SC Politics

South Carolina Senate Slugfest: Sandy Senn And Matt Leber Square Off

“We ask for decorum.”

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The bitter Republican primary battle for South Carolina Senate District 41 – which pits incumbent senator Sandy Senn against state representative Matthew Leber – raged on at the Summerville Country club this week as the two political antagonists took the debate stage at an event moderated by the Dorchester County GOP.

Hostilities began in earnest back in March when Senn’s campaign created Whoismattleber.com – a website which leveled allegations of domestic abuse and violent behavior against Leber. The site has recently been updated with allegations that Leber failed to earn the college degree he publicly claims to have obtained.

(Click to View)

Moderators of Leber and Senn Debate
 Debate Moderators DCGOP 2nd Vice Chairman Brady Bowyer and Summerville Journal Scene Editor Brandon Roberts (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

Leber recently followed suit, creating Whoissandysenn.com to highlight Senn’s alleged “leftist voting record” – including voting to “raise your gas tax,” of “joining with Democrats to demand that the government mask your children in school” and supporting “leftist judges, like former Democrat House Leader James Smith.”

One Palmetto State politico attending the debate rhetorically asked this author “why the f***” Senn “didn’t buy Whoissandysenn.com” before launching her own website.

“Did she not think he’d respond?” the politico asked.

Not only do both candidates have dueling attack sites, they have produced signs with unflattering photos of their opponents. Team Senn availed themselves of Leber’s mugshots, while team Leber found (or photoshopped) a photo of Senn that looks as though it is straight out of the reality TV program Botched.

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Once the debate began, Leber didn’t waste much time differentiating his legislative philosophy from Senn’s – announcing “she’s a Democrat.” It would not be the last time Leber returned to this refrain.

Senn objected to the characterization.

“I’m certainly not a Democrat,” she said. “I’m a lifelong Republican. I always have been. I would say that I am a normal Republican, and I’m proud to be that normal Republican.”

Debate moderators first asked candidates about the Second Amendment. Senn – who stands accused of not adequately advocating for gun rights – explained her personal support for firearms training and highlighted her vote in support of constitutional carry.

“Obviously, I do believe in the Second Amendment,” she said. “But when it was written, things were different. Everybody knew how to handle guns. Everybody did. But beyond that, I can tell you that I voted for the bill. Like I said, I voted it out clean.”

Leber questioned Senn’s remarks about gun training.

“When she says that she would like to see training, she means she wants that to be force of law,” he said. “She wants to write that law for you. The Second Amendment does not speak about training. It says that the Congress or legislators will not infringe on your rights.”

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A documentarian working on the “Sister Senators” film followed Senn throughout the evening. (Dylan Nolan/FITSNews)

The pair found more idealogical common ground on the issue of illegal immigration.

“I agree with him that it is an issue,” Senn said. “So, what I have done is certainly supported the governor in sending the National Guard troops. Absolutely. I also voted for the bill that said that we need to make sure that they can’t vote, although there was no evidence whatsoever that (any of) them have ever voted. It’s a preemptive measure, it is solving a problem, I guess, before a problem ever occurs.”

Senn was also asked about legislation prohibiting sex change medical care for minors. She referred to prohibiting surgical procedures as “solving a problem that has not occurred” but acknowledged that Palmetto State doctors have prescribed children hormones of the opposite sex, stating “that one was a little more touchy.”

The debate devolved when each candidate was given an opportunity to address any allegations they felt the other campaign had made against them falsely.

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Matthew Leber speaks during the S.C. Senate District 41 debate in Dorchester County
Matt Leber (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

Leber introduced his 20-year-old daughter Savannah Leber, whom he has had full custody of ever since his acrimonious divorce from his former wife.

“She will tell you I never abused her mother ever,” Leber said. “Those were false allegations in attempt to win her back.”

Leber also pointed to his wife, saying she would also vouch for his character.

“My wife is sitting right there, been married over a decade, we believe women, right?” Leber continued. “She will tell you I’ve never ever been abusive. We believe women. All you have to do is ask one of those two.”

Leber also contested Senn’s assertion that he hadn’t earned his associates degree by producing a physical degree and passing it around the audience.

“Oh, look, take a look at my associate’s degree,” he said. “Savannah, come get it. You guys can all pass that around and look at my associate’s degree.”

(Click to View)

S.C. Senate candidate Matt Leber holds aloft his associate’s degree during a debate in Dorchester County on May 9, 2024. (Dylan Nolan/ FITSNews)

Many members of the audience jeered when Senn disputed Leber’s account of his divorce. Senn spoke directly to Savannah Leber.

“Honey, your parents just decided to split you all apart,” she said. “It was not a custody battle, it was not an award. This is what happened.”

Leber’s daughter became visibly upset – yelling rebuttals at Senn through tears. Debate officials called for order.

“If I may, I’m just going to move on,” Senn said. “He actually admitted in one of those (police) records that he shot a gun to try and scare his third ex-wife.”

“What does this have to do with the people that come here to learn how we’re going to legislate?” Leber fired back.

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The room once again erupted.

“We’re going to ask for some civility and decorum at this time, folks,” a moderator urged.

Once order was restored, Senn boldly claimed Leber was “showing you a fake college degree.”

Senn and Leber each took a few more swipes at one another before the forty-five minute debate ended, but those attacks are unlikely to be the last before the June 11, 2024 Republican primary.

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Dorchester County Republican party chairman Stephen Wright told FITSNews his organization appreciated “the candidates who participated in our debates.”

“Dorchester Republicans look forward to supporting our nominees and defeating Democrats up and down the ballot in November,” he said.

Count on FITSNews to keep our audience up to speed on the latest political developments the closer we get to next month’s partisan primary elections …

Update | After the publication of this article Leber provided FITSNews with a letter from Mitchell Community College indicating the institution found record of his graduation.

Senn’s campaign claims to have relied on an earlier communication from the college which erroneously indicated he failed to complete a degree when they initially leveled the allegation that Leber has a “fake college degree”.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Via: Travis Bell)

Dylan Nolan is the director of special projects at FITSNews. He graduated from the Darla Moore school of business in 2021 with an accounting degree. Got a tip or story idea for Dylan? Email him here. You can also engage him socially @DNolan2000.

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5 comments

Observer (the real one) May 11, 2024 at 5:27 am

“Obviously, I do believe in the Second Amendment,” she said. “But when it was written, things were different. Everybody knew how to handle guns. Everybody did. But beyond that, I can tell you that I voted for the bill. Like I said, I voted it out clean.”

She lies! Sandy Senn has been one of the more notable obstructionists for years, doing what she could to keep Constitutional Carry from becoming a reality in SC. She also voted, along with every other Senator, to give Legislators status as “preferred people” who could carry anywhere. You see, people like Sandy Senn, Penry Gustafson, and the rest of the clowns in our Senate are better than us peasants. They can be trusted with rights that peasants cannot.

Please, replace every SC Senator this year.

Reply
Dum Spiro Spero Top fan May 11, 2024 at 10:35 pm

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but a person might find it kind of pitiful if the best criticisms that Matthew Leber can come of with are that Senn:
Voted to raise the gas tax… has anybody ridden on our roads lately?
Voted in favor of children having to wear masks in schools…how many South Carolinians died from COVID?
Voted to require gun purchasers to have some type of training…have you looked at the number of deaths from gun accidents in the state lately?
Voted like a Democrat…who was aware that only one party had a monopoly on wisdom and honesty in this state?
How about talking about issues that might really matter to the average citizen of this state? You might start with crime and the court system, the environment, education, health care, poverty, economic development, or streamlining state government?

Reply
Dum Spiro Spero Top fan May 11, 2024 at 10:38 pm

I don’t have a dog in this fight, but a person might find it kind of pitiful that the best criticisms that Matthew Leber can come of with are that Senn:
Voted to raise the gas tax… has anybody ridden on our roads lately?
Voted in favor of children having to wear masks in schools…how many South Carolinians died from COVID?
Voted to require gun purchasers to have some type of training…have you looked at the number of deaths from gun accidents in the state lately?
Voted like a Democrat…who was aware that only one party had a monopoly on wisdom and honesty in this state?
How about talking about issues that might really matter to the average citizen of this state? You might start with crime and the court system, the environment, education, health care, poverty, economic development, or streamlining state government?

Reply
Think! May 13, 2024 at 6:30 am

Yeah, they raised our gas taxes a few years ago, ostensibly to improve the poor condition of our roads. Tell me how that worked out. Potholes are everywhere and seldom filled or filled in a way that the patch only lasts a few days at best. The money was always there for fixing our roads. Unfortunately, the Legislature pissed it away on other things we could do without, or it went into Leatherman’s pockets. With him gone at long last, where is our money going now? Not into needed repairs, that’s for sure.

As to the gun stuff, that IS a crime issue. You see, gun restrictions only impact the law-abiding, the very people who are NOT the problem. More gun restrictions on the law-abiding make for an easier time for criminals. Being criminals, they don’t care about a carry charge when planning to rob, assault, or murder, someone. That is just the cost of doing business to them. The gun freedom thing does matter to the average person, whether they realize it or not.

Reply
Brittany Garvin Top fan May 18, 2024 at 5:09 pm

I’ll be so glad when Matt Leber loses and the low country doesn’t have to hear his crazy rants anymore.

Reply

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