

When four of Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s announced challengers joined each other on the State House steps last month to pledge fidelity to whoever among them ended up in a runoff with Graham, state Sen. Lee Bright thought Spartanburg ex-cop Dave Feliciano was one of the candidate’s handlers.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t recognize him. I was trying to figure out who the guy was that walked up on the stage with us. He didn’t have a suit on that day,” Bright, the only one of Graham’s challengers to top 10 percent in the polls, told The Buzz.

Feliciano ended up saying that Graham is “ambiguously gay,” (just Google it) and did not file to run after all. He was short on the filing fee and, he explained, “Politics is a completely foreign world to me.”

But upon his exit, Feliciano endorsed Bright, who defended the police officer after his headline-grabbing comment.

“I was impressed. I could see his heart,” Bright said of Feliciano. “There’s a lack of that in politics. He was a guy that wanted to do something.”

Notes from the Lindsey race

The U.S. senator faces six GOP challengers in June’s primary. Some things that happened on the campaign trail with him and foes last week:

Campaign looking Brighter : Bright said he’s raised more than $100,000 in the first quarter of 2014, his biggest quarter yet after spending more than he raised in the final quarter of 2013. Bright also announced that he opened campaign offices in Greenville, Columbia, Charleston, Spartanburg and Myrtle Beach.

Celebrity shout-out : Five-time Grammy winner and Christian Contemporary singer-songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman had nice things to say about Easley businessman Richard Cash: “What little bit I know about Richard and his family is that he is a man called and feels very much that God has called him to this time and this race. So it is an honor for me to get to be here and to celebrate that.”

Tea-Party cred : Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor picked up a Tea Party endorsement. The founder of the Tea Party Convention, Joe Dugan said: “I have known Bill for more than five years and believe he will never sacrifice principle over politics because those principles are embedded in his character and integrity. He has put his life on the line, out of love for country.”

From Benghazi to barbecue : When Graham and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., aren’t blasting President Barack Obama about what happened in Benghazi, they’re bonding over plates of barbecue. Ayotte joined Graham on the stump in Charleston on Friday where Graham hosted a barbecue for supporters.

Buzz Bites

•  Tom Ervin, a former state lawmaker and judge running against Gov. Nikki Haley in the GOP primary, released his first radio ad. “Putting South Carolina first is a fight worth having,” the ad says. “Tom Ervin will protect our children, cut our taxes and restore integrity in Columbia.” The ad introduces the 62-year-old Greenville attorney and radio-station owner, who filed for the race on the day before filing ended last Sunday. Ervin said Monday that he put $108,000 of his own money in the campaign. The commercial will air on 65 radio stations statewide that his campaign described as a “six-figure” buy.
• S.C. Democrats tapped U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii to deliver the S.C. Democratic Party convention’s keynote address on May 3. Gabbard’s visit to South Carolina will be a homecoming of sorts. A captain with the Hawaii National Guard’s 29th Brigade Combat Team trained at Fort Jackson.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott delivered his third weekly Republican response to the President of the United States on Saturday, this time discussing his act that would combine several federal workforce programs and give local businesses more input in jobs the types of jobs that need filling.

Tweet thing

“Know what we call New England Repubs in SC? Democrats.” – Tyler Jones, political director for S.C. House Democrats, in response to Graham tweeting about showing Ayotte around Charleston on Friday.

Staff writers Cassie Cope and Andrew Shain contributed.

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