Politics & Government

Candidates to lead SC Dems compete for Bernie bump

In this May 26, 2016 photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign rally at Ventura College in Ventura, Calif.
In this May 26, 2016 photo, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks during a campaign rally at Ventura College in Ventura, Calif. AP

The race to chair the S.C. Democratic Party could depend on the legacy of former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

Both candidates for the party’s top job – Trav Robertson and Susan Smith – recently rolled out endorsements from supporters or groups with ties to the U.S. senator from Vermont. Outside South Carolina – where he lost miserably – Sanders put up a surprisingly strong challenge to Hillary Clinton in the party’s 2016 presidential primaries.

On Friday, Smith received the endorsement of Our Revolution, a political action group that grew out of Sanders’ campaign. The group also endorsed state Rep. Justin Bamberg, D-Bamberg, to be the party’s vice chair. Bamberg endorsed Sanders during the 2016 S.C. primary.

In a statement, Our Revolution national executive director Shannon Jackson praised Smith for her work as a “grassroots activist” for groups, including Planned Parenthood, the Democratic Women’s Council and the LGBT advocacy group S.C. Equality.

“Both Susan Yarbrough Smith and Justin Bamberg have widespread support of Palmetto State progressives, and for good reason,” Jackson said. “They’ve been outspoken advocates for social, racial, and economic justice in their own backyards for the span of their careers.”

The same day, Robertson announced the endorsement of Chris Covert, who was Sanders’ S.C. campaign director, along with endorsements from Clinton’s S.C. primary director Clay Middleton and general election lead Alycia Albergottie, and Tyler Jones, who ran the abortive Democratic primary campaign of Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“Unity comes from actions, not words or special interest groups,” Covert said in the endorsement. “Trav has done the hard work of unifying Democrats while leading parties and campaigns across the country.”

For all the competition for Sanders’ favor, the Vermonter’s appeal is relatively small in South Carolina. Sanders won 26 percent of the vote in last year’s S.C. primary, while Clinton romped to 73 percent in her win.

‘Boondoggle’

Even as S.C. legislators continue to debate how best to address problems with the state’s roads – and where any extra money should be spent – a nonprofit says there is one place in the Palmetto State where long-planned road spending would be a “boondoggle.”

The Education Fund of the U.S. Public Interest Group has released “Highway Boondoggles 3,” a list of the country’s most wasteful proposed highway expansion projects.

On the list? The planned extension of Interstate 73 to Myrtle Beach.

The group says the estimated $1.3 billion the interstate project would cost could be better used elsewhere.

For example, the Palmetto State has more than 964 structurally deficient bridges, according to federal data cited in the report. Twenty-nine percent of the state’s major locally and state-maintained urban roads and highways also are in poor condition, according to a 2017 evaluation, while another 35 percent are in mediocre condition.

“The state of South Carolina is already facing a severe maintenance backlog on its road system,” said Lauren Aragon, transportation fellow at the Public Interest Research Group. “Prioritizing the I-73 highway project over the repair and maintenance of existing road systems, urban, suburban and rural is irresponsible.”

The group says “several states have revisited” other roadways previously labeled “Highway Boondoggles” and decided “the money should be spent elsewhere.”

Primary candidate gets extra endorsement

He might or might not be the Republican nominee for Congress, but one candidate in South Carolina’s 5th District congressional race has received another party’s endorsement to go to Washington.

Indian Land attorney Kris Wampler is hoping to win the GOP nomination in the crowded May 2 GOP primary. Wampler also has accepted the endorsement of the S.C. Constitution Party.

The conservative third party called the move an “unusual step,” but said Wampler “has demonstrated a history of working for constitutional government, knowledge of the principles of constitutionally limited government and associating with organizations that also advocate those principles.”

Wampler accepted the party’s endorsement as the “final declaration” that he was the candidate most likely to “steadfastly defend the Constitution.”

“(E)very position I have taken has been based on getting the Republican Party back to principles of constitutionally limited government,” Wampler said. “The South Carolina Constitution Party advocates many of the same campaign themes which I have: an end to undeclared, unconstitutional wars; withdrawal from the United Nations and so-called ‘free trade’ deals; abolition of the Federal Reserve; unqualified defense of the Second Amendment and the right to life; and much more.”

The decision has one downside for the Constitution Party, though.

If Wampler loses the GOP primary, South Carolina’s “sore loser” law would prevent him from being listed on the June general election ballot under a different party’s ticket.

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