Supporters of incumbent University of South Carolina trustee and former National Basketball Association (NBA) star Alex English claim to have more than ninety votes for his upcoming legislative election within the S.C. General Assembly – including a whopping 41 of 46 votes in the S.C. Senate.
If true, that would constitute more than enough legislative support to ensure English was elected to a full, four-year term on the governing board of the Palmetto State’s “flagship” institution of higher learning.
Is it true, though?
Sources close to Senate leadership tell us they have yet to poll members of the chamber as to their views on the upcoming race – which pits English against Columbia, S.C. banker Robert Dozier and Irmo, S.C. businessman Kevin Hunter.
Meanwhile, estimates of English’s numerical support within the S.C. House of Representatives – cited by GOP supporters like Brandon Newton of Lancaster, S.C. – appear to be similarly inflated.
“They are saying they have 55 votes in the House,” one lawmaker told us. “They don’t – hence the governor calling lawmakers begging them to flip.”
That’s a reference to the high-profile engagement on behalf of English by S.C. governor Henry McMaster – a curious development in light of some of the distinctly left-of-center positions English has taken on social media.
McMaster appointed English to the board on an interim basis last June – replacing longtime trustee William Hubbard, who stepped down to become dean of South Carolina’s law school. McMaster’s advocacy on English’s behalf has rubbed some lawmakers the wrong way seeing as the governor already gets to appoint two seats on the 22-member board.
The South Carolina trustee election has sparked a fierce political firefight given English’s liberal views – as well as his support for renaming the Strom Thurmond Wellness And Fitness Center on the university’s downtown Columbia, S.C. campus. Named eighteen years ago after the late U.S. senator Strom Thurmond – a reformed segregationist – the building has been the focus of an aggressive renaming campaign in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota last Memorial Day.
According to our legislative sources, English has been attempting to walk back some of his prior advocacy in support of renaming “the Strom” – part of an ongoing Republican outreach effort.
(Click to view)
(Via: Reagan White House)
The problem? English has already staked himself out on the issue – lending his signature to a petition calling for the name change because Thurmond (above, left) “embarrassed” the university and because the name of the wellness center “put racists on a pedestal.”
“Done!” English tweeted upon signing this petition, adding that renaming the facility was “long over due (sic).”
In addition to this tweet, lawmakers have been passing around several of English’s recent social media posts – including one in which he celebrated the recent Democratic sweep of U.S. Senate races in neighboring Georgia (and praised liberal activist Stacey Abrams for her role in securing those wins).
And this is the candidate backed by a GOP governor?
The stakes in the race are high. As our founding editor Will Folks has frequently pointed out, South Carolina is backsliding academically, falling to No. 118 on the latest U.S. News and World Report national rankings. And with the exception of women’s basketball, its athletics department has utterly imploded – with no end in sight to the terminal velocity.
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Meanwhile, despite its dire financial straits the school continues investing taxpayer money in speculative real estate deals … having clearly failed to learn its lesson from the command economic debacle it fobbed off on taxpayers a decade ago.
Folks has declined to endorse a candidate in this race, citing his longstanding support for the privatization of higher education in the Palmetto State (and beyond).
“Higher education must be immediately and permanently privatized,” Folks wrote in 2018. “No more government appropriations, period. Furthermore, student loans in this country must be issued based on what the market determines to be an acceptable level of risk, not a federal guarantee. Anything short of this will only add more destructive force to a ticking time bomb that has become an existential threat to the American economy.”
“Picking from amongst political appointees seems hypocritical in light of the fundamental belief that these institutions of higher learning must be removed from under the thumb of political governance,” he added earlier this week.
Will others get involved, though? Earlier this month, one of McMaster’s likely rivals for the 2022 GOP gubernatorial nomination – Upstate businessman John Warren – weighed in decisively against a liberal candidate for a seat on the S.C. court of appeals.
Will Warren engage in this race? We shall see … the situation certainly seems tailor made for him given the fact McMaster is lobbying so overtly on behalf of a liberal candidate.
Lawmakers are scheduled to meet in a special joint session of the S.C. General Assembly next Tuesday (March 3, 2021) to vote on this seat.
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