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#SCStateHouse: Scandal In District 110 Race

Missed votes, earmarks loom large in “Republican” runoff rematch …

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Like most rematches, the race for South Carolina House District 110 (map) between incumbent William Cogswell and challenger Russell Guerard has been bitter.

Cogswell – who defeated Guerard in a “Republican” runoff election two years ago – finds himself back in another head-to-head battle with the Lowcountry real estate agent, who is hoping his third campaign for this seat will be the charm.

This news site supported Guerard during his 2014 race against former state representative Chip Limehouse.   We don’t have a dog in this particular fight, but we do believe Guerard is onto something with his criticism of Cogswell’s voting record – or lack thereof.

We also believe Guerard has uncovered what could be a significant ethical lapse on Cogswell’s part.

First, the votes (or non-votes).  According to an analysis of Cogswell’s voting record, he missed nearly 400 votes during his first term in office – one of the highest marks in the legislature.  His colleagues tell us he has made himself scarce at committee meetings, too.

Cogswell claims he voted on 90 percent of legislation and that Guerard is “misleading” voters.  Of course he has sought to reframe the issue by referencing his attendance record – which has no bearing on his voting record.

Cogswell is also joined at the hip with the uber-liberal Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC) – a once-proud group which has seen its influence at the S.C. State House diminish in recent years due to the poor “strategery” of its former leader, Anne Timberlake.

This group has sent out multiple mail pieces to voters on Cogswell’s behalf.

Such proximity would give us cause for pause under normal situations, but Cogswell’s ties to Timberlake go even deeper than that.  Specifically, the first-term lawmaker sits on the board of the Charleston Library Society – a group that hired Timberlake to lobby state lawmakers on behalf of a $250,000 earmark included in the fiscal year 2018-2019 state budget.

The group got the money, too – with Cogswell sponsoring the earmark himself.

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“He used his position in the legislature to reward a lobbyist and funnel an earmark to an organization on which he sits on the board,” one State House source noted.

It could be worse than that.  The $250,000 earmark is for a “rehabilitation project to repair water damage to the Charleston Library Society’s Beaux Arts building.”

What is Cogswell’s line of work?

“I specialize in complex historic and environmentally contaminated rehabilitation projects,” he wrote on his campaign website.

Hmmm …

Whether Cogswell is benefiting personally from this earmark or not (he insists he isn’t), the fact that he sits on this organization’s board and is receiving campaign assistance from CVSC is far too cozy for our liking.

It’s unethical and frankly ought to be looked into …

Cogswell received 46.3 percent of the vote on June 12 compared to Guerard’s 42.7 percent.  Because neither candidate received a majority of ballots cast, they will go head-to-head in a runoff election next Tuesday – with the winner of that race taking on Democrat Ben Pogue in November.

Again, we don’t have a dog in the fight but Cogswell’s ties to the CVSC and Timberlake are concerning.  As is his proximity to this earmark scandal.

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