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For those of you who haven’t noticed, this website hasn’t exactly been chomping at the bit to endorse candidates in the 2012 legislative elections here in South Carolina.

Why not? Because this year’s election is a total farce … and that was true long before the S.C. Supreme Court tossed more than 200 challengers from the primary ballot for failing to file required income disclosure forms.

Seriously … when one of the state’s most fiscally liberal Republicans (a former Democrat) is allowed to claim the GOP nomination unopposed in what’s supposed to be a hot bed of Tea Party support, then something is seriously wrong with our state’s reform movement. That’s why we’re referring to 2012 as “the lost cycle.”

Will a statewide petition effort that seeks to restore many of these candidates to the ballot succeed in mitigating some of the damage? We hope so … in fact there are signs that some of these petition bids might actually gain enough signatures to place candidates on the ballot … but at the end of the day a handful of petition victories would not fundamentally reshape (or even make a dent) in the balance of power in Columbia, S.C.

At this point, nothing can change the fact that 2012 represents a major missed opportunity for the reform movement – which we blame on its so-called “leader.” While campaigning in 2010, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley – then a “Tea Party” reformer – promised that she wouldn’t stop until South Carolina had a “conservative House” and a “conservative Senate.” Well Haley not only “stopped,” she slammed on the brakes so hard that everybody associated with the “movement” she once led got whiplash.

And promptly got off the ride …

In fact not only has Haley failed to challenge the Palmetto State’s political establishment, she has been routinely exposed as being nothing but a good ol’ boy politician herself.

Anyway … while it would be tempting to just sit out this deeply disappointing election cycle altogether, there are a handful of races in which we believe the ideological pendulum in the S.C. General Assembly can be shifted infinitesimally to the (fiscal) right. And we would be remiss not to commend these races to your attention.

In the State Senate, we hope that voters in the Lowcountry (District 38) would return Mike Rose to this seat and reject challenger Sean Bennett – who as far as we can tell would be nothing but a proxy for the big government Republicans in the State Senate. We also believe Paul Thurmond (District 41) when he tells us he’s ready to join Rose in voting for long overdue fiscal reforms like a taxpayer rebate fund.

2012: The "Lost Cycle"

In the Midlands region of the state, we recommend either of the two challengers to S.C. Sen. Ronnie Cromer (Kara Gormley Meador is the hot one) – although sadly it appears as though this fiscally liberal “Republican” is going to breeze to reelection. We also recommend GOP activist Dee Dee Vaughters, who is running as a Republican for the State Senate seat (District 26) currently held by Democrat Nikki Setzler.

In the Upstate, we concur with Haley’s assessment that Sen. Lee Bright (District 12) deserves to be reelected to his seat over John Hawkins – a self-serving trail lawyer with a shady past as both a former lawmaker and a human being. Also Sen. Kevin Bryant (District 3) – like Bright – has been a reliable pro-taxpayer, pro-reform vote, and we believe his reelection bid deserves support. As for the battle for Greenville’s open State Senate district we support challenger Chris Sullivan over incumbent Mike Fair (District 6), although we have serious doubts as to whether Sullivan will really represent taxpayers any better than his incumbent opponent (and Fair has been positively abysmal). We also support S.C. Rep. Tom Corbin in his bid for the State Senate seat being vacated by Phillip Shoopman – primarily because Shoopman assures us that Corbin is the real deal on fiscal issues.

Also in the Upstate, we would urge voters in District 4 to support Iraq War veteran Riley Harvell over longtime RINO and former Democrat Billy O’Dell.

In the House, we support former City of Columbia council member and local businessman Kirkman Finlay over his trial lawyer opponent in House District 75. We also hope that Rep. Joshua Putnam – a strong fiscal conservative from Anderson County – wins reelection in House District 10.

In the contested race for Lowcountry House District 97, we support Jordan Bryngelson – while in Horry County we support Rod Smith‘s bid against RINO Nelson Hardwick in District 106. Also in the Lowcountry, we enthusiastically endorse Peter vonLehe Ruegner‘s bid to unseat RINO Chip Limehouse – one of the most entitled, ethically bankrupt politicians in state government.

(For more on that race, click here).

Meanwhile, up in Spartanburg County we hope that voters send a message to the corrupt “RINOcrat” establishment by nominating reformers Bill Chumley (District 35) and Donna Wood (District 37) over their status quo opponents – including this ethically challenged hack.

As noted, we don’t believe that any of these dozen or so endorsements will amount to much in the grand scheme of things … even if voters in these districts were to follow our advice in every single case (which they won’t).

Why not? Well, there are 170 seats in the S.C. General Assembly, and the RINOcrat majority that controls both the S.C. House and the State Senate was never in danger of being threatened this year – let alone toppled. And again, that was before the S.C. Supreme Court took a machete to the list of candidates.

As we’ve noted on numerous previous occasions, one of the greatest failures – if not the greatest failure – of the administration of former Gov. Mark Sanford was its “inability to identify, recruit and equip conservative challengers to go up against the rank-and-file RINOs in the state legislature.” Sanford had five electoral cycles (2002, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010) to shape the balance of power in Columbia, yet he only got involved in a handful of races toward the end of his second term in office. In fact, in 2002 and 2004 he supported numerous pro-status quo candidates – particularly in the S.C. House.

In the 2012 cycle, Haley has (as of this writing) endorsed in precisely one legislative race – Bright’s Senate bid – although given her abysmal approval ratings and lingering scandal taint we suspect a lot of candidates said “thanks, but no thanks” to the governor’s help.

There is only one sad unmistakeable conclusion that can be drawn from this sorry state of affairs: The reform movement in South Carolina- which seemed poised to achieve some tangible, lasting accomplishments on behalf of taxpayers and citizens a decade ago – is on its deathbed.

Another cycle like this one and we can put it in the ground …