The Republican primary for SC Lieutenant Governor will decide who goes up against Democrat Ashley Cooper, Charleston lawyer and former aide to Sen. Fritz Hollings. Our endorsement began as a process of elimination….
Larry Richter, a lawyer that has served in multiple areas of state and local government, came in last place in our evaluation of the Lt. Governor candidates. We searched the internet far and wide in a quest to find positive things about Mr. Richter, but we kept running into stories (such as this one or this one, among many) that portrayed him or his associates as involved in the worst aspects of South Carolina politics–and not just in the few months since he joined the Lt. Governor race. In a recent article, The State newspaper struggled to find a genteel way to describe his long political tenure, finally settling on “a sometimes controversial and always colorful career.”
Richter seems to be hoping for the senior vote to pull him across the finish line, basing much of his campaign on his Senior Bill of Rights posted on his website. Some of his “bill” does seem worth considering, such as exempting seniors from property tax, but taken as a whole, this “bill” comes across as a laundry list of giveaways and plain old pandering.
We do not want politics as usual. We reject the brutal, trashy, unethical politics that has been on display in South Carolina in this election season. Therefore, we cannot support an unrepentant member of the SC Good Old Boys Club for the Status Quo such as Larry Richter. But what moved him to the bottom of our barrel of Lt. Governor candidates was the utter disrespect he paid to his fellow candidate Bill Connor in a WMBF dual interview.
Richter had the audacity to imply Connor had lied about doing combat duty in Afghanistan while Connor sat across the table from him. Apparently “anonymous” internet postings have been making this bogus claim for a while–and Connor has rebutted them by posting service documents and soldier videos online to prove his combat service. When reminded of this and told to quit repeating the smear, Richter then showed his complete lack of integrity by saying: “I’ll keep bringing it up any time I please.” Watch the video and you will see the smarm oozing from his pores. He seems quite satisfied with himself and his “nyeah-nyeah-ny-nyeah-yeah” schoolyard-level debating skills. We, on the other hand, are repulsed by them.
[Ed. Note: Plus, one associate has vowed to never vote for Ritcher because he has been bombarded with non-stop robo calls from Ritcher’s 888-888-8888 number that’s frequently so overwhelmed with the number of calls it’s making that there’s no robot left to play the message once the phone is answered. Just dead air, then click. Annoying the first few times, infuriating when the calls won’t stop.]
Ken Ard, a businessman and two-term Florence County councilman, ranks third in our opinion. It’s hard to discern his opinions directly from his website because he has virtually no printed information anywhere. Instead, he says in his site’s opening video (which, like all videos on his site, cannot be stopped or paused) that he wants to tell you everything personally, himself. So to get his information, you have to sit through a myriad of videos of him, his kids, his dog–okay, maybe not his dog, but we can’t be sure because we bailed on his whole site early into the insufferableness of it and headed to the state’s newspapers to see what he had told them his positions were.
[Part of our ranking Ard in third is indeed due to his website. If he truly thinks this is the best way to communicate everything to the citizenry, heaven help us if he does get elected and we have to spend the rest of our lives sitting through his videos telling us what our government is doing. We do like innovative politicians willing to consider out-of-the-box ideas. However, Ard has confused new with best and different with informative.]
In various written news stories, Ard says he is against raising taxes. The Greenville News says he signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge not to raise them. Then, the Charleston Post & Courier says he wants to “remove sales tax exemptions and caps, such as the $300 cap on vehicles, boats and planes.” But wait. Isn’t that raising taxes? The article goes on:
He said he thinks taxes should be based more on consumption but stopped short of supporting a so-called “fair tax,” which would replace income and payroll-based taxes with a sales tax.
They don’t elaborate on how he would do a non-fair-tax consumption tax. A VAT tax in addition to income and property taxes perhaps? It doesn’t look like he’s got a video about it anywhere. We are left to wonder–and worry. Exactly what type of new taxes does he prefer? What will he do with the existing taxes?
Ard’s contradictions on opposing taxes can easily be found. For instance, back when the race was just between Ard and Bill Connor, they had a debate in which Ard vigorously defended his support of increasing his county sales tax by one cent to improve five roads. He argued it was to get matching funds from the state, but we argue that this is just one way government keeps ballooning: We keep falling for “free” giveaways that we have to pay for. Forget the one-cent tax hike; that matching money doesn’t grow on trees either. It comes out of someone’s pocket–and rarely by voluntary contribution. Spending never gets cut to pay for anything, and the supposed temporary new taxes and new programs and new associated expenses quietly become permanent as the politicians distract our attention with more sparkly “giveaways.”
Ultimately, Ard seems like a man with a lovely family. He knows many of the key Tea Party talking points. But his past behavior doesn’t line up with his current messaging; his talk doesn’t match his walk. If you say you outright oppose something, don’t later say “except in this case…and in this one instance…and well, it shouldn’t apply here either.”
Eleanor Kitzman, founder of Driver’s Choice Insurance and former director of the state Department of Insurance, is the only woman in the Lt. Governor race–but don’t make that your reason to vote for her. In her mutually respectful one-on-one debate with Ken Ard on WMBF, the moderator brought up her gender as a possible reason for voting for her, but she pushed that idea off, saying that she doesn’t think gender is important. She says she’s never gotten anything because she is a woman, or not gotten something because of it either. What an excellent post-feminism attitude from a modern woman that believes she already has a level playing field with any man and just gets on with the job at hand.
Before she became Director of Insurance in 2005, Kitzman had already made a significant contribution to the state in helping to revamp the auto insurance regulations to increase competition and decrease rates. With all her insurance knowledge, we do wish she would have addressed the issues surrounding ObamaCare on her website, telling us how she would use the Lt. Gov’s bully pulpit to stop the speeding train heading our way. She’s mute on the entire subject, however, other than saying, in the Office on Aging (which is the bailiwick of the Lt. Governor), she could better educate seniors on their options with Medicare reductions. Her decision to avoid such a hot topic in voters’ minds makes us wonder whether she’s opposed to ObamaCare at all.
It’s also disappointing that during her tenure as insurance chief, there were no improvements made in expanding health insurance competition in South Carolina, no push to open up options for individuals and self-employed persons to find affordable coverage. What a shame that no journalist saw fit to ask an insurance expert about these insurance issues.
Overall Kitzman tends to strike a fairly conservative tone on limiting government, advocating that government get out of the way and let businesses start and thrive. In her argument against taxes, she tantalizes us by bringing up the fact that she is from Texas, a state with no personal income tax, but then (unfortunately) she attempts to quell any fear someone might have of not paying the government anything by saying she wouldn’t push for total elimination of income tax. Instead she wants “a comprehensive, holistic approach to overall tax reform.” Whatever that is, it’s a disappointing alternative to the “wholesale, immediate elimination” she’s “not advocating.” But when it comes to reducing/abolishing taxes, we’ll take what we can get–and she believes persons and businesses are taxed too much.
Kitzman has shown herself to be quite capable of handling the Lt. Governor’s job. She presents herself admirably in interviews, such as this one with the Myrtle Beach Sun News editorial board. She can be proud of a professional, dignified, respectful campaign. We do wish we could have seen her run for a state house or senate position, as those two bodies are sorely in need of the fresh thinking and leadership that she could provide. (We can have the greatest talent in the world in the executive branch, but if our legislature remains rotten to the core, South Carolina will continue to flounder and flail.) As it is, we might have endorsed Kitzman, if it weren’t for…
Bill Connor, a lawyer, a Bronze Star recipient from his service in Afghanistan, an Army reservist, and a newcomer to politics. Yet he has already demonstrated his ability to stand up for himself and his beliefs, as shown in the aforementioned exchange with Ritcher. He’ll need this skill and his military discipline to accomplish things in Columbia.
In a candidate roundup, The State noted that Connor “thinks elected Republicans have not done a good enough job of managing the state” and that they “have not held to their core, conservative principles.” We agree, and we’re looking for politicians that recognize this fact.
Getting to the issues, an Associated Press story noted that Connor “is a vocal advocate of a so-called ‘fair tax,’ saying that’s a much better way to recruit businesses to the state than incentives.” His website elaborates by saying his call to end state income and corporate taxes will be a boon for business development in the state, because “private enterprise will go [to] the most financially advantageous locations.”
He also seeks to end taxation on military and law enforcement retirees and to continue to use the position of President of the Senate to rule all tax increases as out of order.
In many respects, Connor’s preaching the same things that other conservative Republicans are talking up. On energy, he wants to build nuclear reactors for electricity and to drill offshore for natural gas. On education, he’s for school choice and vouchers. And on down the list, check, check, check.
But what makes us enthusiastic for Bill Connor is his own enthusiasm for 10th Amendment initiatives and his frequent invocation of the Constitution. On his site, he says:
There has been a movement of late to pass resolutions that declare the sovereignty of our state under the 10th Amendment of the Constitution (which reserves rights to the states that have not been granted to the federal government.) This needs to deepen. When we see crazy legislation coming out of Washington that threatens freedom, we need to take a stand and say “not here.” This means state legislation that says no to “public option” health care plans, “cap-and-trade”, or any of the other myriad ways the federal government has intervened in areas reserved for states.
After viewing many of the (optional, not mandatory) short videos on his website, we have no doubt of his passion and commitment to once again basing government on the Constitution.
The clincher that moved us from head-reasoned to heart-felt endorsement is the Volunteer Spotlight that currently takes up significant space on Connor’s front page. How sweet and wholesome to give a hard-working low-level worker some public recognition. We don’t know Mabel Alice Sineath, the featured volunteer, and assume that not many other people do either. In other words, it seems that Mabel Alice isn’t being used as an endorsement of Connor so much as she’s receiving a thank you from Connor.
[Ed. note: If it turns out that Mabel Alice is actually a well-known hard-hitting political strategist, it won’t change our endorsement. It would just remind us that the heart isn’t the best basis for political decisions.]
For all these head-based reasons, the Charleston Reader endorses Bill Connor in the Republican primary for South Carolina Lieutenant Governor.