If I were Spencer Wetmore, I would have never accepted my party’s invitation to deliver the response to governor Henry McMaster’s 2022 “State of the State” speech last week.
In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar from Return of the Jedi, “it’s a trap!”
Make no mistake, the S.C. Democratic Party (SCDP) benefited tremendously from Wetmore’s willingness to speak on its behalf earlier this month. The second-term state lawmaker from Folly Beach, S.C. delivered one of the best political speeches I have seen in some time in the Palmetto State – even if hardly anybody watched it (or for that matter the McMaster speech which preceded it).
Wetmore’s tone was pitch perfect. Positive and positively vibrant. Her delivery? Accessible and inviting – nearly flawless. Most importantly, Wetmore accompanied her deft, rhetorically resonant narrative with some substantive policy points – including an unexpected pitch to cut taxes for low-income South Carolinians.
“Let’s start by working together to provide tax relief to working families who actually need it,” Wetmore said midway through her address. “And let’s do it this legislative session.”
Wait … tax relief?
What party am I listening to?
Indeed … Wetmore’s pledge to cut taxes was her initial policy offering, literally the top agenda item enumerated by the minority party on whose behalf she spoke.
Go figure, right?
This is significant in and of itself, but it also matters in context: Namely the GOP’s systemic failure to protect taxpayers/ produce results since it took control of state government two decades ago.
McMaster’s inexcusable impotence on this front (perhaps he was in the pool?) has opened the GOP up to precisely the sort of nimble, ideological out-flanking Wetmore administered to them in her speech.
Hell, the GOP under “Foghorn Guvnah” has raised taxes. And spent more of your money than Democrats would have dared to dream.
I have been wondering for years why Democrats – whose legislative minority continues to shrink and whose standard-bearers continue to underwhelm in their Quixotic bids for statewide office – have proven incapable of finding some room to the fiscal right of the “most liberal GOP legislature” in America.
Seriously, it shouldn’t be hard.
Has Wetmore perhaps finally staked a claim to this solid gold real estate?
Obviously I wasn’t enamored by everything Wetmore said. She offered the typical left-wing rebuke of parental choice – which happens to be the one transformational reform vitally necessary to turning around decades of costly government-run academic failure. She also endorsed a costly expansion of Medicaid that would exacerbate our nation’s unsustainable dependency culture – and artificially limit private coverage (while raising insurance costs for small business owners).
Clearly, Wetmore got her Medicaid marching orders straight from Washington, D.C.
Beyond these two sops to her liberal base, though … what a speech. Home girl threaded the needle perfectly. And looked damn good doing it.
In other words, Wetmore – who represents one of the few “swing” districts in South Carolina – did exactly what Democrats needed her to do. The only question is whether the hard line liberal positions she was compelled to take will come back to haunt her this fall.
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Wetmore, 38, won a special election in August of 2020 to fill the seat vacated by former S.C. House judiciary chairman Peter McCoy Jr. – who stepped down to become U.S. attorney for the Palmetto State. Despite a GOP “wave election” that fall, the Charleston, S.C. native was able to keep this seat in Democratic hands in the November election – albeit just barely.
Wetmore won 50.75 percent of the vote against her Republican rival, Josh Stokes.
She is facing at least one credible GOP rival already in the form of Juan Campana, a self-described “immigrant, veteran and community leader.”
Wetmore’s “Republican” colleagues in the legislature might not be especially eager to oust her, though.
“I love her,” one GOP lawmaker told me. “She’s very bright. Works well with others. (She’s) definitely on her way up.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Washington Senators’ lid pictured above).
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