On the day the South Carolina General Assembly gaveled to order in Columbia, S.C. with a “Republican” supermajority in the House and a near-supermajority in the Senate, Democrats saw their ranks dwindle even further.
State senator Mia McLeod – a staunch progressive who campaigned for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last spring – sent an email to constituents on Tuesday morning announcing her decision to leave the S.C. Democratic Party (SCDP).
“After seven months of prayer and reflection, I’ve decided to leave the S.C. Democratic Party because it no longer espouses the values my constituents and I hold dear,” McLeod wrote. “I want you to be the first to know that my decision isn’t meant to disparage anyone who identifies as a South Carolina democrat, but the SCDP’s ‘party-focused’ approach doesn’t work for the people. And if it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t work for me.”
“My parents taught us to always vote for the person whose vision and values were most aligned with ours (emphasis original),” McLeod wrote. “I’ve stayed true to that by working with and supporting honest, compassionate, empathetic servant-leaders of both parties. But, after fighting republicans and democrats for the past twelve years … it hurts to admit how often I’ve had to fight my own party, just to help my own people.”
McLeod vowed to moved forward “boldly, fearlessly and yes…independently – always eager to work with any person or party that prioritizes our people.”
In her letter, McLeod ripped the SCDP establishment for failing to make “any significant changes” to its strategies – which have failed to win “a gubernatorial race in twenty years.” She also referenced attempts by the party establishment to keep its 2022 primary election – which pitted her against eventual Democratic nominee Joe Cunningham – under wraps in the hopes of diminishing the influence of black and progressive voters.
This news outlet was the first to report on those efforts, incidentally.
“By not engaging, enlightening or expanding the electorate … refusing to publicize the June Primary and getting a historical top of the ticket ‘shellacking’ on November 8, the party ensured a republican super-majority and the losses of eight black legislators in the S.C. House, five of whom were black women,” McLeod wrote. “Yet, a recent SCDP fundraising email acknowledges, ‘Black voters are the backbone of our party…’ which makes me cringe because I’ve experienced first-hand how the party treats black voters and black women who run statewide.”
(Click to view)
“If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing year after year, election after election, and expecting a different result, then the S.C. Democratic Party is the poster child for what a losing strategy on repeat looks like,” she wrote.
Hard to argue that point, people …
“Even a ‘first in the nation’ presidential primary designation won’t change that,” McLeod added, referencing a recent decision by national party leaders to elevate the S.C. Democratic presidential primary from “First in the South” to first in the nation.
Not all black Democratic leaders agreed with McLeod’s criticisms of the party. One of them – S.C. minority leader Todd Rutherford – blasted her as a “sore loser.”
“It sounds to me like she’s saying I didn’t win so I’m going to take my toys, go home and throw rocks at everybody else,” Rutherford told me.
“Switching parties demonstrates not only (her) being a sore loser but a tiger showing its stripes,” Rutherford added. “The party for all intents and purposes is her – she represents the highest authority of the party in (her) area. If that’s self-criticism she should accept it but most of us don’t do any of those things that she’s talking about.”
“If she feels like she does, maybe she should leave,” Rutherford added.
No Democrat has won a top-of-the-ticket race in the Palmetto State this millennium. The last person to do it? The late Fritz Hollings, who defeated GOP congressman Bob Inglis in 1998 to win his final term in the U.S. Senate. Meanwhile, no Democrat has won a statewide election in South Carolina since 2006 – when Jim Rex defeated Karen Floyd in the race for state superintendent of education by fewer than 500 votes.
Rex also bolted the Democratic party, incidentally …
What can the Palmetto State’s perpetual minority party do to turn things around? It’s not clear … but McLeod’s departure certainly doesn’t inspire much confidence for its future prospects.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
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.
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