Author: Paul Gable

Patience Pays Off for Richardson Campaign

Ken Richardson has prepared for the final five-month push to the Republican Primary where he expects to unseat Tom Rice for the nomination for the SC 7th Congressional District.
Since announcing his candidacy in February 2021, Richardson has spent the last year speaking throughout the district to over 100 groups of Republican voters.
“I wanted to spend one year talking to voters about what they think are the important issues facing the 7th Congressional District,” said Richardson. “The other candidates in the race were all about raising money. If representing the people of the 7th Congressional District was only about money, I would just go write a check.”
After a career as a successful businessman, Richardson owned the only Mercedes, BMW and Cadillac dealership under one roof in the United States, Richardson, after selling his dealership, entered politics in 2018 winning the Horry County School Board Chairman race.
From the beginning, being school board chairman was only the first stop for Richardson.
“I always had challenging Tom Rice in the 7th Congressional District in my sights,” Richardson said. “Initially I had targeted 2024 as the year, but, when Rice voted to impeach President Donald Trump on January 13, 2021, I moved my timetable up by two years.”
The SC 7th Congressional District is one of the most pro-Trump Congressional Districts in the nation. In his talks to voters over the past year, Richardson has found Rice’s vote to impeach the president is foremost in their minds.
“Tom Rice and his campaign manager both said over time the people would forget about Rice’s vote to impeach President Donald Trump,” Richardson said. “What I have found over the past year is not only have the voters not forgotten that vote, they also have not forgiven Rice for casting it.”

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McMaster’s Liberal I-73 Agenda in State of State Speech

Governor Henry McMaster revealed what a pseudo-conservative he really is by including funding for the proposed Interstate 73 project in his State of the State agenda.
In his speech, McMaster said, “Our booming economy and rapid population growth have outpaced the state’s ability to keep up with improvements to our transportation infrastructure.”
Anyone driving on South Carolina roads would agree.
McMaster went on to say that he was asking the General Assembly to appropriate $660 million from the state’s share of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and $600 million from the state’s excess revenue to the SC Department of Transportation.
McMaster said this one-time injection of $1.26 billion into the DOT budget would allow accelerate work on “some of the state’s highest priority projects.” Among those “highest priority projects” named was “the long-awaited start of construction on Interstate 73 from the Pee Dee to the Grand Strand.”
I’m sure McMasters’ words warmed the cockles of Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Karen Riordan’s heart and those of the special interests gathered around the Chamber supporting I-73.
Can we conclude payback to those interests for the many campaign contributions made to McMaster’s war chest?
Consider this:
When McMaster attended a Chamber press conference on I-73 last fall, he announced he would ask the General Assembly for $300 million from ARPA funds to construct six miles of the road in Dillon County. Fifty million dollars per mile, even for this boondoggle, seems a bit rich, but those are McMaster’s words.

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Jay Jordan Another ‘Good Ol’ Boy’ in State Senate Bid

The special Republican Primary for state Senate District 31 next Tuesday presents a classic ‘good ol’ boy’ versus outsider matchup between current House member Jay Jordan and businessman Mike Reichenbach.
It will be a test of how dedicated Republican voters are to see change in the way politics are conducted in South Carolina.
House incumbent Jordan has Starboard Communications, the political consulting firm of Walter Whetsell, running his campaign, which should be a red flag for voters who want change. Whetsell is the consultant for Congressman Tom Rice and is closely tied to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and its Interstate 73 project.
Another interesting fact is how the South Carolina Association for Justice (SCAJ) has provided maximum contributions to the Jordan campaign. SCAJ has its own named political action committee, SCAJ PAC, which gave the maximum to Jordan. Then, there are 10 more associated PACs, Justice PACs 1-10, all of which have the same address as the SCAJ PAC and each of these supposedly individual PACs gave maximum contributions to the Jordan campaign on the same day – December 6, 2021, according to Jordan’s campaign disclosure filings.
Eleven supposedly individual PACs, all with the same address as the South Carolina Association for Justice PAC, appears on the surface to be an attempt by an association of lawyers to circumvent the state’s campaign finance law.
Supposedly independent PACs with the same address have been funded by the Grand Strand Business Alliance, which is funded by the Chamber, to support Chamber candidates in the past. It may be technically legal but it doesn’t pass the smell test.
It should be noted these lawyer PACs provided the same type of support to Horry County Sen. Luke Rankin in his 2020 reelection campaign. That campaign and its internal associations are now the subject of a lawsuit by Rankin opponent John Gallman.

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Rice Fishes for Voters While Fry Fishes for Money

It’s been one year since Congressman Tom Rice’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump.
That fateful January 13, 2021 vote marked the beginning of Rice’s rapid fall from grace with the Republican voters of the SC 7th Congressional District, who constitute a considerable majority of the total voters in the district.
The SC 7th Congressional District is one of the most pro-Trump Congressional districts in the nation. From a political standpoint, Rice could have done nothing worse than his betrayal of the president to the constituents he represents.
Shortly after Rice’s fatal vote, Rice’s political consultant, Walter Whetsell, the go to guy for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, told news media that a week is like a lifetime in politics and the voters would forget about the impeachment vote in a couple of weeks.
Whetsell’s statement only goes to prove how out of touch Whetsell is with the realities of current day Republicanism in the 7th Congressional District.
Rice has chosen to run for reelection telling media representatives that the Republican Party must move on from Trump and that he (Rice) will run on his record of accomplishment for the nearly 10 years he has represented the 7th Congressional District.
But, Rice has no record of accomplishment in Washington. He went to Washington with two big goals – secure funding for Interstate 73 and bring “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” to the district. Despite working with a Republican majority in the House of Representatives for his first six years there, Rice was unable to secure any significant funding for I-73.
While Rice likes to point to the Dillon inland port as an example of his ability to create jobs, that project actually owes its existence considerably more to former state Sen. Hugh Leatherman than anything Rice produced.
I-73 will probably be at the core of Rice’s reelection effort. It was the Chamber and the cabal of would be ‘movers and shakers’ associated with it that first got Rice elected to Congress and has been as the center of his reelection efforts since. The thought was that Rice and lobbying efforts in Washington would secure funding for the road’s construction.
Whetsell is firmly attached to the I-73 project as the “poll(?)” he conducted last year on the project for the Chamber demonstrates. And Whetsell represents Chamber candidates such as Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, state Reps. Case Brittain and Tim McGinnis and will represent Mark Lazarus’ attempt to win back the county chairman position he lost in 2018, all with the idea that local tax dollars must be dedicated to I-73.

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Gov. McMaster Tries to Keep I-73 Project Alive

Gov. Henry McMaster requested the General Assembly appropriate $300 million, from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds the state received from the federal government, to construction of Interstate 73 as one of the items in the executive budget he submitted to the legislative body earlier this week.
McMaster made good on the promise he made to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce at an October 2021 press conference when he said he would request the I-73 funding from the General Assembly.
Traditionally, executive budgets submitted by governors of this state have received minimal consideration before being shelved and ignored when the SC House writes the budget. There is no reason to believe the same won’t happen with the governor’s request for I-73 funding.
McMaster presented a funding plan for the I-73 project which consisted of $800 million from the state, including the $300 million which is actually federal funds given to the state, an additional $450 million from the federal government and $350 million from the local governments in Horry County.
However, Chamber President Karen Riordan attempted to spin the governor’s remarks at the October press conference as a pledge that the I-73 project would receive $300 million from the state. She was joined in that spin effort by Rep. Case Brittain, who in his first year in the SC House was made president of the I-73/74/75 Corridor Association, which is a high-sounding name for a Chamber created entity.
In addition, Congressman Tom Rice and SC Rep. Russell Fry were prominent at the press conference and enthusiastic in their statements on I-73 funding. Fry, of course, announced in August that he was challenging Rice for the Congressional seat because Rice has been a failure to his constituents in the 7th Congressional District. GSD has said over and over that Fry is really a clone of Rice who hopes to gain Chamber support for his Congressional run should Rice continue to falter with voters.
Actually, the press conference and statements by the various elected officials was nothing more than an attempt to keep the I-73 project on some kind of life support.
What has happened since that October press conference?

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Rice, Lazarus and I-73 in June Republican Primary

The entry of Mark Lazarus to challenge county chairman Johnny Gardner for the Republican nomination in the coming June primaries brings an interesting aspect into the political discussion.
Lazarus joins Congressman Tom Rice as the two major proponents of Interstate 73 construction with local tax dollars in the Republican camp.
Both candidates will use political consultant Walter Whetsell to run their campaigns. It was Whetsell’s Starboard Communications that supposedly conducted a poll for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce a few months ago that alleged nearly 80% of the approximately 600 voters contacted statewide supported construction of I-73.
The poll itself remains an issue of question in that it presented the results the Chamber desired without publicizing any of the actual questions used or details of where the respondent voters live.
Nevertheless, Chamber President Karen Riordan used the poll to promote the Chamber’s desired propaganda about I-73. With the pollster running the campaigns of two of the biggest races in the area, we can expect a barrage of I-73 propaganda to play a major role in the utterances of Rice and Lazarus.
There is an additional component to the I-73 issue. Both Rice and Lazarus have consistently promoted the need for local tax dollars to be given to the SC Department of Transportation for construction of the road. In one of his last acts as chairman in 2018, Lazarus convinced county council to appropriate approximately $30 million per year to SCDOT for I-73 construction.
Gardner, who defeated Lazarus in 2018, was able to get council approval to cancel that appropriation before any county money was sent to the state.
Rice, even when he was a welcomed member of the Republican House caucus, something that changed when he voted to impeach former President Donald Trump, was generally unable to acquire any significant federal dollars for I-73 construction. Hence his decision to press for local tax dollars as he continues to push for the road.

The Crawford Factor in County Vote on $11.5 Million Bond Issue for CCU

(Above photo Cam Crawford being sworn into office by his wife Heather Crawford)

It is ironic that Horry County Council is considering second reading of an ordinance for a $11.5 million bond issue for Coastal Carolina University tonight.
The request for the bond issue came to council from the Horry County Higher Education Commission, a quasi-governmental, non-funded (by state government) entity created by the SC General Assembly in 1959, before county governments existed, to oversee the use of county tax millage for Coastal Carolina University. Its members are recommended by the county legislative delegation and appointed by the governor.
The Higher Education Commission currently is funded at the rate of 0.7 mils on every property tax bill sent out in the county. It is unclear in the ordinance if the bonds will be repaid from the revenue generated by the current millage rate. CCU also receives revenue from the one-cent sales tax for education levied in the county. That tax will be up for renewal by referendum in November 2022.
The bond issue is not unique through history since 1959, but several factors call it into question at this time. Recently, the news of county council member Cam Crawford’s November 2019 termination of employment from the university made headlines.
According to a story written from the documents provided by CCU, Crawford was the subject of a Title IX complaint by a female student, who also worked part-time in a position Crawford supervised. The female student reported “discriminatory behaviors relating to physical contact with student employees, kissing of a student employee’s head, and additional behaviors of a sexual nature.” After investigating the complaint, the university concluded, “evidence does support a finding that Mr. Crawford violated University policies UNIV-466 Title IX Statement of Non-Discrimination and UNIV-468 Sexual Misconduct Policy.”
The termination was kept under wraps for two years before surfacing last month. According to stories published in two local newspapers, Freedom of Information requests on the termination were treated differently by CCU. One newspaper received documented information about the termination while the other was told no documents existed related to its FOIA request.
To date, there has been no explanation from CCU as to why similar FOIA requests received totally opposite responses.

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Fry Campaign Filled with Terminological Inexactitudes

The New Year begins a five-month sprint for the 7th Congressional District Republican nomination among 10 announced challengers to incumbent Tom Rice.
Much nonsense will be heard from the various campaigns as candidates attempt to attract the attention of voters.
However, to date, the campaign of state Rep. Russell Fry has been the King of Terminological Inexactitudes, to use a phrase first coined Winston Churchill in 1906 to describe lies in parliamentary debate.
Then, a recent video appeal for campaign donations, featured on his @RussellFrySC Facebook page, sounded absolutely desperate in its appeal for money. I have heard many comments about the video including how the timing was bad, the appearance was awful and the desperation in the plea for money was apparent.
In an effort to concoct some type of appealing image to voters, Fry’s campaign pronouncements have been full of catch phrases designed to appeal conservative voters.
It took Fry eight months after Tom Rice voted to impeach former President Donald Trump to first denounce Rice’s vote. To hear Fry tell it now in campaign videos, he is the prime defender of America First values to which Rice is a traitor.
But Rice and Fry are cut from the same cloth. Both have staked their political careers on catering to the whims and wishes of the Myrtle Beach cabal. Fry was very happy to share the stage with Rice several months ago during a Chamber staged event promoting Interstate 73.
No politician can possibly be true to conservative fiscal values and also support the I-73 boondoggle. But Fry has always been a Chamber politician, just look at his donors through the years. If Rice doesn’t win reelection, the Chamber would like Fry to be the one to replace him to keep an elitist Chamber agenda voice in Congress, even though that has not meant any significant federal money for I-73. A vote for Fry is as much a vote for the elitist Chamber agenda as a vote for Rice.

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More on Crawford Dismissal from CCU

One week ago, local media posted stories on events surrounding the dismissal, in November 2019, of Horry County Council member Cam Crawford from his position at Coastal Carolina University.
According to the stories and documents released by CCU, an investigation into Title IX complaints by a female student who also worked under the supervision of Crawford was conducted by the university. Findings from that investigation supported ‘continuous physical contact with student employee supervisees, which included hugging and touching of hand and/or arm,’ and evidence supporting ‘kissing of a student employee’s head’.
Crawford responded to questions from the media claiming the woman misinterpreted his “Southern mannerisms”, that he did not believe he did anything wrong and that there were political motivations behind the media being informed of his dismissal from CCU.
Nevertheless, a female student registered a complaint with the university, the university conducted an investigation and Crawford is no longer employed by CCU.
Crawford’s response brings to mind statements by former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo when Cuomo resigned as governor after 11 women came forward claiming Cuomo had sexually harassed them.
Cuomo was quoted in media as stating, “As an Italian, I have always kissed and hugged in a casual way, I’ve never crossed the line with anyone… I accept full responsibility, I slipped, but there are political motivations behind the accusations, and I am sure New Yorkers will understand,”
Strikingly similar statements from two politicians on opposite ends of the political spectrum, except Cuomo took responsibility while Crawford did not.
But the similarities between the two cases end there. Once women began stepping forward with accusations against Cuomo, stories continued in the New York media, Cuomo’s former political allies distanced themselves from him and ultimately Cuomo resigned as governor.
In Horry County, Crawford’s leaving CCU employ remained a secret for two years and there has been virtually no comment from other local politicians.
Freedom of Information requests to CCU from two local newspapers were handled completely differently. According to a story in the Sun News, the newspaper filed a FOIA request with the university in October 2021, requesting documents related to “any disciplinary action taken by Coastal…including notices of termination or suspension, reprimands , etc.” as well as “any complaints or other documents submitted to Coastal by students, staff, professors, administration or the public regarding Mr. Crawford, his employment, his job performance and his conduct/behavior.”

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Developers, I-73 and a Déjà Vu Lazarus Candidacy

Recently Horry County Council unanimously approved changes to development density allowed in the Commercial Forest Agriculture zoning classification and former county chairman Mark Lazarus began calling developers looking for support for another run at county chairman.
Lazarus, then the incumbent, lost the 2018 county chairman race to Johnny Gardner in what was one of the biggest upsets in Horry County political history. And he lost it on his own merits, or maybe demerits, is a better term.
Lazarus is the former chairman most allied with the development community in the history of county government. As chairman, Lazarus convinced county council to purchase approximately 3,700 acres of undevelopable wetlands in the Carolina Forest area, at a cost of approximately $12 million taxpayer dollars, paid to a well-known Richmond, Va. developer. The excuse was the county needed to establish a wetlands mitigation bank for future road projects.
Since leaving office on January 1, 2019, Lazarus has been busy lobbying council members for a number of re-zonings of CFA land, especially in the Hwy 90 area.
I don’t know if Lazarus believes he can alter the changes to CFA density if he wins back the county chairman seat, but, considering the unanimous vote by council to change CFA density allowance and continuing pressure from the citizens to reject questionable development, it is not possible that he can.
After Gardner took over the chairman seat, he was able to convince council to institute impact fees on new development to help pay for the cost of new infrastructure and other capital needs associated with that development. Following the discussion among council members during its last meeting, those fees will be expanded to transportation and stormwater impact fees in the coming fiscal year to help pay for much needed upgrades to roads such as 90, 905. 701 and 9 and associated flooding mitigation efforts.
Lazarus preferred to raise property taxes and existing county fees, including leading the passage of the largest single property tax increase in county history in 2015, rather than promote an impact fee law counter to the wishes of his donors and supporters in the development community.

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