Politics & Government

March 29, 2014

The Buzz: SC college trustee elections flunk competition test; Senate honors Spurrier

Lawmakers will vote Wednesday on college trustees. Except, well, there’s not much to vote on.

Lawmakers will vote Wednesday on college trustees. Except, well, there’s not much to vote on.

Just four of the 56 college seats open this year have more than one candidate. That is 7 percent.

Lawmakers have choices for at-large seats at Francis Marion, Lander, S.C. State and Winthrop Universities.

That’s as of Friday.

Candidates who find themselves short of votes after early canvassing of legislators usually drop out. Eleven have withdrawn in the past two weeks, according to a legislative list. More could follow.

The lack of competition means 20 trustees at South Carolina’s three biggest public schools – University of South Carolina, Clemson University and the College of Charleston – will win new four-year terms by default.

The story of this year’s “elections” is the continued makeover of the board at S.C. State, which is running a $13.6 million shortfall after years of financial turmoil.

Three incumbents chose not to seek re-election after last year watching lawmakers punt sitting board members, including one running unopposed.

By July 1, nine of S.C. State’s 13 trustees will have joined its board in the past year.

That is 69 percent – enough, hopefully, to turn around the state’s only historically black public college.

Spurrier scores at the State House

The state Senate called a lengthy timeout Thursday when University of South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier came to catch a resolution honoring his success in Columbia.

As expected, the Gamecocks’ recent dominance over in-state rival Clemson University made for a good bit of the banter.

Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster, a former USC trustee, wore an orange tie printed with white number “5” – for the number of consecutive seasons the Gamecocks have beaten the Tigers.

Asked for his opinion on the proceedings by a gaggle of USC grads standing at the podium, Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee, a huge Clemson fan, lifted his head and waved his Smartphone. “I’m doing something more important.”

After the resolution honoring Spurrier was read aloud, Peeler playfully objected to Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, the Senate president. “I suggest this resolution is tedious and superfluous.” Then, Peeler claimed the reading of the bill took five years to get through.

Peeler, whose brother sits on the Clemson board of trustees, later went into gracious mode. “We used to say, ‘We’ll wait until next year.’ Now, we say, ’We’ll wait until Coach Spurrier retires.’”

The resolution’s main sponsor, Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, met Spurrier by accident while canvassing the coach’s neighborhood for votes two years ago. (Spurrier, who lives in a private community, joked the Sumter Democrat must have snuck around the gate.)

The Buzz asked Spurrier if he had any interest in running for office. The Head Ball Coach just shook his head real hard and bellowed, “Naaaaah.”

Nikki wants to cut out the cards online

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley has a new interest – banning Internet gambling.

A letter that Haley wrote to four congressional leaders last week appeared on a website bankrolled by brick-and-mortar casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a huge Republican political donor who opposes online gambling.

“Allowing Internet gaming to invade the homes of every American family, and to be piped into our dens, living rooms, workplaces, and even our kids’ bedrooms and dorm rooms, is a major decision,” Haley’s letter said. “We must carefully examine the short and long-term social and economic consequences before Internet gambling spreads.”

(The same line also was in a nearly identical letter sent by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.)

Professional poker player Phil Collins, who honed his game online while attending the University of South Carolina, was as pleased with the guv’s new stance as drawing a 2 and a 7 unsuited in a game of Texas hold ’em. (Ask a poker friend for an explanation.)

After tweeting that Haley is “either a moron or corrupt parasite,” the 2011 finalist in poker’s version of the Super Bowl added, “It is not the state’s responsibility to impose morality on its citizens. What happened to individual freedoms!?!? Pursuit of happiness!?!”

You can cross U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham off Collins’ poker-game invites, too. The Seneca Republican introduced a bill last week to pull the plug on online gambling.

Buzz bites

•  The 2016 White House speculation show returns to South Carolina next month when U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz visits the state next month. It will be the Texas Republican’s third Palmetto State trip in a year. Cruz will speak Free Enterprise Foundation dinner on April 15 at The Citadel, U.S. News & World Report reported.
•  U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has established networks in all 50 states for a 2016 presidential run with help from the Palmetto State, The Washington Post reported. “There are people in every state who have joined Team Paul, with the money people ready to go,” Mallory Factor, a Charleston political consultant who has worked with the Kentucky Republican, told the paper.

Read The Buzz everyday at www.thestate.com/buzz and sign up for our daily morning and afternoon S.C. political newsletters.

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