When we really begin dissecting the issues plaguing the Democratic Party in South Carolina, there is a narrative that becomes more apparent each election cycle; Columbia chooses candidates. The race for South Carolina’s first congressional district started with two good candidates, but saw a rush to Elizabeth Colbert-Busch’s side.
At an event in the Low Country back in January, a tall gentleman named Martin Skelly attended the event and spoke of his background and the importance of education, but Colbert-Busch was nowhere to be found. In her stead was a young organizer.
The lack of contact with everyday people became a growing problem for the Colbert-Busch campaign, but this didn’t start when things got serious. From day one, she was highly protected like there was a sense of fear of getting to know her. For Democrats in South Carolina so much hope was attributed to her campaign. This was the closing of a chapter on outgoing Chairman Dick Harpootlian and the beginning of Jaime Harrison’s tenure heading the state party. A win here would have been seen as a signal for the future. Sadly, the future didn’t pan out as hoped for.
Nationally, this race became of the highest importance simply because Mark Sanford was a flawed candidate.
Representative Jim Clyburn spoke of how this race was “ours” but he couldn’t have been further from the truth. As the election wound down, people thought it was over when the trespassing charge was laid down.
Mark Sanford struggled to regain his breath but when he did, he found the path to victory. Mark Sanford nationalized the race in a way that cannot be put any other way than a referendum on national Democratic policies. Always one for visual aids, Sanford debated a cut-out of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, one of the most divisive figures in politics.
Somehow, Colbert-Busch’s handlers thought it was a great idea to go to national Democratic fundraisers. In a state like South Carolina – much less GOP-heavy SC-1 – this was a deathblow. Mark Sanford was handed the hardest hitting attack outside accepting donations from unions – he had her pinned taking thousands from the Democratic elite.
This created those memorable attacks of “a vote for ECB is a vote for Pelosi.”
People normally would hit back attacking Sanford for the national establishment backing him. The problem was, how do you attack a man who was abandoned by the national establishment?
This race became Mark Sanford’s fight against the establishment – which tapped into the frustration of the electorate. South Carolina now has a representative that honestly, owes squat to no one. This is a nightmare for Democrats who had hoped for a way to attack Governor Haley.
The question now centers on the Democratic Party of South Carolina, how will they recover? With no primary in sight against Vincent Sheheen, it looks like they could be making the same mistake. Although, Sheheen has statewide name recognition and polls well, how excited can the voters be for a rehashing of the same old thing?
Since Vincent Sheheen’s loss to Nikki Haley in 2010, everyone has counted on a rematch. But is a rematch really the best shot Democrats in South Carolina have?
This is the question we have to ask one another and figure out. I for one want the voters to have a choice who becomes the next Governor. There is nothing less democratic about a nominee chosen for them.
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