Politics & Government

Tired of Democrats and Republicans? SC party hopes you’ll give new option a try

Jim Rex (file)
Jim Rex (file)

A South Carolina-centric third party is expanding nationwide.

The American Party of South Carolina, which since 2014 has run third-party candidates statewide, is merging with other third parties across the country to form the Alliance Party to challenge Democrats and Republicans nationwide in the 2020 elections.

The new party was launched Thursday at the S.C. State House, the first state Alliance Party to officially get up and running.

That first partly is due to the existing infrastructure that the American Party had in South Carolina since it was founded in 2014. Headed by former Democratic state schools Superintendent Jim Rex and ex-Republican Oscar Lovelace, the American Party was meant to offer voters a more centrist alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties.

“We’ve tried to reach the broad center to get things done,” said Rex, who will be the new party’s national vice chair. “But we’re at the point where, to have the impact we hoped to have, it was not going to make a difference unless we went nationwide.”

Rex said the effort to launch a national party got underway after he met with leaders of other like-minded smaller parties at a summit in Denver, Colo., last August.

By October, the American Party had negotiated a merger with the Modern Whigs, the American Moderates and other state-level parties, including Minnesota’s Independence Party, which got pro-wrestler Jesse Ventura elected governor in 1998.

“We need a more effective public policy delivery system,” said Lovelace, who will be the Alliance Party’s S.C. chairman. “It can’t just be that if the ‘R’s are for it, the ‘D’s are against it, or vice versa.”

The party already has gained access to the ballot in 22 states, Rex said.

“I thought it was an ambitious goal to get to all 50 states by 2020,” he said. “But we’re halfway there in four months.”

Rex hopes a national party will be better positioned to push for term limits, campaign finance reform, an end to gerrymandering and a new voting system that could give more weight to parties other than Democrats and Republicans.

For the now-former Americans, the transition amounts to little more than a name change, as the Alliance Party of South Carolina will inherit the American’s ballot space and much of its organization.

A name change might be a good move for the party.

Besides emphasizing the party’s new identity as part of a nationwide alliance, the American Party shared its name with the 1850s anti-immigrant party, more popularly known as the Know Nothings.

The new party will hold its inaugural state convention March 23. It’s unclear if the party will offer a presidential nominee next year. But party officials want to dissuade voters from thinking that casting a ballot for a third party is a wasted vote.

“We have so many different flavors of water you can buy, but when it comes to the political system, we say, ‘It’s broken, we can’t fix it, and these are the only two options,’ ” Lovelace said.

SC clown who ran for Congress passes away

A professional clown who made headlines when he ran for Congress in South Carolina last year has died.

Steve Lough passed away Saturday, Feb. 23, at the age of 53, according to an obituary from Kornegay Funeral Home of Lugoff.

Lough, a Camden native, ran for South Carolina’s 5th District seat in the U.S. House in 2018, openly campaigning on his career as a clown. His campaign distributed photos of the candidate and his wife in full clown makeup. His motto was “Aim High, Vote Lough.”

Steve Lough poses in clown makeup. Lough, a candidate for Congress in SC’s 5th District, worked as a clown for Ringling Brothers circus.

“They joke that the president and Congress are all clowns,” Lough said in announcing his candidacy. “Well, in my professional opinion, they are the worst clowns I’ve ever seen.”

Lough’s campaign “was based on wisdom he learned from his mother, and from living and working with people from all over the world and from all walks of life,” his obituary said.

With dual degrees from Dartmouth College and the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Clown College, the Camden native “fulfilled a childhood dream and ran away to join the circus.” He toured with Ringling Brothers for much of his career and, in his later years, performed for children throughout the Carolinas.

He performed anti-bullying routines in North Carolina schools, an experience that led him to seek public office after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Lough and two other Democratic challengers lost their party’s primary to Sumter Democrat Archie Parnell, who lost his second attempt to beat Republican Ralph Norman. Parnell’s campaign was rocked by revelations of his past domestic abuse against his former wife.

Memorials in Lough’s name are requested to be made to the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands.

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.