INVESTIGATION NEEDED TO SEPARATE FACT FROM FICTION …
Years from now, South Carolina politicos will remember where they were – and what they were doing – on “Dan Hamilton Day.”
Hell, some of them may be compelled to recall their words and whereabouts under oath …
That’s how impactful (and scandalous) a day it truly was, as state representative Dan Hamilton dropped a nuclear bomb on the 2018 GOP gubernatorial runoff election between Upstate businessman John Warren and incumbent “Republican” governor Henry McMaster – and then tried unsuccessfully to minimize the fallout from his detonation.
Hamilton’s soap opera was Palmetto political theater at its finest – prompting widespread mainstream media coverage, ferocious pushback from the governor’s political machine and all manner of threats and recrimination targeting the 41-year-old Greenville, S.C. real estate agent, who tried desperately on several occasions to walk back his prior comments. While insisting he wasn’t walking anything back …
Others also found themselves in the crosshairs as the McMaster campaign scrambled to minimize the fallout … again, unsuccessfully.
It falls to us to tell the full story of a day that will live in infamy in South Carolina politics … and which may wind up having a significant impact in determining the next governor of the Palmetto State.
Ready? Good … let’s go …
“Dan Hamilton Day” – Friday, June 15, 2018 – actually began the day before, when our news site (which tends to be a day ahead of these things) ran an exclusive report detailing efforts by McMaster aides to meddle in the recently concluded GOP fourth congressional district primary election.
Hamilton finished third in that race, but the margin between him and second place finisher William Timmons was sufficiently close (within a percentage point) that a mandatory recount was required. Timmons was certified as the second place finisher at the conclusion of this recount on Friday – meaning he will appear on the ballot against former state senator Lee Bright ten days from now (June 26) in the GOP runoff election for the congressional seat being vacated by Trey Gowdy.
That date matters a great deal …
As we exclusively reported, McMaster’s emissaries reportedly told Hamilton that donors loyal to the governor would subsidize a formal protest of these election recount results. All Hamilton had to do? Wait until the last possible moment – this coming Monday – to announce that he would be challenging the results of the recount.
The goal of this McMaster-backed legal challenge? To push the date of the GOP fourth district runoff election past June 26 – which would have the effect of suppressing turnout in the Upstate for the gubernatorial runoff election.
(Click to view)
How would this benefit the incumbent governor? Well, Warren performed exceedingly well in the Upstate, drawing a whopping 46.1 percent of the vote in Greenville County on Tuesday. With the fourth district runoff scheduled to be held on the same day as his runoff with McMaster, most of these Greenville voters would likely come back out and cast their ballots for Warren once again.
That would provide Warren’s campaign with a huge home-field advantage in its bid to make up the fourteen-point gap that existed between him and McMaster on primary day.
Conversely, if the 71-year-old career politician had been able to get the date of the fourth district runoff pushed back past June 26, it would have dramatically suppressed Warren’s support – and materially elevated his own electoral prospects in the process.
This was the backdrop for “Dan Hamilton Day,” which began early Friday with a media advisory from Warren’s gubernatorial campaign touting a “major endorsement announcement.”
The address listed for the press conference? 403 Woods Lake Road in Greenville – the site of Hamilton’s real estate practice.
When this advisory hit the wires, all hell broke loose …
Would Hamilton be asked about the McMaster allegations we exclusively reported on? And if so, what would he say?
Well, it turns out he was asked …[timed-content-server show=’2018-Jan-17 00:00:00′ hide=’2018-Jun-18 00:00:00′]
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“That kind of stuff is the worst of the worst in politics and exactly why people are turned off by the political process,” Hamilton said, responding to a question from anchor/ reporter Ben Hoover of WSPA TV 7 (CBS – Greenville/ Spartanburg). “Each of these races should stand alone on their own. The people of the fourth district, people in the Upstate of South Carolina should have their voice heard in both of those races and there should be no crossover in those terms of any lawsuits or those kinds of things. I have no intent whatsoever of delaying any race in the fourth district for anyone else’s benefit.”
Hoover pressed Hamilton, asking him if he was “contacted by (McMaster’s campaign) on this issue.”
“There was some folks that did reach out regarding that,” he responded.
Hamilton declined to tell Hoover who reached out to him, but said it was “someone with close enough ties to the McMaster camp to make the offer.”
“They did it such in a way that it wasn’t officially their campaign,” said Hamilton.
McMaster’s campaign hit the roof.. His spokeswoman, Caroline Anderegg, referred to the allegation of attempted meddling as 110 percent false and demanded Hamilton “name names.”
“This baseless allegation is garbage and a complete and utter lie,” Anderegg said. “If Dan Hamilton is going to make such a shamelessly false claim he owes it to the people of this state to prove it or he owes the governor an apology.”
President @realdonaldtrump has dealt with lies like this on the campaign trail & now in the White House from Democrats & Never Trump’ers. I was with him from the beginning & I’ve seen it all; it was just as appalling then as it is now. https://t.co/P7jmDA8Toc
— Gov. Henry McMaster (@henrymcmaster) June 15, 2018
“I was with (Trump) from the beginning and I’ve seen it all,” McMaster said in his tweet. “It was just as appalling then as it is now.”
Actually, McMaster wasn’t with Trump from the beginning. That statement is, in fact, a lie. McMaster originally supported the presidential campaign of uber-liberal U.S. senator Lindsey Graham – only to flip over to Trump at the eleventh hour prior to South Carolina’s “First in the South” presidential primary in 2016.
But that’s another story …
Back to Hamilton …
Hours after the state lawmaker’s bombshell claims were made, he began to walk them back with members of the media. Specifically, he told Kinnard “I think the conversation might have been less serious than has maybe been portrayed. I would not cast dispersions on the McMaster campaign. … I think (McMaster) is a person of integrity.”
Anyway, shortly after Kinnard tweeted Hamilton’s second statement the lawmaker called our founding editor, Will Folks, and assured him he was “not walking anything back” but that he was “not going to name names.”
According to Hamilton, his press conference bombshell prompted a “complete meltdown from (McMaster’s) camp.”
“They had everyone they could think of call me,” he said. “A lot of my donors … threatening my political future.”
Wait … what? Donors? Threats?
“Yup,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said the pressure from McMaster’s allies prompted him to walk his story back and “just (tell) the media it was probably just overzealous friends thinking out loud.”
In other words, to lie.
Frankly, this entire situation requires an immediate investigation. If McMaster’s campaign indeed attempted to meddle with the outcome of an election – and threatened a sitting state legislator to keep quiet about it – that is a huge deal. Accordingly, we would call on the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC) and any relevant local authorities to initiate inquiries into the matter.
Anyway, while Hamilton was spilling the truth and McMaster was busy playing the victim card (and everyone else was scratching their heads), the governor’s aides were engaged in an acrimonious battle with the mainstream media outlets who covered the controversy.
Specifically, McMaster’s chief strategist – Tim Pearson – lit into Kinnard on social media for covering the Hamilton story but not a pair of endorsements McMaster received from solicitors who are participating in the ongoing #ProbeGate investigation.
(Click to view)
Pearson accused Kinnard (above) of lending credence to “nonsense claims” from Hamilton and Warren while ignoring the fact that McMaster – who has been dogged by scandal for the last year-and-a-half – was “clean as a whistle.”
Kinnard responded that McMaster’s camp never informed her of the endorsements.
“If you don’t tell us, we don’t know,” she tweeted back at him. “(McMaster’s) campaign has yet to figure that out. Never seen anything like it. Ever.”
“It was written about in The State,” Pearson retorted, “and then sent to you, and others, via email.”
“The other campaigns know what to do,” Kinnard shot back. “And you used to. But if you’re good with a lazy 4 o’clock email (which I didn’t see because I get 1000 emails a day) then that just confirms what a lot of folks already knew. Maybe y’all will figure it out before election day.”
For those of you who don’t know Kinnard well, when her “southern” (i.e. y’all) comes out … watch out.
Because you’re about to feel a sting …
McMaster’s campaign manager just couldn’t leave well enough alone, though.
“My bad Meg, for real,” Pearson responded. “Broke the most important rule – don’t kick down.”
Wow … we would actually love to see Pearson try and kick Kinnard. Because our guess is even if he wanted to, there’s no way he could ever get his leg that HIGH.
Especially when Kinnard is wearing her Louboutins.
Anyway, the acrimony from the McMaster camp continued into the evening hours on Friday.
According to our sources, McMaster’s lieutenant gubernatorial nominee – Pamela Evette – pursued state representative Joshua Putnam through the streets of downtown Greenville, S.C. to berate him for attending Hamilton’s press conference (and for endorsing Warren over McMaster).
“I can’t believe you did that,” Evette screamed at Putnam, according to the latter’s wife – Holly Putnam. “I can’t believe you would betray the governor.”
Evette added that the McMaster campaign would “never forget” Putnam’s “betrayal.”
“Dan Hamilton is lying about the governor!” Evette yelled, according to Putnam and his wife. “I can’t believe you would be a part of that.”
Putnam told us he is in the process of obtaining security camera footage from the incident, which he says began after Evette and her husband pursued him for “more than a city block” as he and his wife were leaving an Italian restaurant downtown.
Again … craziness.
How will all of this ultimately shake out? Good question. For starters, it’s clear McMaster’s alleged efforts to manipulate the date of the fourth district runoff have failed – meaning that race will proceed on June 26 (and Warren will be able to rely on significant Upstate turnout in his head-to-head matchup against the governor on the same day).
As for the McMaster aides allegedly involved in the “indecent proposal” to Hamilton – and the ensuing threats – stay tuned.
We are continuing to dig into who delivered these messages … and perhaps more importantly, whose orders they were acting on when they did.
Stay tuned …
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