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South Carolina politics has not been covered much thanks to wall to wall reporting of the presidential election and other 2012 races, but there have been some very interesting things happening down in "the Moon Tree state," as I call it, over the past two years.

Of course we all know Nikki Haley, Sarah Palin's hand-picked governor of South Carolina, who has traveled the country campaigning for Mitt Romney and other tea party Republicans.  She's been billed as a "rising star" in the GOP and she was mentioned as a possible VP pick for Romney this year.  Why - is it because she's dramatically improved the economy or quality of life in South Carolina?  No, it's because she's a female and she's not white.

But her status as a tea party darling may stop on the other side of South Carolina's borders.  Her tea party supporters were upset when she endorsed Mitt Romney before the South Carolina primary (which he lost by a huge margin, if everyone remembers; he later went on to become the nominee and lose the national election).  She has also hilariously pissed off the Republican leaders of the South Carolina General Assembly:

This recent article I found in a local South Carolina media outlet sums up the situation nicely:

Politics is a game of addition, normally. Politicians work to keep the support of their base and, at the same time, win new supporters.

Not so with S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, critics say. In the two years since her election, the first-term Republican has turned that adage on its ear, playing a game of subtraction.

Critics say Haley has adopted an insular management style, surrounding herself with a small group of 20-something former campaign staffers, led until recently by a young chief of staff, with limited state government experience. She also employs an “us vs. them” mentality against her perceived foes.

The result?

Read more here:

The whole article is worth a read.  The most important point though, in my opinion, is her alleged "us vs. them" mentality.  This is the same mentality Sarah Palin and the most conservative forces in the Republican party have about politics.  Nikki Haley has chosen not to be the governor of all South Carolinians, but to use the governorship to make a name for herself and be as conservative as possible.  In doing so she has made herself an enemy of all SC Democrats and many SC Republicans.

In addition to the ethics problems and political problems Haley has faced over her term, a new problem has developed over the past few weeks, involving the breach in cyber security at one of South Carolina's government agencies.  This is not Nikki Haley's fault directly, but it can indirectly be blamed on the inefficiencies of Republican policies in South Carolina over the past decade.

In this year's legislative elections, Mitt Romney's coattails brought GOP legislators into supermajorities in neighboring Georgia and North Carolina; but South Carolina Republicans did not have the same success.  South Carolina Republicans gained one seat in the state senate, but only because long time Democratic Sen. Dick Elliot retired, making his seat in heavily Republican Horry County an automatic gain.  There were a couple of key races in South Carolina that showed the Republicans' weakness.


One key race was in South Carolina's 35th Senate District, which you see above.  Before redistricting, the 35th was a heavily Democratic district based in Sumter.  Republicans redrew it with an arm into the heavily Republican Columbia suburbs, which actually makes this seat Republican leaning (John McCain and Mitt Romney got about 52% here).  Republican legislators hoped to gain a seat here, as the popular Democratic senator from the 35th district was retiring and it was an open seat.  Nikki Haley even made a stop in Sumter to campaign for Republican Tony Barwick.  However, Barwick went on to lose the open 35th district by a margin of ten points to Democrat Thomas McElveen.

Another key swing race was in the 78th House District, where an incumbent Republican was defeated.  The 78th district is a 50/50 swing district in Columbia.  While 50% Obama certainly is a Democratic district in the low country - it isn't in Columbia.  Democrat Beth Bernstein based her campaign on opposition to Nikki Haley and won this swing district by twelve points.

Then we have the 27th Senate district:


This district was not competitive; it was won by Democrat Vincent Sheheen, who was unopposed for the second consecutive election.  At 55% McCain/Romney, it is the most Republican district in the state to be held by a Democrat and a mirror image of the state itself.  Sheheen was a candidate for governor in 2010 and will likely be again in 2014.  He is one of Haley's loudest critics in the state, and the fact that no one can challenge him, even in a district this conservative, must speak to his political strength.

The state legislature is so gerrymandered, it's hard to tell which party came out ahead.  The vast majority of incumbents ran unopposed in safe districts, and the 35th Senate District and 78th House District were literally the only competitive races in the state, both of which Democrats won.  Every incumbent Democrat that stood for re-election was re-elected.

I don't know how the 2014 elections in South Carolina will turn out, but I think South Carolinians are finally starting to realize how destructive Republican policies have been.
Republican governor Mark Sanford cut government to the bone.  And if you can believe it, even after Mark Sanford was finished, Nikki Haley found even more government to cut.  She cut teacher pay, the very small SC arts program, medicaid, and so much more.  She even cut domestic violence centers, which was a move so outrageous that even the Republican legislature overrode the cuts by a vote of 111-0.  Governor Haley continues the centuries old South Carolina tradition of pretending federal laws don't exist by refusing to consider setting up a state run insurance exchange or federal-state partnership to implement Obamacare, just as her predecessor, Mark Sanford, refused to take billions of dollars offered to South Carolina to build up it's crumbling infrastructure by the stimulus program in 2009.  Nikki Haley brags about cutting government, cutting public workers and cutting taxes in South Carolina.  Yes, the low gas prices are nice when you're driving through SC but is that really something to brag about when you ALREADY have the lowest tax burden and government spending in the country in almost every area?  Why did the SC Department of Revenue get hacked?  Because Republicans wanted the cheapest government administrative costs they could possibly have.  As State Sen. Vincent Sheheen put it, "Nikki Haley is trying to turn South Carolina into a third world country."

I also find this article funny.  It says that since Romney has lost, Haley won't get a cabinet job and she'll actually have to try to make South Carolinians like her for the next two years.  It's speculative but it's probably true.  This woman wants a future in national politics.  I can only hope Democrats will deny that to her by defeating her in 2014.  Vincent Sheheen is considered the best chance South Carolina Democrats have had to retake the governorship in a long time - seeing as he lost very narrowly in 2010 even though Republicans had a great year nationwide and Jim DeMint won by 35 points down the ballot.  And he represents a Republican-leaning district, where he is very popular - that's the ideal candidate to win a state like SC.  It looks like Sheheen is considering a run, so if he does run, Democrats across the country need to support him because you know Nikki Haley will raise huge sums of money from teabaggers around the country.  I'm only an hour from SC and I love SC - I go there all the time - so this race is personal to me.

Republicans will control 10/11 governorships in former Confederate states next year and for the first time in history, all 11 state legislatures.  Scary thought.  We need to win some back.

I'll keep everyone posted.

Originally posted to psychicpanda on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:49 PM PST.

Also republished by Southern Action.


Do you approve of Nikki Haley?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Nimrata who™? (10+ / 0-)

    Jindal/Haley 2016, the Republican Token Team!

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 06:52:55 PM PST

  •  i approve of her for one reason. (13+ / 0-)

    the same reason that the Kennedys approved of George Wallace back in the 60s.

    having someone that offensive in a position of power makes our side much more popular.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:02:14 PM PST

  •  is it really surprising that Mark Sanford's (7+ / 0-)

    protege is causing as much trouble as he did?

    ...better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity, than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. -FDR, 1936

    by James Allen on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:25:17 PM PST

  •  Wow, didn't know Sheheen was still in a reddish SD (6+ / 0-)

    thought they drew him with someone in a bluer district or something.

    As for those races you listed in Richland County where Dems won despite strong GOP contests, it does help that Richland County shifted leftwards from 2008.

    Age 23. Voting in NJ-03. Lived most of life in NJ-01. Had Rush Holt represent me during my undergrad years and am now represented by Frank Pallone in my grad school.

    by KingofSpades on Sun Nov 25, 2012 at 07:36:05 PM PST

  •  She's pretty pathetic on the theft of tax data (13+ / 0-)
    Hackers possess Social Security and other data belonging to 5.7 million people – 3.8 million taxpayers and their 1.9 million dependents, Haley said. The number of businesses affected has risen slightly to nearly 700,000. All of the stolen tax data dating back to 1998 was unencrypted.
    Especially her statement that no one in government was to blame, and then writing a letter to the IRS urging the IRS and all states to encrypt tax data.

    Huh? The state of NC has decades old computer systems, stupid employees who were duped in mid-September and they didn't learn there was a problem for a whole month.

    And she thinks her role is to write to the IRS about data encryption?

    She is even more stupid than Palin.  

  •  House/Senate (8+ / 0-)

    Republicans picked up 2 seats overall in the state House from 76-48 to 78-46 (2 Democratic open seats in Beaufort and Horry counties moved by redistricting and open District 11 in Abbeville County (Agnew) while losing District 78- Brady. Sen. Nikki Setzler D-Lexington 26 holds the most Republican seat in the Senate, although it's close to District 23. I agree that Haley is vulnerable to Sheheen, I rate it a tossup as of now. State Treasurer Curtis Loftis is looking at a primary run against Haley and would have a shot, although Haley would be favored initially. Slight chance she doesn't run as well.

    •  That's interesting (4+ / 0-)

      Ballotpedia was not very helpful then, haha.

      But basically the Republican gains were due to redistricting.  No Dem incumbents were defeated, as most of the gains ran unopposed.

      Speaking of Abbeville, I forgot to mention there was another Dem Senator who survived there in a Republican leaning district.

      Nikki Setzler has the most Republican seat? That's surprising.  I saw his district in Lexington but I assumed it was heavily minority since it zig-zagged through Calhoun county.  I never would have thought a Dem could survive in a 55% district in Lexington County, which is a huge urban Republican stronghold, not a low country conservaDem area.  Setzler won re-election pretty easily, too.

      Re: tossup.  I agree.

      Re: Haley.  Yeah, a primary is possible.  But she would get so much out of state favor and the tea party will just brand it as "the establishment" trying to take down poor Nikki again.  I think she runs again, unless some big sex scandal comes out (which is possible).

      •  5 D Senators sit in McCain districts (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Reese Spartanburg (52%) Sheheen (55%) Nicholson Greenwood (53%) McElveen (52%) Setzler (57%). Other than Setzler's maybe and Sheheen's maybe, the other 3 are so marginal that a Democrat would be no worse than 50/50 when open. On the local level these seats still lean Democratic. The open Elliott seat in Horry was 62%, comfortable enough for Republicans to have an easy win. Other than Courson's seat in Richland (55%) Democrats really do not have any targets in the Senate. Glenn McConnell's open seat in Charleston (55%) was also open this year and was the other hotly contested Senate race, and Republican Thurmond won with 55%. 28 looks to be the Republican floor in the Senate, but maybe the ceiling as well for a while.

      •  Similar dynamic in the House (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Republicans are at their floor and close to their ceiling. District 78 in Richland- Brady was the most Democratic seat held by a Republican. A slightly more Republican seat, District 75 in Richland (55%) was open, and narrowly held by the Republican Finlay. Only about 8 or so remaining D seats are winnable by Republicans, and most are marginal. Almost all Republican seats with the execption of a few, are locked up for Republicans.

      •  Setzler (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Bacame the new Minority Leader in the Senate for next term. He was first elected in 1976- a time when the legislature was still overwhelmingly Democratic. He has always been a conservative democrat to be able to win in Lexington County- and his yard signs still have the slogan "caring conservative". His district was made about 5-6% more Democratic in redistricting in a trade off with Shane Massey of Aiken who had won a special election in a low 50's McCain seat. Massey got some of Setzler's Republican areas while Setzler got some of Massey's Dem areas. Republican Vaughters went after Setzler this year but he is too popular locally and runs as a conservative. When that seat is open it may fall, but Setzler should have it until he retires. A low 50's McCain seat is a tough get in South Carolina for the Republicans, Democrats still hold most courthouse and sheriff's offices in alot of these counties. I did not think District 35 was a tossup to begin with and expected a Democratic hold. 52% McCain leans Democrat in that area of the state in everything under President.

      •  ALL Republican gains in 2012 (0+ / 0-)

        along with keeping many of their hold-steady seats, can be traced directly to the redistricting process.

        -5.38 -4.72 T. Atlas shrugged. Jesus wept.

        by trevzb on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:18:35 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Some not all (0+ / 0-)

          House District 11 in Abbeville County wasn't changed in redistricting. Republicans took the open seat after the Democratic incumbent retired. Senate District 28 in Horry lost a small part of two rural counties in redistricting but it only slightly shifted it from 60 to 62% McCain. The seat would have fallen either way. The two other House gains were a result of redistricting. As I said about Senate District 35, it moved from about 48 to 52% McCain (51.6), the seat still leans Democratic below President, the race was always Lean Democratic in my estimation.

          •  Biggest reason (0+ / 0-)

            District 35 was in Democratic hands for so long was because it had outstanding representation in the person of Phil Leventis. People appreciated his approach, I think.

            The McElveen win was a bit of a stunner for me. I figured Barwick would win that in a cakewalk. Maybe if it HAD been a cakewalk, he'd have done better.

            -5.38 -4.72 T. Atlas shrugged. Jesus wept.

            by trevzb on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:29:54 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  She begins to sound inept at governing. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mslat27, Rolfyboy6, pademocrat, skibum59
  •  Yeah but gasoline is always cheaper in SC (0+ / 0-)

    So as I travel up and down the coast, I plan to fill up there. And gas is way more expensive once I cross NY border.

    No idea what any of this means but both have crappy roads.

    I love George Takei for being aware and honest and sharing. And "the best damn pilot in the universe."

    by PHScott on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 03:42:34 AM PST

  •  To put this in perspective (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The Republicans own this legislature--we're 30 seats down in the state house and 10 seats down in the Senate.  And yet, both Sanford and Haley have had, to say the least, acrimonious relationships with the legislature.  Not acrimonious enough to impeach Sanford, but still ...

    That YouTube video was staggering.  I can't recall the last time a REPUBLICAN front-bencher criticized a governor from his own party in this fashion.

    I've got another theory about Haley's approach to governing--the governor's race in 2010 was the first one where she's actually had to do some heavy lifting in her career as an elected official.  Before she ran for governor, she represented a state house district in Lexington County, an insanely Republican suburb north of Columbia.  Think the Atlanta, Nashville, DFW or Houston suburbs on a smaller scale.  She was unopposed twice, and got 83 percent of the vote in 2008.

    Romney-Ryan: America's Rollback Team

    by Christian Dem in NC on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 05:58:49 AM PST

  •  All of this chatter about SC Democrats (0+ / 0-)

    What are we really talking about here, the best of a bad lot? Other than possible districts where minorities are a majority, are these so called Democrats actually moderate Republicans in Democratic clothing?

    If you don't want to be kept in the dark and lathered with horse dung, stop acting like a mushroom.

    by nomorerepukes on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 06:15:56 AM PST

    •  Yes (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fearlessfred14, madhaus, MichaelNY

      But it's better than the teabagger alternative.

      -5.38 -4.72 T. Atlas shrugged. Jesus wept.

      by trevzb on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:21:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Exactly (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        madhaus, MichaelNY

        Talking about "moderate Republicans" in South Carolina is really besides the point, as they do not exist there, or in most parts of the South for that matter. When we're talking about the median district or a statewide office, we're talking about a choice between a conservadem and a Republican who is right-wing to the point of caricature (Haley being a good example of the latter). There are just too few progressives in SC to hold power by themselves.

        Male, 22, -4.75/-6.92, born and raised TN-05, now WI-02. "You're damn right we're making a difference!" - Senator-Elect Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin)

        by fearlessfred14 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:36:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, look what happened to a very conservative (0+ / 0-)

          Republican who simply sounded too moderate: Bob Inglis. He was defeated by Trey Gowdy in a landslide.

          Formerly Pan on Swing State Project

          by MichaelNY on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 11:47:12 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Southern Republicans (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          There are a few moderates.  Sens. Alexander (R-TN), Corker (R-TN), Cochran (R-MS), Wicker (R-MS), Shelby (R-AL), of course Graham (R-SC).  Govs. Haslam (R-TN) and incoming McCrory (R-NC) are fiscally moderate (although Haslam has approved his legislatures nutty social agenda).

          Of course, these people are still very conservative by our standards but they are all in the most fiscally moderate/liberal wing of the Republican party.  Tea party doesn't like any of them but they probably can't successfully primary anyone other than Graham.

      •  Is is, really? I don't think so. (0+ / 0-)

        If you don't want to be kept in the dark and lathered with horse dung, stop acting like a mushroom.

        by nomorerepukes on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 10:55:40 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Haley is HIGHLY vunerable (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Two SC State Senate races in swing districts went for Democratic candidates by double digits thanks to the Democrats in those races basing their campaigns primarily on opposition to Niki Haley.

    Haley has made an absolute mockery of the office of Governor or South Carolina.

    Committed to making sure that Mark Kirk and Ron Johnson are shown the door in 2016!

    by DownstateDemocrat on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 07:55:45 AM PST

    •  It's still South Carolina (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DownstateDemocrat, MichaelNY

      Remember that the state as a whole is normally Safe R, and the last Republican governor there also made a mockery of the office. So she's not in Corbett/LePage country by any means.

      Male, 22, -4.75/-6.92, born and raised TN-05, now WI-02. "You're damn right we're making a difference!" - Senator-Elect Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin)

      by fearlessfred14 on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 10:22:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I used to live in that 35th District (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and I'm an acquaintance of its new Senator Thomas McElveen. I had hoped to be able to vote for him, but the GOP brain trust in Columbia carved my precinct out of that district, despite its historic 80 percent Republican tendency (changing quickly with new neighbors, it seems). The new line, two blocks to the west of my house, runs down a residential thoroughfare in the middle of my city, Sumter, with the whiter half in District 35 and the blacker half in District 36. The city's main street is now served by a Senator from Manning, a much smaller city 20 miles away.

    Oddly, being too far east for District 35 didn't mean that I was far enough east to avoid being lumped in to Congressman Mick Mulvaney's absurd 5th District, and so we were taken out of Jim Clyburn's district (Clyburn lives in Sumter) and placed into Mulvaney's. Mulvaney is from the Rock Hill area, a two-hour drive NORTHWEST of where I live.

    I'm utterly disgusted. There were maybe four contested races on my ballot this election, including Obama's and State Senator-elect Kevin Johnson's. Johnson is a good man, but he, like the teabagger Mulvaney, represented an area with markedly different demographics, interests, industries and so on than the ones they now represent.

    The GOP's internecine civil war is playing out at the state level in South Carolina, and we're suffering for it. 2014 cannot get here quick enough, and that's assuming Nikki Haley, political succubus, is lucky enough to avoid prosecution until then.

    I've supported Republicans in this state before, people like Arthur Ravenel during his gubernatorial run, a staunch environmentalist and thoughtful voice of moderation. But Nikki Haley is just god-awful, crooked and just as likely to block you from her Facebook page as call you a fellow citizen. That space, as we all know, should be reserved for posting shallow pop lyrics from the 1980s as if they're personal revelations of great wisdom.

    -5.38 -4.72 T. Atlas shrugged. Jesus wept.

    by trevzb on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:02:18 AM PST

    •  Do you think (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Vince Sheheen can seal the deal this time?  The only thing I've gleaned from her tenure is she's: A) incompetent B) unintelligent and unready C) vetoes stuff just to be contrarian

      Age 23. Voting in NJ-03. Lived most of life in NJ-01. Had Rush Holt represent me during my undergrad years and am now represented by Frank Pallone in my grad school.

      by KingofSpades on Mon Nov 26, 2012 at 09:42:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        KingofSpades, MichaelNY

        ...he'll get a lot of Republican support, even more than he got last time.

        I'd vote for Curtis Loftis against Haley, for what it's worth. At least he's honest and appears to be doing the people's work.

        Atlas shrugged. Jesus wept.

        by trevzb on Tue Nov 27, 2012 at 11:56:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Vincent Sheheen (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          KingofSpades, MichaelNY

          From watching some of his speeches and debates, I would say he is a moderate Democrat, definitely not a DINO but not too liberal (for SC) either.  He's a clear contrast to Nikki Haley and Mark Sanford.  He's got good relationships with Republicans in the SC legislature, he's a good campaigner and he's very smart.  He's definitely more than "the best of a bad lot" as nomorerepukes put it.

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