The S.C. Democratic Party has hired a young executive director to go after young voters.
Most recently, the Boston native was campaign manager for Tallahassee, Fla., City Commissioner Andrew Gillum’s 2014 run for mayor. Hurley’s other experiences include stints as policy coordinator for the Young Elected Officials Network, which works with politicians under 35, and aiding U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek’s unsuccessful 2010 U.S. Senate run in Florida and former U.S. Rep. Jim Martin’s unsuccessful 2008 U.S. Senate race in Georgia.
Hurley came by politics organically. His parents met while working on the congressional campaign for Robert Drinan in Massachusetts in the 1970s.
In a Red-heavy state where Republicans hold all but one of the 18 major state and federal offices, Hurley will try to entice the next generation of voters to turn South Carolina more Blue.
“Studies show if you vote three times in a row for a party, you typically stick with that party for life,” he said. “In a state with so many young people, we can get in there earlier and make them lifelong Democrats.”
S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison said Hurley combines the ability to attract young voters with the experience from working in the field.
“Part of what we want to do is look long term,” Harrison said. “Conor will refine our strategy.”
Hurley said his efforts will include getting young voters’ attention through technology and social media.
“You have to meet them on their level,” he said. “They are more connected, more intelligent than they have ever been before.”
Hurley will compete with another young party boss in 31-year-old Matt Moore, the S.C. Republicans chairman and executive director. Hurley succeeds Amanda Loveday, who left the post after three years to become communications director for U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia.
Hurley’s main goal this year will be the S.C. governor’s race where State Sen. Vincent Sheheen will try again to beat Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. Sheheen lost to Haley by 4.5 percentage points in 2010. National pundits have the race leaning Haley’s way, but some see the potential for an upset.
“In 2014, we’re in a strong position,” Hurley said. “Our top priority is communicating to voters that Nikki Haley is not being accountable.”
But South Carolina’s other major races pose problems for Democrats.
Hurley will have to contend with the recent decisions by top Democrats to ditch their campaigns for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Tim Scott and the open state superintendent of education seat. No additional Democratic candidates formally have stepped forward since those departures two weeks ago.
“The party will compete,” Hurley said. “We’ll see who’s going to get in once filing closes (March 30).”
The fight over font sizes
The Buzz enjoys sharing on occasion how the sausage is made in S.C. politics.
In last week’s debate over the state’s proposed $24 billion budget, state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, rose to speak about her House amendment to restore $52,000 to the College of Charleston, money taken away for assigning a gay-themed book to freshmen.
The rub: Representatives just had blocked a similar amendment. One lawmaker objected that her request was repetitive.
House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, handed Cobb-Hunter copies of the two amendments and asked to explain how hers was different. Cobb-Hunter took a moment before speaking.
“The author of the amendment is different,” she declared as the chamber began to fill with laughter. “And I would say it’s different in the size of the font and punctuation.”
Amidst the chuckles, Harrell spiked Cobb-Hunter’s amendment.
But that was not the end.
Cobb-Hunter tweaked her amendment. How? She changed the line number in the budget where the money would go.
That was good enough for the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means committee to get her say – but not her way.
After her speech, the Republican-dominated House shelved her amendment just like the earlier one with the different font size.
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