The Buzz

The 2016 Buzzards: From the most #savage S.C. political move to the ridiculous bills that went nowhere

Haley & McMaster
Haley & McMaster

With 2016 drawing to a close, it is time to reflect on some of the best — and worst — that happened this year in S.C. politics.

Most #savage political move

Winner: Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster to become governor.

South Carolina’s McMaster was the first statewide elected official in the nation to endorse then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. McMaster stood by Trump throughout the primaries and, in July, delivered one of the nominating speeches for Trump at the GOP convention. After Trump was elected president and Cabinet rumors started to swirl, McMaster said Gov. Nikki Haley’s name had been mentioned for the secretary of state’s position and his for U.S. attorney general. But McMaster, who lost the GOP primary for governor to Haley in 2010, maintained he was content staying in South Carolina. Ultimately, Trump nominated Haley to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, clearing McMaster’s path to the governor’s mansion.

Runner-up: Gov. Haley’s targeting — albeit failed — of state senators in the June GOP primaries.

Haley targeted three state Senate leaders in their GOP primaries as a political group with ties to the governor spent more than $500,000 trying to reshape the Legislature’s upper chamber. Haley successfully ousted longtime state Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York, who was beaten by Wes Climer, a Rock Hill financial adviser and former York County GOP chairman. But two of Haley’s other targets — Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, and now-Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Luke Rankin, R-Horry —successfully fended off challengers.

Best email to Gov. Haley during the Confederate flag debate

In July, Haley released emails she received a year earlier from those calling for the Confederate flag to be removed from the State House grounds and those who wanted to leave it up.

There were thousands of emails but The Buzz picked two favorites.

Winner: The grandmother council’s offer.

Elizabeth from Waco, Texas, suggested Haley appoint a committee of women over 60 who are “grandmothers, quilters, seamstresses or creative fabric artists.” The group would ponder two “21st century flag” designs that S.C. residents could vote on, she said.

“This ‘grandmother council’ (an idea derived from the Iroquois culture) approach to making the world safer for and kinder to our grandchildren and their descendants is an appropriate choice at several levels,” she wrote. “Who would criticize such a gathering, for one thing? And who could criticize the voters having the final say?”

Runner up: The revered flagpole.

Mike, from Lexington, simply wanted the flagpole.

“I would like to request that when the flag is removed from the State House grounds, I would like to obtain the flagpole,” he wrote to the governor.

“This is not a joke,” he added. “I do not know what the plans are for it, but I feel as though it should be treated with reverence. I’ll remove it to my home in Lexington where the American flag would then fly from it.”

Most ridiculous bills ... that went nowhere

Winner: State Rep. Mike Pitts’ journalist registry.

Pitts proposed establishing a “responsible journalism registry” to make, he said, a point about gun-control efforts that he viewed as restricting the Second Amendment.

Pitts’ bill would have established requirements for journalists and included registration fees, and setting fines and criminal penalties for violations.

A person seeking to register with the state as a journalist would have to submit a criminal record background check and “an affidavit from the media outlet attesting to the applicant’s journalistic competence.”

Bill Rogers, executive director of the S.C. Press Association, responded the proposed registry was “ridiculous and totally unconstitutional.” (For the record, The State newspaper is a member of the Press Association.)

First runner-up: State Rep. Mia McLeod’s Viagra bill.

McLeod introduced a proposal to make it more difficult for men to get prescriptions for erectile dysfunction medication. The proposal was intended as a critique of efforts by the Legislature’s GOP majority to restrict women’s access to abortion.

The legislation’s requirements included a sworn affidavit from a sexual partner detailing an incident of erectile dysfunction in the previous 90 days, and a cardiac stress test and report indicating the patient’s heart could handle sex. Men also would have to wait 24 hours after getting a prescription to get the drugs, just as women seeking an abortion must receive information and wait 24 hours to have the procedure.

“This bill really isn’t about erectile dysfunction, but it is about gender equity,” McLeod said. “Government has no place making decisions for women or men when it comes to abortion or erectile dysfunction.”

McLeod subsequently was elected to the state Senate.

Second runner-up: Bathroom bills flushed.

After North Carolina passed its controversial House Bill 2, state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, introduced a similar proposal to ban transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice in the Palmetto State. The bill faced opposition from activists for LGBT rights and Gov. Haley, who called it unneeded, and, ultimately, died. A local bathroom proposal also emerged in Berkeley County, the new home of Volvo. Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt and state schools Superintendent Molly Spearman urged the issue be decided at the local level. Ultimately, it was defeated, too.

Most unrealistic campaign promise

Winner: U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford’s unsuccessful Democratic challenger Dimitri Cherny said it was time “we started colonizing other planets.”

Cherny said humankind needs a backup plan should scientists one day discover an object barreling toward Earth, bringing annihilation with it.

The former long-haul truck driver and die-hard Bernie Sanders fan listed “Finding Planet ‘B’ ” on his campaign website among eight pieces of legislation that he would push if elected in the coastal 1st District.

Sanford easily was re-elected.

Runner-up: President-elect Trump’s great big beautiful Mexico-U.S. wall, to be paid for by Mexico, and unsuccessful Democratic candidate’s Hillary Clinton’s call for free college.

Since Trump won, we’ll see if the wall ever is built and, if so, how it is financed.

(Maybe it will just be a fence?)

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope