2018-02-14 / Columns


Already some turbulence heading into primaries

Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

That is, we expect a rather bumpy ride heading into the gubernatorial primaries, and we have to hope some of the fun lands in our yard before June 12 gets here.

With a hefty field of candidates from both parties, it will be interesting to see how they try to navigate the waters, members of one party trying to set themselves apart from each other as they also try to distance themselves from those in the opposing party.

Evidence of how that’s going already exists as three Democratic candidates last week exchanged criticisms of each other in their first debate in Columbia. When state Rep. James Smith said he’d put $2 billion back in utility ratepayers’ pockets following the SCANA nuke plant debacle, Charleston businessman Phil Noble called it an empty promise, citing Smith’s receipt of donations from SCANA. And when Noble suggested the problem in public education lies with teachers, not students, and suggested firing a third of public school teachers and replacing them, Florence attorney Marguerite Willis called the idea “absurd.”

On the GOP side, it looks to be lining up as a race among incumbent Henry McMaster, current Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill and former DHEC director Catherine Templeton.

It will be interesting to watch these four take each other on, and while it’s generally accepted that the office-holder has the upper hand, that may not be the case here. McMaster only slid into the governor’s seat after President Trump tapped then-Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as U.N. ambassador. The governor is seeking the people’s support to keep him in the Governor’s Mansion for what would be his first full term.

Perhaps viewed as something of a fresh outsider, Templeton has caused a bit of a stir in recent days. First, she accused The State newspaper of purposefully publishing a photo of Templeton with a story about Catherine Heigel, her DHEC successor, saying the newspaper did so in an effort to help McMaster.

While that smacked of another politician getting on the “fake news” bandwagon, it was probably viewed as less egregious as what she said when addressing a crowd at Bob Jones University in Greenville.

Critics no doubt took things too far by labeling her a “slavery sympathizer,” but Templeton would have done well to find a better way to say the federal government ought not poke its nose so far into state government’s business than to proudly draw parallels to the Confederacy.

“We didn’t need them to tell us how to live way back then, and we don’t need them to tell us how to live today,” she said.

She stepped into a sticky mess with those remarks and, frankly, no matter how she might have tried to explain herself, it did not get any better. “The past cannot be changed,” she said, “but we can learn from it.”

Indeed, she’s right. But leading into Black History Month, she has a few lessons to learn about how her words can strike a very wrong chord.

Hey, it’s only early February. There are plenty of weeks between now and the June 12 primary elections. So, get out that popcorn, sit back and watch. Just remember to fasten your seat belt.


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