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Palmetto Primary Politics Perplexes Party Principals

By Greg L | 14 June 2010 | National Politics, Virginia Politics | 18 Comments

Guest post by Sanford D. Horn

If the Democratic Party of South Carolina truly believes in the American system of fair and open elections, it will stop attempting to sabotage its own senatorial candidate.

Granted, this advice comes from a Republican eager to see Senator Jim DeMint reelected to the body he serves in so well, but, the Democrats ought to remember, the people have spoken. Don’t the Democrats claim to be the party of the people?

That an unknown candidate, Alvin Greene, came from virtually nowhere to defeat a four-term state legislator, Vic Rawl, who also served as a judge, is demonstrative of two things. One, that the voters have a distaste for entrenched elected officials and, more importantly, they did not conduct their due diligence in vetting the candidates prior to arriving at the polls on Tuesday, June 8.

The South Carolina Democratic Party, lead by its chairman Carol Fowler, in an effort to wipe the egg from its face, is attempting to blame the Republicans of shenanigans in shanghaiing the primary by crossing party lines and voting for Greene. South Carolina is one of a number of states where voters do not register by political party, and thus the primary is deemed open to all registered voters in the Palmetto State.

Greene, an unemployed 32-year-old political science graduate of the University of South Carolina, is currently facing felony obscenity charges relating to a claim he showed pornography to a USC student last year. Should Greene be convicted and imprisoned, he ought to lose his place on the general election ballot in November and perhaps replaced with Rawl, who finished behind Greene in the primary.

At the very least, the party leaders are attempting to convince Greene to withdraw from the race, who would have none of it, already challenging DeMint to a debate in September.

Whether or not there was a concerted GOP effort to corrupt the Democratic primary by placing a candidate with little to no chance of victory in the general election is not the issue. The issue is the legitimacy of open primaries. It’s sort of akin to allowing an American League team entry into the National League playoffs in baseball.

Democrat Party primaries should be for Democrats and Republican Party primaries should be for Republicans and the only way to ensure this is require voters to register as a member of one party or another in order to vote in a primary. The Commonwealth of Virginia is an open primary state, yet I have never participated in a Democrat Party primary.

Open primaries lend themselves to the kind of chicanery the South Carolina Democrats are accusing the Republicans of perpetrating. It is untoward and dirty pool, but having been involved in politics for 30 years, winning at all costs takes on new, more expensive meanings with the cost of campaigns rising to astronomical stratospheric realms. Make no mistake, that does not excuse the kind of behavior that increasingly keeps citizens from participating in choosing their elected officials. Voter turnout seems to wane while voter apathy seems to wax.

At least shake the stink off primaries by closing them and keeping them within the parties as is their intended purpose. Each party selects its nominees to run against the chosen candidates of the other party or parties. For those who prefer to remain independent, their opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate comes in the November general election.

Regardless of open or closed primaries, it is every voter’s responsibility to determine the fitness for office of each candidate prior to casting that all important ballot. Those votes are important at every level of government, and not just once every four years when the White House welcomes a new resident. After all, we don’t call the president to fix our potholes or lower our property taxes or create a charter school in our neighborhood.

Speaking of schools, do your civics homework and be responsible citizens. Research and vet the candidates. Let your voices be heard.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and political consultant living in Alexandria, VA.

The opinions expressed here are solely the views of the author, and not representative of the position of any organization, political party, doughnut shop, knitting guild, or waste recycling facility, but may be correctly attributed to the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. If anything in the above article has offended you, please click here to receive an immediate apology.

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  1. legal2 said on 14 Jun 2010 at 9:37 am:
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    NC Dem Congressman Etheridge assaults student on sidewalk. See video before it “disappears” from public domain.

  2. MPResident said on 14 Jun 2010 at 9:51 am:
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    Mr. Horn, I agree with your post less and except that if I am an independent I should have the opportunity to vote in ONE of the primaries to ensure my candidate make the November ballot.

  3. anon said on 14 Jun 2010 at 9:53 am:
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    From another site: “He can’t string a coherent sentence together. Can’t form a coherent thought, either. Doesn’t understand the issues. Has no idea what he’s doing. Didn’t have a real job. He was a virtual nobody! But enough about Obama.”

    And Axelrod can’t figure out how a candidate with the most votes won. Apparently there are demands for Greene’s birth certificate… What’s great about all of this is that the Democrats will have to watch how far they go in persecuting this. It might affect how well they are able to cheat in future elections.

  4. VA_Magoo said on 14 Jun 2010 at 10:29 am:
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    I agree that primaries should remain open to all voters simply because we are a Nation of multiple parties. We independents deserve a vote in the primaries as well as the registered Communist or any other party do.

    I havent seen any evidence of the “Republicans” of SC spreading the word to vote for Mr Greene, and since in this wonderful country of ours, you are “innocent until proven guilty”, show us some proof that something wrong has been done. My understanding is the man got 60% of the vote, if that is true, I wouldnt drop from the election either!

    How do we know that it wasnt the communist party members that voted for Mr Greene? I think they give the Republicans too much credit for being able to pull something off like this without any public television or newspaper ads…..

    You know who can get the word out to thousands without using the newspapers or television? The labor Unions can! Hmmmmmmm.

    (and if Mr Greene wasnt qualified to run, then how did he get on the ballot?)

  5. Big Dog said on 14 Jun 2010 at 11:05 am:
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    And if Democrats had pulled something like this, you all
    would be squealing like stuck pigs.

  6. James Young said on 14 Jun 2010 at 11:12 am:
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    Another reason why it’s appropriate to call them the “Democrat Party,” and not the “Democratic Party.” There’s nothing democratic about today’s Democrat Party.

  7. Nat said on 14 Jun 2010 at 11:19 am:
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    First of all, Jim DeMint is going to win re-election in a walk no matter what. We are talking about South Carolina for crying out loud. The bulk of the country may think DeMint is a bit wacky, but he fits South Carolina perfectly. And While Greene spent nothing on his campaign, his opponent only raised 100K for his. A former office holder who is not well known statewide with only 100K in resources to spend in a statewide primary that garnered zero interest isn’t much better positioned than a candidate like Greene who raised no money and did no campaigning at all.

    There were interesting and hotly contested races on the Republican primary ballot. So the idea that Republican voters would have passed on those races to do mischief in a meaningless Democratic primary is ludicrous. What does appear to warrant a closer look is the vote totals reported in several counties that is at variance with the number of voters who actually showed up at the polls by quite a bit. And I am talking on the Republican side here.

    It is not without reason that in areas dominated by one party or the other there is great suspicion of the use of electronic voting machines. They have been proven to be easy to hack and poorly funded localities don’t have the resources needed in many cases to ensure the integrity of elections. The vendors who sell these machines have no interest in secure elections. There only interest is in selling there particular machine. This is something that should concern us all.

    What you need to be looking at is the Republican side of the ballot in the recent South Carolina primary and whether or not the votes were counted honestly. There is a story here. But I don’t think it is the one everybody is looking at.

    As for closed primaries, most leaders in both parties in most states (even those with party registration) see the wisdom of leaving them open to the largest number of voters. North Carolina, for instance, allows for registering by party or as “unaffiliated”. A voter who registers as a member of a political party may only vote in that party’s primary. But an unaffiliated voter may choose to vote in the primary of whichever party he chooses provided that party allows it. Currently, both the Democratic and Republican parties in North Carolina allow it. The Republicans entertained a proposal to close their primaries to only registered Republicans just last year. They wisely voted that proposal down.

    The greatest favor the Republicans could have done for the Democrats would have been to close their primary. In a state like North Carolina where both parties play pretty effectively, a steady stream of right wing ideologue Republican candidates would have gone down in flames against moderate Democratic candidates that had been chosen in an open Democratic primary by both Democratic and independent voters.

  8. Tillie said on 14 Jun 2010 at 4:42 pm:
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    Seems that it would be possible to trace the money, over 10,000 dollars, Greene paid as filing fee. Hard to believe that he would have had that much of his own money available.

  9. You think? said on 14 Jun 2010 at 6:47 pm:
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    This is kind of funny after witnessing the 10th District Convention (and having researched and identified many of the names in attendance at it as Democrats),, but gets even better with the discovery that Democrats entered primary precincts in Fairfax to elect a reublican candidate just a week ago.

  10. Greg L said on 14 Jun 2010 at 7:00 pm:
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    Dean, which Democrats were there? It’d be nice to have a “watchlist” to use at subsequent local unit conventions.

  11. Dan said on 14 Jun 2010 at 7:37 pm:
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    Tillie, when Greene faced the obscenity charge he claimed he was indigent and was assigned a court appointed attorney. Now he claims the $10,400 filing fee came from his own funds that he had saved over a period of two years. But he refuses to show bank records to prove the funds came from his own account. He was either lying when he told the court he couldn’t afford an attorney or he is lying now about the filing fee.

    Greene has also filed no disclosure forms with the FEC. If the $10,400 was donated to him he is required to report that. I don’t know what the whole story is any more than anyone else, but there is no doubt this guy is a total train wreck.

  12. Lloyd the Idiot said on 14 Jun 2010 at 9:16 pm:
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    @MPResident’ss comment “Mr. Horn, I agree with your post less and except that if I am an independent I should have the opportunity to vote in ONE of the primaries to ensure my candidate make the November ballot.”

    No, you shouldn’t. It’s not YOUR candidate if you don’t belong to the party nominating the candidate. Get a clue.

    Closed primaries here and in SC.

    Now we know why.

  13. Nat said on 15 Jun 2010 at 5:52 am:
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    There is nothing that would make the Democrats happier than to have the Republicans close their primaries. This would result in more Democrats winning general elections.

    Of course, it would thrill some Republicans to nominate more candidates from the far right fringe of the political spectrum. But that serves little purpose when they lose the general election to a more moderate opponent who is more in tune with the majority of the voters.

    You’ll get a few of your favorites elected from time to time. But they will be in the minority and so won’t be able to have much lasting effect on policy. Most of them will go down to glorious defeat while remaining pure to their far out ideology.

    Doesn’t seem terribly productive. But knock yourselves out.

  14. Big Dog said on 15 Jun 2010 at 9:57 am:
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    The top theory today is the one suggested by Jon Stewart,
    this morning’s WaPo “Scrutinizing an election surprise” (C 10),
    and others. It is that Greene won because his name appeared
    first on the ballot, above Rawl.

  15. Big Dog said on 15 Jun 2010 at 4:29 pm:
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    Meg Whitman spent 81 million of her own money to get the
    Republican nomination for Gov. of Calif.

    Alvin Greene spent a little over 10K of somebody’s money
    to obtain the Democratic US Senate nomination in SC.

    Message: If you are person of modest means (and a little
    whacky) , SC is the place to seek political office.

  16. gfstiel said on 15 Jun 2010 at 8:42 pm:
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    Message: If you are person of modest means (and a little
    whacky) , SC is the place to seek political office.

    Or; If you have more money than brains California is the place to be.

  17. Jack said on 16 Jun 2010 at 6:00 am:
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    Nat, all three VA GOP candidates for statewide office were chosen by closed convention. Result: three landslides.

  18. Nat said on 16 Jun 2010 at 11:08 am:
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    Jack, there are any number of reasons why those three Republicans won in 2009. That hardly makes the case for a closed nomination process.

    Does the fact that Gilmore was nominated by closed convention in 2008 and was destroyed in the general election make the case for open primaries? Of course not.

    There are arguments for and against. But, more often than not, a nominating process that includes the greatest number of people (and people who more closely reflect the general electorate) yields candidates who are more successful in the general election.

    I understand that their are those whose primary interest is to limit participation, as much as possible, to those who share their narrow ideological viewpoint. For them, succeeding at putting one of their own into office is the only important goal. Even if they drop nine other winnable elections in the process.

    For those more interested in building a majority party composed of people with whom they agree on 70-80% of the issues, an open nominating process is the way to go.

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