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SC Dems Make Their Moves



South Carolina Democrats desperate to regain relevance on the statewide stage will have a trio of options to choose from when they go to the polls on June 12.  And depending on how the “Republican” primary unfolds, their choice might actually matter for the first time in years.

How would that play out?

Well, if hobbled GOP incumbent Henry McMaster somehow manages to escape his unexpectedly crowded and competitive primary (a prospect that’s looking less likely by the day), Democrats might actually stand a chance to win their first statewide election since 2006.

And win their first governor’s race since 1998 …

Of course for that to happen, they’ll have to pick a viable ticket.

Would that ticket consist of Florence, S.C. attorney Marguerite Willis  and her running mate, state senator John Scott?  Probably not …

What about Charleston, S.C. businessman Phil Noble and his newly minted running mate Gloria Bromell Tinubu? Eh … no.

These tickets aren’t just liberal … they’re slightly to the left of a left-hand turn. 

That leaves Afghan War veteran/ former S.C. minority leader James Smith and – assuming recent mainstream media reports are accurate – his 2018 running mate, state representative Mandy Powers Norrell.

Norrell  is a rising star in the Democratic ranks.  As our readers will recall, she was touted as the Democrats’ dream candidate in a special election for the fifth congressional district last spring.   She declined to run for that seat, however.

Norrell was also recruited to run for governor in this year’s election, but she took a pass on that opportunity when it became clear Smith was interested in running for the governor’s mansion.

Democrats have put Norrell on the statewide stage before – tapping her to respond to then-governor Nikki Haley’s annual state of the state speech in 2016.  Her response was widely praised – even by lawmakers of Haley’s own party.

In fact, the third-term lawmaker is so well-liked and well-respected by her GOP peers in Columbia – and so popular in her Lancaster County, S.C. district (map) – that she went unchallenged by “Republicans” in the 2018 legislative races.

That’s unheard of … especially considering Norrell occupies one of the few truly competitive “swing districts” in the Palmetto State.  Honestly, when you get right down to it, it’s a GOP district – as evidenced by the fact U.S. president Donald Trump won it a year-and-a-half ago by a whopping 18 percentage points.

Yeah …

This is precisely the sort of crossover appeal Smith is counting on in the event he wins his party’s nomination.  He’s also hoping the wicked smart 44-year-old bankruptcy lawyer will serve as an effective stalking horse in the event Lowcountry labor attorney Catherine Templeton wins the “Republican” nod this spring.

Of course Smith has to get to the general election first …

The last time we checked, this three-way battle was a crapshoot – with Smith, Noble and Willis each within a few percentage points of each other (and a huge chunk of the state’s Democratic electorate up in the air).

The Democratic “light gov” picks are revealing, though.  Basically you’ve got two candidates (Willis and Noble) playing lowest common denominator identity politics in hopes of picking up the black vote in a contested primary.  Then there’s Smith – whose selection is all about winning in November.

In other words two candidates made the sort of “light gov” selections you’d expect to see from fringe candidates, while Smith chose as if he were already his party’s nominee.

Who picked wisely?

We’ll know in about thirty-three days …

As we’ve noted in the past, this race is the most visible manifestation of an ongoing schism within the Democratic party – a battle between radical progressives and establishment Democrats (although to his credit Smith has a few radical backers of his own).



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