There are not too many competitive legislative elections in South Carolina. The system just isn’t set up that way. Districts are gerrymandered to create non-competitive seats, part of a cooperative political agreement between the two major political parties.
Back-scratching at its finest, huh?
One race we expect to be very competitive, however, is the battle for S.C. House District 15 (map) between incumbent GOP lawmaker Samuel Rivers – the only black Republican member of the S.C. General Assembly – and Democratic activist JA Moore.
This news outlet has written often in the past about Rivers’ various issues. Back in July, though, we flipped the script and reported exclusively on Moore’s February 2017 arrest for driving under suspension. A review of his record at that time revealed prior arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) and reckless driving.
As we noted in our coverage, we didn’t view any of Moore’s past problems as especially serious. In fact, we only reported on them because Lowcountry Democrats decided during a recent special election that candidates’ DUI arrests (and related vehicular issues) were fair game.
Accordingly, we were surprised to see Moore address the issue ad nauseam in a lengthy statement shortly after our article was published.
Moore, a 33-year-old community activist, claimed he was the victim of “a negative campaign of dirty politics” – and proceeded to invoke former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, who famously said “when they go low, we go high” in response to criticisms of her husband.[su_dominion_video_scb]
In his statement, Moore seemed to blame his prior reckless driving citation on a pair of race-related tragedies – the April 2015 shooting of unarmed black motorist Walter Scott and the June 2015 Holy City Massacre.
“2015 was a troubling year for me, as well as many in Charleston,” he wrote.
The only problem with this otherwise plausible narrative? Moore was cited for reckless driving in February of 2015 – weeks before the shooting of Scott and several months before the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME.
What was “troubling” him in February of that year? Your guess is as good as ours …
Moore also invoked God and family in his press release – telling voters he is a “better person” in the aftermath of his multiple arrests.
“Because of my faith in Christ and meeting the one person who changed my life forever, my wife, I am a better person today,” he wrote. “As the Bible teaches us, he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”
(Click to view)
A social media group following this race has taken issue with that statement, though. According to Concerned Citizens of District 15 – which published copies of Moore’s February 2017 arrest record this week – his driving under suspension arrest occurred less than a year after he was married. Not only that, the arrest record revealed some interesting details seized upon by the group.
According to the document, Moore was traveling on George Street in downtown Charleston, S.C. in a gold, 1998 Jaguar Vanden Plas with four young, female passengers – two of whom were underage. Charleston police pulled the vehicle – described as the “sole vehicle on the roadway” – after smelling “the odor of burnt marijuana” coming from it, an odor which became “increasingly stronger as (officers) approached the vehicle.”
Police later noted the “strong smell of burnt marijuana emanating through the now open window of the vehicle.”
The traffic stop occurred at 2:12 a.m. EST on Monday, February 6, 2017.
“His wife … was the last thing on his mind that night while he was apparently out partying downtown with these four college aged girls,” the group said in its statement.
Again, we don’t think Moore’s arrest record is a huge red flag. We are a bit concerned, however, by his response to all the negative publicity – namely blaming everything on his opponents and stretching the truth in an effort to justify his behavior.
That is a case study in how not to respond to a crisis … especially if the facts of the case don’t align with the spin you are trying to sell.
Ultimately this race is of no long-term relevance to the state. Its outcome will not shift the balance of power one iota at the S.C. State House, nor will it in any way, shape or form materially impact the lives of District 15 residents. Also, as noted, we are not fans of either candidate.
We commend it only as a cautionary tale to other elected officials (or aspiring politicians) who have issues from their past in need of addressing.
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