South Carolina’s Two Party Monopoly At Work

Bob Walkeris the incumbent Republican representative to the South Carolina State Assembly from the 34th District in Spartanburg County. Walker lost the Republican primaryto Joey Millwood, by only 19 votes. a newcomer supported by the Governor Mark Sanford and the Spartanburg County GOP chair Rick Beltram.  Millwood is on the ballot against Democrat Mark Chambers tomorrow.
Spartanburg’s daily paper published an editorial endorsing Walker and requesting that voters write his name in on the ballot.  The papers justifications are reasonable: neither of the two candidates on the ballot seem ready and/or capable of serving as Representative.  I’ve quoted the editorial in full at the bottom of this post.

The unsought endorsement of a Walker has led to a collusion of the Spartanburg Republican and Democratic Parties which is intended to completely deprive Walker of a hearing and the opportunity to be elected. In a highly unusual move, the chairmen of the Spartanburg Democratic and Republican Parties held a joint press conference condeming the paper for encouraging votes for any candidate other than the two on the ballot.  With typically twisted logic, GOP chair Rick Beltram cast the paper’s endorsement as putting a burden on his party to suppress Walker’s vote:

Spartanburg County Republican Party Chairman Rick Beltramsaid Wednesday’s editorial endorsing Walker over both Millwood and Chambers put a burden on his team of volunteers to make sure the outgoing state representative does not engage in any kind of campaigning.

Beltram claims that if Walker says so much as a “thank-you” to someone encouraging him to run that the county party will file an injunction against the non-candidate.

The paper condemned the two parties in a subsequent editorial, putting the case for political openness very plainly:

Why do the parties want to limit the choices available to voters?

They are not the legitimate gatekeepers of the political process. They have no authority under the Constitution. A candidate does not have to earn the approval of one of the parties before he can be considered by voters.

If the county parties are threatened when voters are encouraged to consider options outside their narrow offerings, their only viable choice is to offer better candidates, not try to impose artificial limits on the political process. And they certainly have no right to stifle political speech they dislike.

The Spartanburg County Republican Party  subsequently did file an injunction in state circuit court to prohibit Walker from campaigning.  The county GOP charged that Walker was violating the state’s “sore loser” law, the same law that the Democratic Party used to keep Eugene Platt from running as a Green in the 115th Assembly district outside Charleston

Judge Roger Couch sided with the GOP, ruling:

‘Defendant, Robert E. ‘Bob’ Walker is hereby ordered, to refrain from offering or campaigning in the ensuing (2008) general election for election to this office (House District 38) or any other office for which a nominee has been elected in the party primary election.

Campaigning for Walker quitely continues, without his involvement.  It doesn’t seem that the courts or the County GOP can overcome the reservations of the paper and a large number of citizens: that the Democrat is unready and the Republican is a ideologue in the pocket of a school voucher’s PAC.

An organization called “Citizens For A Better Spartanburg” has been supporting Walker through phone calls and campaign literature.  BothWalker and the group say they are not in contact with each other.

The Herald Journal has been quite good about opposing the “sore loser” law, even writing an editorial in support of Platt back in the spring.   Hopefully the exposure of the manipulation of voter choice by the two parties will lead to the law’s repeal.

In the meantime, since I live in the 34th Assembly District, I’ll be able to tell just how the electoral commission is equiped to handle write in votes.  Given the extremely poor reputation of the iVotronic machines, and the laxidazical attitude of the SC Election Commission, I’m prepared to witness some frustration, and possibly a botched election.


  •  Bob Walker’s profile on project votesmart is here.
  • The Herald Journal October 15, 2008 editorial endorsing Walker.

Write in Bob Walker
Spartanburg Herald Journal Editorial
Published: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 3:15 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at 11:21 a.m.
Citizens in state House District 38 don’t have a good choice for effective representation on the ballot this year. That’s why they should write in the name of Bob Walker.

Order a Reprint Walker, the district’s incumbent representative, lost the Republican nomination to political newcomer Joey Millwoodby a margin of 19 votes in a primary with just over 3,000 votes cast.

The state’s “sore loser” law prohibits Walker from running against Millwood, and he has made no move to do so, but the law doesn’t prohibit voters from rethinking the decision made by a small turnout in the GOP primary.

Millwood is opposed on the ballot by Democratic nominee Mark Chambers. Neither candidate is likely to represent the district well in Columbia.

Millwood, sports editor of the Tryon Daily Bulletin, is a reflexive, ideological conservative. He backs the proper position on some issues, but his understanding of those issues is superficial. For instance, he says that one of his top priorities is to cut state spending, but he cannot say what he would cut beyond the money that goes to the General Assembly’s competitive grants program, a tiny portion of the state budget.

More troublesome is Millwood’s willingness to support using public funds to pay for private school tuition through tax credits. Supporters of such programs have poured large amounts of money into Millwood’s campaign.

Millwood has been funded by these groups to such a degree that voters have to wonder whether he can break away from what he calls his “movement” if the best interests of his district dictate such a break.

Mark Chambers, who provides maintenance for restaurants, is a well-intentioned and community-spirited man but is not up to the job of representing northern Spartanburg County in the Statehouse.

An effective lawmaker has to be able to take a serious, in-depth look at the issues before him and let the practical concerns of his district determine his vote. He also has to be able to work with other lawmakers to affect important legislation.

We are not confident that either Millwood or Chambers can provide that level of representation. We know that Walker can. He has a record of effective work in Columbia.

It is unusual to recommend that voters look outside the ballot to fill an office, but it is necessary in this election. House District 38 voters should write in the name of Bob Walker.

This story appeared in print on page A12


Posted on November 3, 2008, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Doesn’t South Carolina have Fusion Voting?
    We had it in North Carolina in the late 1800’s, but it was so effective that the Democratic Party (then a white supremacist/big business party) enacted a coup and did away with Fusion.

    With Fusion, the Populist and the Republican Parties were the dominant groups, and our state had approx 1,000 black elected officials.

    After the coup, the right to vote was taken away from the African American.

    Fusion Voting is also used in NY. It does not require a complicated vote counting scheme, and can be used with hand counted paper ballots or your existing voting systems.

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