SC Politics

South Carolina Democrats Are Bailing On Heather Bauer

When you lose ‘La Socialista …’

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One of the few competitive legislative districts in South Carolina is the Midlands State House seat currently held by first-term Democratic lawmaker Heather Bauer. Readers will recall Bauer upset incumbent Republican Kirkman Finlay III in 2022 to represent this district, which includes Forest Acres and other parts of eastern Columbia, S.C.

Bauer got off to a terrific start as a lawmaker, in our estimation, becoming one of the few state representatives to propose reform of the Palmetto State’s notoriously corrupt judicial branch of government. When the rubber met the road, however, her willingness to truly challenge the powerful status quo in Columbia was found lacking.

Or, more like nonexistent …

In fact, she joined the very status quo she purported to legislate against.

Most egregiously, Bauer joined other uniparty lawmakers in forcing a qualified black candidate out of a judicial race in order to clear a path for a white Democratic politician, former S.C. House minority leader James Smith. In the process, she set the new State House land speed record for going from “principled reformer” to “status quo sellout.” This optically challenged bet might have paid off for Bauer – but Smith’s bid for the court was surprisingly rejected earlier this year when conservative lawmakers affiliated with the Freedom Caucus caught wind of the status quo machinations and shamed the establishment GOP into keeping him off the bench.

In other words, Bauer wasted her political capital on the wrong side of this issue … for nothing.

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Bauer isn’t making these political missteps in a vacuum, either.

This spring, Finlay announced he was seeking his old seat back – and last month he easily dispatched a primary rival to secure the GOP nomination. As he campaigns to reclaim the seat he held from 2012-2022, the bearded, blunt-spoken fiscal conservative is backed by a broad spectrum of voters in his party – and many independents (including me).

As for Bauer, for weeks I’ve heard rumors her base was fractured – that she no longer enjoyed the support of the Democratic coalition which helped propel her to an upset victory two years ago. I didn’t believe those rumors, though, and so I didn’t report on them.

Heading into the Fourth of July holiday, though, proof positive emerged that the liberal bloom is indeed off Bauer’s rose. Specifically, an article appearing in one of South Carolina’s most reliably left-of-center mainstream media outlets – The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper – excoriated her for errors made in a recent taxpayer-funded mailing.

Penned by reporter Joseph Bustos, the article blasted the freshman lawmaker for sending a glorified campaign mailing to her constituents which “touted how the state budget includes a $500 million property tax cut, a $1,000 raise for state employees and money for the veterinary school.”

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“If there are two things that don’t mix well, it’s dishonesty and tax dollars …”

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The problem? The tax cut Bauer cited was not actually included in the budget, the raises she cited were not accurately conveyed and the veterinary school she referenced got “only” $125 million of the $175 million Bauer claimed it received. Bauer also mistakenly “conflated two accounting issues the state government faced over the last two years,” according to Bustos, referring to a pair of anomalies tied to former S.C. comptroller general Richard Eckstrom.

Is any of that a big deal?

Yes and no …

Bauer getting busted bragging about a nonexistent tax cut will doubtless provide endless campaign fodder for Finlay – especially as the source of the derision was the left-of-center State paper. Hence, voters in this district should expect to see and hear much more about Bauer’s bogus claims in the weeks and months to come. After all, if there are two things that don’t mix well, it’s dishonesty – and tax dollars.

But that’s not the real story. Or rather the real “story behind the story.” What should truly scare the hell out of Bauer? The fact The State saw fit to criticize a vulnerable Democratic incumbent over what, in this author’s estimation, amounted to comparatively trifling errors.

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“Not all of the spending moves she highlights are exactly true,” Bustos wrote in his report.

Such language may sound innocuous to you and I, but for The State newspaper – an outlet I once mockingly referred to as La Socialista – it’s tantamount to a fire-and-brimstone-level condemnation of a Democratic politician. Also (and this is what’s super significant) it’s not just that this reliable left-of-center propaganda vehicle is criticizing Bauer over her errors – it’s that it covered them at all.

Is Bauer’s bogus mailing a big deal in this campaign? Maybe … if it happened in late October.

Seriously, no media outlet has been more supportive of Finlay over the years than this one – but even I couldn’t imagine allocating scarce resources to ding Bauer over something as quasi-consequential as this.

I don’t get it: Bauer straight up sold out a qualified black judicial candidate and The State barely batted an eye. But she flubs a math lesson on a mail piece and it’s front-page news?

Which brings us to the real scoop: The rumors about Democratic powerbrokers bailing on Bauer are obviously true. In fact, South Carolina Democrats are ditching Bauer almost as fast as they are bailing on president Joe Biden. And as a result, the liberal propaganda gods responsible for pulling the levers of power in South Carolina’s capital city have decided not only to abandon her candidacy – but to make her a target.

What’s their rationale for giving up on her? I’m not sure … but that’s a story line my media outlet will be tracking very closely as the fall election draws nearer.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

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 and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.

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