Is Governor Mark Sanford’s position on accepting federal stimulus funds eroding the foundation of support behind the Republican party in South Carolina, a state well known for its mostly Republican voting record? Democrats say it’s certainly giving them an edge.
Democratic activist William Hamilton says his message to Republicans is that, more than ever, they need to communicate with each other. “The people of South Carolina who’re interested in serious progressive change are using this to organize across the state on a scale and complexity that no one has seen before. And if this goes on long enough, many of you will confront well-organized opponents in your next re-election campaign, and you need to share that with your governor.”
Hamilton says politics have changed and the time has come for Republicans to work toward what’s right. “If the Republicans want to hold onto South Carolina, the price of doing that now will be governing it sensitively and competently, for the success of all the people who live here.”
Camden Senator Vincent Sheheen is one of those hoping to take advantage of the theoretical slip. He plans a bid for Governor as a Democrat. Sheheen says there is a way foward for the Palmetto State which he asserts the G.O.P. hasn’t yet taken. “And that way includes putting tax dollars back into the state for public education, as an investment for economic development.”
But S.C.G.O.P. Chairman Katon Dawson has a different perspective. He says Republicans in South Carolina reamain loyal to the party for good reason, pointing out the G.O.P. record in the statehouse following the last election. “This is certainly a contentious debate. But the Democratic Party in South Carolina has never seen a tax they didn’t like and they’ve been fiscally irresponsible toward the state.”
State Democratic Chair Carol Fowler says her party’s polls indicate that the majority of South Carolinians, Democrats or Republicans, feel that Governor Sanford is making a mistake on his stimulus decision. “You can do better when the other team is doing worst. And the people are realizing that for 20 of the last 24 years, South Carolina has been near the bottom of the nation, by any measure. ”
Addressing Fowler’s comments directly, Dawson added that anyone speculating about change should look at the past. “I guess that she would hope that our support is eroding. But in 2006 Republicans won eight out of nine statewide constitutional offices. We have 27 seated Republican senators, and we’ve won seven out of seven special elections.”
Fowler asserts that the next election will be different, and that Mark Sanford is helping to bring about change, but not the kind that he was shooting for. “We’ve now got just about the highest unemployment in the nation, and the worst health outcome. And I think state citizens are thinking now that who they elect governor has something to do with that.”