James Smith hasn’t committed to running for S.C. governor yet, but he is researching how a Democrat can run and win in the Deep South.
The Richland County state representative said he is in the process of doing some “soul searching” about seeking the Democratic nomination in 2018. Before he commits, Smith says he wants to be sure he sees a path forward to victory.
“I listen to my family constantly, and I want to make sure I can afford the sacrifice,” Smith said. “It’s really a year and a half commitment to engage in a statewide campaign. ... It’s not going to be a perfect opportunity, but I want to make an informed decision.”
To that end, Smith attended the Democratic Governors Association meeting in New Orleans in December, and sought advice from a Democrat who recently won in a Republican state – Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana.
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Edwards gave Smith some tips about running a campaign in a rural Southern state, but the South Carolinian likely won’t be able to replicate one of the biggest factors behind Edwards’ 2015 win: a GOP opponent mortally wounded by a prostitution scandal.
Edwards, who was minority leader in the Louisiana House of Representatives, ran against Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, most famous for his role in the “DC Madam” scandal.
In 2007, a government investigation found Vitter’s phone number in the records of a Washington call girl service. Accompanied by his wife, the senator held a press conference to confess a “very serious sin.”
The allegations didn’t stop Vitter from winning re-election to the Senate in 2010, but they dogged him throughout his 2015 run for governor, which Edwards won by more than 12 percentage points.
At the time, Edwards became the only Democratic governor in the South outside of Virginia.
Smith said he plans “to stay in touch” with Edwards. The Columbia Democrat also is getting the thoughts of Jim Hodges, the last Democrat elected governor in South Carolina – in 1998.
Political showdown at the gun range
A Twitter debate over gun legislation ended with U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, inviting a U.S. senator to a gun range.
Duncan responded after U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York voiced her opposition to a bill that would make it easier to buy gun silencers. Duncan is a sponsor of the legislation.
“I’m fighting back against bills (backed by the Trump admin) that’d make it easy for criminals to buy gun silencers,” Gillibrand tweeted, with a link to an article in the New York Daily News about her comments.
Duncan wants to ease restrictions on silencers, saying they protect hunters from hearing loss. His bill, the Hearing Protection Act, would eliminate a $200 tax and a nine-month approval process for the devices.
Currently, silencers are regulated by the National Firearms Act in the same category as machine guns and grenades.
“You seem misinformed,” Duncan tweeted back at Gillibrand. I’d love to invite you to a firing range to demonstrate them first hand. Interested?”
Duncan later said, “I look forward to hopefully discussing suppressor usage further and dispelling Hollywood myths.
“I think once the senator sees the evidence, she’ll find her fears to be largely unfounded,” he said.