South Carolina Democrats haven’t won a statewide election since 2006 – when Jim Rex narrowly defeated Karen Floyd in the race for state superintendent of education. Rex edged Floyd by 455 votes – the narrowest margin of victory in a statewide election in South Carolina history.
Rex has since bolted the Democratic party, incidentally … making him not unlike broad swaths of Palmetto State voters.
No Democrat has won a top-of-the-ticket race in South Carolina this millennium. The last person to do it? The late Fritz Hollings, who defeated former GOP congressman Bob Inglis to win his final term in the U.S. Senate in 1998.
Democrats have gotten pounded at the statewide level ever since … losing by bigger and bigger margins each election cycle.
After a “red storm” in 2020, they got crushed harder than ever in 2022 … losing every statewide election and becoming a “superminority” in the S.C. House of Representatives. The party also became an effective “superminority” in the State Senate when senator Mia McLeod announced she was becoming an independent in January of this year.
Democrats control just one of seven congressional districts, too … and we learned a lot earlier this month about the corrupt reason why that is the case.
How have “Republicans” wielded their absolute power? Absolutely atrociously …
For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, the state’s economy is not moving in the right direction (see here and here). Nor are its schools (see here). Nor are its communities (see here). And nor is its court system (see here).
All of these deplorable outcomes have been “achieved” despite gargantuan new taxpayer investments … expenditures which have fueled the perpetuation of an antiquated, corrupt and duplicative bureaucracy which does a multitude of things government has no business doing (like running universities, power companies, ports and hospitals, etc.).
In addition to these incessant incursions on the free market, GOP lawmakers have embraced unchecked crony capitalism … corporate welfare which diverts money from the individuals and small businesses which drive job creation in South Carolina.
Or should be driving it …
Owing to these policies, the SCGOP-controlled General Assembly has been ranked as the most liberal “Republican-controlled” state legislature in America three years running.
In keeping with this theme of “Republican” politicians governing as Democrats, GOP governor Henry McMaster – a career politician has done nothing but perpetuate South Carolina’s failed status quo since taking office in 2017 – made a surprising appointment last week.
On Friday, McMaster tapped veteran S.C. Department of Administration (SCDOA) budget analyst Brian J. Gaines to act as interim comptroller general. This choice fell to the governor after state lawmakers were unable to agree on a replacement for ousted GOP comptroller general Richard Eckstrom. Gaines will hold the role until lawmakers agree to pick a replacement for the rest of Eckstrom’s unexpired term – which runs through January 2027.
(Click to view)
Eckstrom had held this office since 2001, but was pushed out by legislators last month after he acknowledged a $3.5 billion “anomaly” in the state’s general fund budget.
Is Gaines a Republican? While I would argue the primary issue here is whether he can count … this post isn’t just about running the state’s books. As interim comptroller general, Gaines now has a seat on the powerful S.C. State Fiscal Accountability Authority (SCSFFA) – which oversees a broad range of key fiscal duties including approving bond issuances, insurance payouts and agency head salaries, among other items.
So … is Gaines a Republican? (You know, again, to the extent that seems to matter in South Carolina).
No, he is not. Election records indicate Gaines voted in Democratic primaries in 2016, 2018 and 2022. Since 2008, he has never voted in a Republican primary.
South Carolina Democrats wasted little time in trolling McMaster for his choice, mocking Eckstrom for his $3.5 billion error and crediting the governor for appointing someone to replace him who was not “a known Republican …”
Former SCDP chairman Trav Robertson got into the mix, too.
“Thank you senator Larry Grooms and Governor McMaster for appointing Brian Gaines Comptroller General!” Robertson tweeted. “He will do a magnificent job.”
Republican lawmakers – including several senators – were livid at the selection.
“The General Assembly leaves town for a day and Henry starts turning the state over to liberal Democrats,” one lawmaker told me confidentially, referring to the abbreviated adjournment of the 2023 legislative session last Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile a GOP statewide official slammed McMaster’s comptroller choice as “bunk.”
In fairness, GOP legislators had their chance … and simply couldn’t resolve their internal spitball fight. And sadly the S.C. Senate’s preferred candidate for the post – career bureaucrat Mike Shealy – was a twenty-year lieutenant of über-liberal Senate leader Hugh Leatherman, a former Democrat who never really abandoned his big government leanings.
Who knows … maybe Gaines will make a great comptroller (it’s certainly hard to imagine him doing any worse than a guy who misplaced $3.5 billion). And maybe he will be a taxpayer watchdog on the SCSFFA – voting in lockstep with fiscal conservative Curtis Loftis to protect the people’s investment in their ostensibly limited government.
For now, though, his appointment is yet another reminder that “GOP rule” in the Palmetto State isn’t all it’s cracked up to be …
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.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.