Democrats forecast change at the polls

  • Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Photos by Leslie Cantu/Journal Scene Gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen greets Dorchester County Democratic Party Chair Ethel Campbell on Saturday.


Three statewide Democratic candidates came to Summerville on Saturday selling hope: hope that Democrats could win the state’s top spots, despite the fact that Democrats were shut out of the last statewide election.

“I still believe in hope and love and truth and justice,” said state Rep. Bakari Sellers, running for the lieutenant governor’s seat.

He accompanied State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, candidate for governor; and state Sen. Brad Hutto, U.S. Senate candidate, at Bethel AME Church on South Main Street during a swing through the Lowcountry.

The crowd that greeted them was small but enthusiastic; in fact the candidates proclaimed themselves overjoyed at the size of the group, given Summerville’s strongly Republican tendencies.

Hutto said the group holds the key to winning the Senate seat held by Sen. Lindsey Graham.

There were 420,000 Democrats across the state who voted in 2012, a presidential election year, who didn’t vote in 2010, a gubernatorial election year, he said.

If even a third of those dropoff voters come to the polls this year, they can help topple Graham, who now holds only a 39 percent approval rating, Hutto said.

Sellers told the group that Republicans have done an “incredible job” of taking hope away from Democrats in the South – and because of that, Democrats haven’t been turning out at the polls.

Sheheen said the campaign knocked on 11,000 doors the prior weekend, because he’s “committed to change.”

He said he wants to bring accountability back to government.

“I’m tired to being embarrassed by the leaders of this state,” he said, ticking off a list of grievances.

He said Gov. Nikki Haley has blocked education funding for three years but during an election year has come out for public education; that Haley is blocking Medicaid funds; and that she’s placed “flunkies” in state agencies, leading to scandals at the Department of Social Services and the Department of Revenue.

Nonetheless, he said, he’s not running simply because of the last four years.

“We are here because we are going to do great things together for the next four years,” he said.

He said he has a vision for South Carolina – a vision that includes universal 4-year-old kindergarten, accepting additional Medicaid dollars tied to the president’s health care law; increasing teacher pay; and fixing roads and bridges.

Sellers, who would oversee the Office of Aging were he to win the lieutenant governorship, proposed a tax credit for caregivers, increasing the Homestead Exemption to $65,000 from the current $50,000, and advocating for more Alzheimer’s research.

Hutto derided Graham for appearing on too many Sunday-morning talk shows and not enough South Carolina events.

“He’s talking about Benghazi. I want to talk about Barnwell. …He’s talking about Syria. I want to talk about Summerville and St. George,” Hutto said.

“I don’t want to be the next junior Secretary of State. I want to be the next Senator for South Carolina,” he said.

Also speaking at the event were two locals challenging incumbent state representatives and two Democrats running unopposed.

Rebekah Patrick, running against state Rep. Chris Murphy, promised to act with accountability and openness. She said the education system needs to continue improving, and pledged to be available for people to come talk to her.

Damian Daly, running against state Rep. Jenny Horne, lambasted Horne and the Republicans for being out of touch.

Republicans like to talk about the Bible, he said, but Democrats are the ones who actually live family values.

At the statue unveiling in Charleston this spring for Judge Waties Waring, whose dissent in the Briggs v. Elliot case laid the groundwork for the desegregation ruling of Brown v. Board of Education, the state’s top Republicans were absent, Daly said.

Haley, Graham, Horne and Sen. Tim Scott weren’t there, he said.

The U.S. Senate was in session that day.

“A lot of things are still the same in South Carolina,” Daly said.

He criticized South Carolina’s “right to work” status, saying “democracy shouldn’t end when you go to work every day,” and attacked the “graphic” nature of sex education in schools and Horne’s support for an update to the 26-year-old Comprehensive Health Education Act.

State Rep. Patsy Knight and Dorchester County Councilman Willie Davis also spoke briefly.

They both urged Democrats to not only vote, but to help their elderly neighbors get to the polls early and to make calls on behalf of candidates.

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