THE CHOICE between Sen. Vincent Sheheen and Rep. Nikki Haley would be obvious under any circumstances. In the dysfunctional governmental system of South Carolina, it is even clearer that Mr. Sheheen should be our next governor.
A big reason our state trails in so many areas is that a legislature simply isn’t capable of presenting a vision and leading us forward; it takes a governor to do that. But governors have precious little power to translate their visions into action; their success depends upon their ability to sell their ideas to the Legislature. It’s a tricky balance that no one has gotten quite right since Carroll Campbell.
These past eight years have been particularly difficult, as a governor who at least began with a clear vision went out of his way time after time to antagonize the too-prickly Legislature.
Mr. Sheheen doesn’t offer unrealistic bumper-sticker sloganeering about lowering taxes (although he says he wouldn’t raise them) or making government transparent (although he actually believes this should apply to himself). He gives us something better: A solid record of working across political lines to engage our most daunting problems. A pledge to be honest with us and not embarrass us — and a decade in the public eye that gives us every reason to believe he will keep these promises. A focus on returning to the Campbell model of aggressive economic recruitment. A commitment to improving the public schools, which all candidates promise but which is nearly impossible when they carry water for groups that fight those improvements in order to advance their anti-government agendas.
Ms. Haley makes a wonderful first impression. But she has proven herself unable to work even with members of her own party. She has not tried seriously to govern, as a look at the meager list of bills she has introduced demonstrates. She has repeatedly failed to pay or even file her income taxes until many months after her extension expired — while claiming that an accounting degree proves she’s fiscally responsible to manage our state’s finances. She has campaigned against insider political dealing while using her office to enrich herself just like the old Democratic power brokers routinely used to do. She has repeatedly misled us about herself and her opponents, attributing to others the worst of her own characteristics.
Mr. Sheheen understands that our state won’t move forward until all children have the opportunity to receive a good education. But he also understands that while we need to reverse the teacher layoffs and pay the best teachers better, we can’t until our economy recovers — and that won’t happen until there are more jobs; hence his promise to use the tools our current governor rarely used, to encourage businesses to locate and expand in our state.
Mr. Sheheen and Ms. Haley both recognize that we must overhaul our loophole-riddled tax code and consolidate state agencies to give the governor more authority and reduce duplication. The difference is that Mr. Sheheen is a conciliator who builds alliances with the Republican legislators who will make those things happen or not. He and his GOP co-authors wrote the only detailed plan to overhaul the antiquated tax code. He devised the plan to simultaneously empower the governor and transform the Legislature so that it could provide the oversight of state agencies that our state never has had.
We can’t take four more years of political bickering, of a governor whose every claim has to be checked and double-checked, of fixating on the ideological firestorms of Washington. We need to solve our many practical problems at home. Vincent Sheheen has a realistic vision to move our state forward and a record of getting substantive legislation passed. He has done the hard work and played by the rules. He is a man of integrity and sincerity, whose word can be trusted. All of these virtues set him apart from his opponent. He is the clear choice for governor.