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Off to the races:  Ponder, then vote

If you think “November” when you think of elections, we implore you to think differently. With the majority of general election seats either uncontested or uncompetitive, those who do not participate in the primaries on June 12 are abdicating most of their power at the polls. With that responsibility firmly in mind, we offer our thoughts on the races that matter most to Mercury readers.

U.S. House

The Holy City and much of the Lowcountry beyond are part of this district, currently represented by Mark Sanford. While a retread of Sanford’s problems is unnecessary at this point, let it suffice to say that a politician who first went to Washington long ago as a budget hawk on a self-imposed limited term has started to stagnate in the swamp. But, while the 1st has been safely Republican in past years, there are a lot of blue votes therein, making the seat a prime target to be flipped this fall. We expect to see a well-funded and vigorously run campaign from the Democrats to claim the seat this fall. Whatever disagreements we may have with the current congressman, they would surely be small potatoes compared to our differences with a Dem representing us in D.C. Because Sanford’s practiced politics (and a voting record too out-of-step with the president for Dems to hammer him with), we see him as the best hope for keeping the seat red this fall.

The other U.S. House district pertinent to a sizable number of Merc readers is S.C. 6 — the longtime domain of James Clyburn, as it has been for a quarter century. As is the case with many entrenched seats with disadvantageous district lines, alternative candidates are weak at best. Our biggest endorsement for S.C. 6 is for those considering a run discover the courage of their convictions and plough ahead.

Governor and statewide

Though sparse competition seems the rule, the fight for the Governor’s Mansion seems to be the great exception. Five candidates are running for the Republican nomination, giving us much to ponder and chew.

The incumbent has managed not to run the ship of state aground, but he has failed to rally many citizens (or legislators) to his cause — whatever that may be. McMaster is a professional politico, and although he may be somewhat competent, the structural limitations of the office require someone who can drive the agenda through will and personal dynamism. We also think he was rather late to the game in determining the Quinn machine was a longtime swamp of ethical quicksand.

Conversely, Catherine Templeton has certainly put her no-holds-barred leadership style on display throughout the campaign process. As much as we are confident Mrs. Templeton could lead vigorously, ethically and intelligently, her campaign has fixated on tweeting its way into the headlines, rather than respectfully and reasonably working to persuade her fellow citizens. If the Catherine Templeton we’ve long favorably known emerged as a candidate, we would have few reservations about her. Our concern is not with talent, but with her ability to work with the General Assembly where long grudges are held.

Thus, we endorse John Warren. The candidate from the Upstate has demonstrated leadership on the battlefield and in the boardroom: We may reasonably hope that leadership carries over in Columbia, where it is so deeply needed. Moreover, Mr. Warren brings a bonus to voters in that his elegant wife once worked for the George W. Bush White House and has clear notions about matters of protocol. Furthermore, he demonstrated great business and political wisdom in choosing Pat McKinney as his running mate. In a race where the other outsider candidate has been so prominently controversial on the statewide stage, we hope the Marine can enter the Governor’s Mansion “unwounded” by needless contention and work to lead all Sandlappers from day one.

No candidate stirs the soul in the race for attorney general, which usually leads us to recommend a vote against the incumbent. Although Alan Wilson’s chumminess with the Quinns gives us pause, we note his proven willingness to fight for issues that matter to South Carolinians with vigor — and some equally stinky political connections among the other contenders.

A similar situation exists in the race for secretary of state. Incumbent Mark Hammond’s greatest legacy may be his prolonged failure to stamp new laws with the state seal — rendering them invalid under the state constitution and opening up a vast and unnecessary field of work for Palmetto State attorneys. Such performance shouldn’t be rewarded by the voters, yet there are few figures in the field without issues of their own: of them, Joshua Putnam, a reliably conservative member of the General Assembly from the Upstate, gets our nod.

Incumbency is not, of course, a problem in-and-of itself. When a political figure turns in years of hard work in a largely apolitical administrative field, there’s little reason not to rely on known quantities. Two such figures who get our firm endorsement are Curtis Loftis for treasurer and Hugh Weathers for agricultural commissioner.

Before we look to state district and local races, lets mention one figure who, though a longtime incumbent in an administrative post, deserves a repudiation from the voters: Comptroller Richard Eckstrom. Perhaps its the job’s low profile that’s kept Eckstrom’s string of minor scandals from properly infuriating voters: All we know is you’d do better writing in your personal favorite CPA than pressing the button for Eckstrom.

State House of Representatives

The District 110 Republican primary boils down to a race between incumbent Rep. William Cogswell, Jr. and Russell Guerard. These two leading contenders are gentlemen with whom our team has maintained cordial relations for decades and we hold high respect for both. Thus, we suggest intelligent voters examine both worthy candidates, ponder their own desires for this district and cast their votes accordingly.

Most state house races across the Mercury distribution area are uncontested, but we must mention two candidates in active competition; we suggest voters in District 112 select Mike Sotille and voters in District 116 pick Carroll O’Neal. District 116, which stretches from western John’s Island across to Meggett, Ravenel and on towards the eastern side of Walterboro, is a long-held Democratic seat, but is experiencing demographic change and could be flipped this fall with a strong conservative candidate.

Charleston County offices

Finally, for what in many ways are the most important races — the county-level officials whose action (or inaction) impacts our lives everyday. We happily endorse Tom Hartnett for registrar of deeds: a career-long professional user of the office, he is intimately familiar with the ways it might be improved; moreover, he someone who understands the word integrity. In Council District Two, we support the strong and sensible Dickie Schweers, with his well-demonstrated understanding of zoning’s effect on quality of life.

In District Nine, we endorse Joe Qualey, another stalwart who has championed wise policies on everything from saving Riverland Terrace’s grand trees to being the lone vote against the Naval Hospital boondoggle. In District Eight, we offer our strong endorsement of Jackie Todd, who presents citizens of western Charleston County their best chance to unseat execrable incumbent Anna Johnson this fall. Much of Charleston’s current growth is happening in this district, and the vital and currently-unmet need for effective leadership there will impact quality of life throughout the Lowcountry.

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