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SC Politics

Lowcountry SC Senate Primary: GOP Senator’s Democratic Donations Blasted

“She’s a Democrat …”

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The bitter Republican primary battle for South Carolina Senate District 41 rages on as state representative Matthew Leber accused incumbent senator Sandy Senn of having a history of donating to Democrat politicians. Recent campaign social media posts target Senn’s donations to former Charleston mayor John Tecklenburg, and a review of publicly available records revealed Senn’s history of donating to other Democrat candidates.

Senn and Leber have have been at each other’s throats for months. Senn opened hostilities by creating a website (WhoisMattLeber.com) which reposted numerous incidents from Leber’s past – including a domestic violence protective order issued against him. The site later released a video with an anonymous woman claiming to be Leber’s daughter alleging that he pressured her to have an abortion.

As Senn’s operatives busily planted dozens of signs featuring Leber’s mugshot across the district, team Leber responded in kind with a website (WhoisSandySenn.com) highlighting the incumbent’s status as the only Republican to vote against the fetal heartbeat bill. Team Leber created unflattering signs of their own too.

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State Rep Matt Leber and S.C. Senator Sandy Senn Square off in District 41

RELATED |LET HIS CRIMINAL RECORD SPEAK FOR ITSELF

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“If you really want me to put out signs showing Senator Sandy Senn with what looks like toilet caulking in her face,” Leber’s political consultant Chris Slick wrote on X “we can do that, too.”

Slick later apologized for mocking Senn’s appearance.

Looking past the (numerous) sleights leveled throughout this campaign, Senn’s core argument is that Leber is personally unfit to hold office – while Leber’s core argument is that Senn is a Democrat.

At a recent Dorchester County GOP debate, Leber accused Senn directly – telling the audience “she’s a Democrat.”

“I’m certainly not a Democrat,” Senn replied. “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.”

Recent campaign social media posts from team Leber highlight Senn’s donations to various Lowcountry liberal politicians, drawing scrutiny to Senn’s definition of a “normal Republican.”

The posts attack Senn’s history of supporting Tecklenburg by depicting the former Democratic mayor superimposed over an image of boarded up storefronts in an attempt to highlight his infamous stand down order to Charleston police during the 2020 George Floyd riots. That order facilitated the destruction of dozens of stores on King Street in the city’s historic shopping district.

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(Via: Facebook)

While the Holy City has been a Democrat stronghold since the Reconstruction Era, Tecklenburg’s decision to join dozens of other Democrat mayors in ceding his city to lawlessness in the hopes of achieving some sort of state-sponsored racial reckoning put his reelection in jeopardy.

Former state representative William Cogswell ran an effective campaign against the embattled mayor, and went on to flip the Charleston mayor’s office to the GOP for the first time in decades. Many attributed his historic success to Tecklenburg’s decision to give the rioters free reign – which enraged both ordinary citizens and members of the business community sufficiently to push for the incumbent’s ouster. Records show Senn donated to Tecklenburg both before and after the riots.

When FITSNews reached out to Leber about the ad he emphasized “all of the Lowcountry Republicans were fighting for mayor Cogswell while Sandy again wrote another check for Tecklenburg.”

Tecklenburg isn’t the only Democrat to whom Senn has donated. She has also contributed to the campaign of state representative Wendell Gilliard – who notably sponsored H.3341, a bill which attempted to designate most semi-automatic rifles as “assault weapons” and create a legal designation for “high capacity magazines” in the hopes of regulating them as stringently as machine guns under South Carolina statue.

Senn also donated to Leon Stavrinakis, a lawyer-legislator who routinely advocates against judicial reform. When this news outlet objected to the practice of lawyer-legislators appearing before the judges they appoint, Stavrinakis attacked “bloggers (for) blindly regurgitating the biased talking points they are handed (and) shifting blame onto judges and the legislature.”

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Rep. Micah Caskey, left, and Rep. Leon Stavrinakis during the first day of session in Columbia, S.C. on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. (Via:Travis Bell/STATEHOUSE CAROLINA)

While it is overly simplistic to assign all of the blame for the failures of the South Carolina criminal justice system to the method by which circuit court judges are appointed, Stavrinakis himself has been accused of leveraging his privileges as a legislator to inappropriately defer the sentencing of one of his clients while simultaneously accelerating the plea deal process for another in the courtroom of circuit court judge Rodger Young in 2021.

Despite Senn’s donations to Democrats, the vast majority of her contributions have been to Republicans – something she highlighted in a statement to this news outlet.

“During my professional career I have worked with and contributed to every Charleston mayor including Republican William Cogswell,” she said. “In total I have contributed to 58 Republicans and 8 Democrats and I do not apologize for it.”

Senn disputed the notion that her donation to Tecklenburg indicated approval of the rioting.

“Of course, I never supported a police stand-down on King Street, nor do I support removing historical statues or markers,” she said.

Prior to the latest round of redrawing of political boundaries based on 2020 Census results, this district leaned farther to the left, but new lines mean that Senn’s name will be on the ballot for the first time for many conservative voters.

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Senn’s Current District (S.C. Revenue and Financial Affairs)

In addition to this change exposing Senn to the risk of Leber flanking her to the right ideologically, it partially negates the name identification advantage held by all incumbent candidates. Leber, whose current house district overlaps with portions of senate district 41, could gain some of the inherent advantages of incumbency in the areas of overlap.

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New S.C. Senate District 41 (S.C. Revenue and Financial Affairs)

Senn told FITSNews she’s been getting to know the residents of her new district and has already begun addressing their needs.

“I have been working in my new district for more than two years and am enjoying meeting new people and helping with their community concerns” Senn said.

Given the rancorous nature of both campaigns to this point, it’s safe to assume Lowcountry voters will witness more fireworks as the day of decision draws ever closer. However, many of them may have already cast their ballots by then. As of this week, early voting in partisan primary elections is underway – with some estimating as many as 40 percent of voters may cast their ballots before election day on June 11, 2024.

Count on our media outlet to provide updates and analysis on all the political races we’ve been tracking as the partisan primaries draw ever closer.

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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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1 comment

Guido Sarducci Top fan June 3, 2024 at 5:42 pm

Two losers.

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