After a couple of days of recovering from a 15-hour stint as head of a polling place and processing the latest primary results, here’s what I make of the outcomes.
It’s all about hate, brothers and sisters. Hating immigrants, especially brown-hued immigrants from Mexico. That’s the long and the short of the David Brat “upset” win over soon to be replaced Republican House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, who took about an eleven-point whuppin’ in his Virginia district from some guy you’ve never heard of, a Southern college professor of economics. Brat plies his BB&T-supported propaganda at Randolph-Macon College, a private institution in Ashland, Virginia, ironically, the same scholastic home as his November 4th Democratic opponent, Jack Trammell, a sociology professor.
Before I move on to something truly important, let me tell you about Cantor’s seven-term record. He opposed stem cell research and a starvation $7.25 minimum wage while slobbering all over a bank bailout. Cantor has zero interest in the black community and was the major contributor to the length and pain of last year’s partial government shutdown. If Palestinians disappeared from the face of the earth, Cantor would be one happy fellow. In short, the man’s a hater and heretofore, a Tea Party adherent if ever there was one.
So, along comes an Ayn Rand academic who hates by roughly eleven percentage points more and the Tea Party giggles like a smitten school girl and gives him a great big primary-day hug. Same Tea Party song, second despicable verse. So for the eight percent of Hispanics in Virginia; the TEA PARTY DOESN’T WANT YOU IN THEIR STATE!!! And Cantor was no longer wanted either, having some nasty political confrontations with former Tea Party supporters at various stops.
In addition to Virginia, there was June 10th primary action in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota and my home state of South Carolina. There was also an Attorney General runoff in Arkansas. It was won by a 38-year-old former attorney for Mike Huckabee. Her name is Leslie Rutledge. She beat fellow Republican, David Sterling. She squares off against Democrat, Nate Steel and a Libertarian in November. She’s against an “overreaching federal government.” Yawn!
I think the only other primary race that commanded any attention was the attempt by South Carolina Senator, Lindsey Graham to hang on to his two-term Washington seat. A half-dozen mostly extreme right-wing pretenders to the seat lined up against Graham, who was considered to be too bipartisan for actually talking with Democrats on about two percent of the issues. That’s two percent too many for arguably the most right-wing state in the nation.
For all their Tea Party puffery, the opposition could do no better with any of their candidates than a 15% showing by State Senator Lee Bright who said he was moved to run when his failed trucking business (inherited from pop) left personal and company debts totaling, at minimum, $1.4 million. After the bank foreclosed on his venture, Bright was hired as Director of Business Development for a political consulting firm. I kid you not.
Graham avoided a runoff by garnering 56% of the total vote. The remaining five candidates were all in single digits. In a special election for the seat vacated by Jim DeMint and subsequently occupied by the appointed Tim Scott, incumbent Scott destroyed the opposition with 90% of the vote. His November Democratic opponent was spun by a web of political intrigue unparalleled in any other primary to date.
For a period of months, there was but one potential Democratic opponent, Jay Stamper, who declared for the run against Graham. Nobody else did. Candidate Stamper was a highly questionable character who invaded South Carolina from Washington State in early 2013 after having launched an illegal Internet scheme that caught the attention of Secretaries of State and law enforcement in multiple jurisdictions. He subsequently copped a guilty plea to three felonies, paid back hundreds of his victims and was placed on probation for five years. The ideal candidate.
Newly-minted Democratic State Party Chairman, Jaime Harrison, took an immediate dislike to the situation and the candidate. The chairman had heard assorted nasty rumors of Stamper being a plant. Harrison emailed county chairs to declare Stamper persona-non-grata and to forbid him to speak at any of their meetings. I believe the only chair ignoring that demand was my local chairman. He felt even a Stamper had the right to speak.
I initially tried to give Stamper the benefit of the doubt and emailed back and forth with him numerous times. In the meantime, a popular and very ethical and experienced state senator, Brad Hutto, entered the race against Graham. Whatever chance Stamper may have had to become the Democratic candidate for the general election was officially eliminated. He’d never beat Hutto in the primary. The more I back grounded Stamper, the more I was convinced that he had too much of the late Lee Atwater in him. I wrote him a long, heartfelt email April 28, begging him to drop out of the race. Here are some of the lines I included in that communication:
“There is no scenario that has you beating Hutto. NONE!!! You’ve got a lot of the Lee Atwater in you, and at this point of your life, that’s a shame as Atwater’s legacy is tarnished to the point of a shoulder shrug. You lose roughly 70-30 over the well-known and highly respected Hutto. Jay, you’re running some kind of political scam in my opinion and you don’t need to. So, these are my thoughts and suggestions. Drop out of the race. Tell the press the same thing that everybody tells the press when they leave; that for the sake of your family, you’re leaving the field to Hutto who you believe to be a good and honorable man who will do a great job for his constituents.
If you want to be known as a “playa” stay in and lose the respect of all decent people. Take the next two years to decide whether you’re going to be a political hustler (and embarrassment) or whether you’re going to declare as a Republican or Democrat and run again. This time seriously, and perhaps at a lower level such as State Representative. I know this tome p*sses you off and you’ve already set a path that you and a couple of buddies you trust, have set, but it’s the wrong path.
I had to get this off my chest because I am, indeed, one of those “bleeding heart” liberals who hates to see someone with your potential blow it to smithereens.” End of email. Some content excluded. All statements are in order of writing. Stamper stayed in. Shortly before the primary, I took part in a vote of the Executive Committee to endorse Hutto; a party first.
Final vote tally: Hutto,77%; Stamper, 23%. There would be no repeat of the Alvin Greene fiasco. There are still many primaries to come; up to September 9th, in fact. All have their own back stories that make politics a fascinating and riveting mainstay of Americana.
Vote both the primary and general elections in your state. A significant voter turnout was credited with being key for Brat.