And given the ink his ongoing membership received when he inherited the governor’s mansion last January, we figured the issue would wind up becoming a defining narrative in his 2018 election.
It hasn’t, though. And now we know why …
Apparently McMaster isn’t the only gubernatorial candidate who has an affinity for whites-only groups. And no, we are not referring to Phil Cheney, the fringe candidate from Fair Play, S.C. who has served as lieutenant commander of a local Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) camp.
Believe it or not, we are referring to Democratic gubernatorial nominee James Smith – who along with his wife, Kirkland Smith, belongs to a pair of Columbia, S.C. hereditary societies that are so exclusive they make McMaster’s affiliations look like the book-of-the-month club.
And yes, they are whites-only as well …
Kirkland Smith is reportedly a member of what is known as “the Assembly,” a female hereditary society whose membership is limited exclusively to whites. Also reportedly a member? Nina Nelson Smith, the Democratic nominee’s mother.
Meanwhile Smith and his father, James E. Smith Sr., are reportedly members of “the Cotillion,” a male-only hereditary society whose membership is also limited exclusively to whites.
“(They are) Columbia’s oldest and most prestigious clubs,” a source familiar with the clubs told us. “One has to be born into these clubs.”
In fact, the whites-only society to which McMaster belongs – “the Columbia Ball” – has been described to us as “a social step down from the other two balls.” McMaster’s daughter, Mary Rogers McMaster, was a guest at the Cotillion in 2008 – however neither her mother, S.C. first lady Peggy McMaster (below), nor McMaster’s mother are members of “the Assembly.”
(Click to view)
So … how does Smith align his (and his wife)’s memberships in these exclusive organizations with his campaign’s mantra of “leaving no South Carolinian behind?”
“The difference is that James’ membership is to an annual dance and Henry’s is to a lifestyle country club – a country club in which James declined membership when offered,” Smith’s spokesman Brad Warthen told us. “More importantly, a look at James Smith’s record in public life shows that every vote, every piece of legislation, every word and action speak to his fierce dedication to inclusion and respect for all people, and to looking out for people who have been traditionally marginalized.”
“A look at Henry McMaster’s vetoes … from vetoing funding for flood-affected areas to eliminating healthcare funding to our most vulnerable people – show that he does not share James’ dedication toward inclusion and equality, toward caring about all South Carolinians,” Warthen added, saying that Smith and his running mate, Mandy Powers Norrell, “have both shown again and again that they will leave no one in South Carolina behind.”
This news outlet has consistently supported the right of private clubs to “admit – or refuse admittance – to anyone they please, for whatever reason they please.” Same with hereditary organizations.
Also, we do not equate membership in a single-race club – or a single-gender club – as necessarily implying racist (or sexist) views on the part of its members.
Of course in a landscape dominated by craven political correctness, associating oneself with such exclusive organizations creates optical problems – particularly for a Democratic gubernatorial nominee who has built his campaign around a theme of inclusiveness.
Smith, 51, has spent the last two decades of his life sponsoring bills and casting votes in the S.C. General Assembly (well, with the exception of the time he spent deployed overseas in the War on Terror). For better or worse, we intend to judge him on that … not his social life.
Same goes for McMaster …
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