By Paul Gable
The two candidates for Conway mayor, incumbent Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy and challenger Ken Richardson, will square off in a live debate from Coastal Carolina University’s Johnson Auditorium tonight beginning at 6 p.m.
With a limited capacity of 210 at the auditorium, the debate will be livestreamed so the many Conway voters who cannot get a ticket for the event will be able to see the two candidates answer questions from moderator Dr. Drew Kurlowski, an Associate Professor of Political Science at CCU. A link to the livestream broadcast is provided at the end of this story.
An advance outline of the debate said questions will focus on four areas: issues of concern to Conway residents, Issues of economic concern, a focus on tourism and visitors and personal leadership qualifications of the two candidates.
Since the campaign began, Grand Strand Daily has noted the lack of discussion, from the Richardson campaign, about specific issues of concern regarding Conway other than criticism about the Pride Month proclamation signed by Mayor Blain-Bellamy in June. Maybe tonight’s debate will provide answers as to why Richardson is running other than opposition to recognition of the LGBTQ community.
Since the debate was announced, new questions about the Richardson campaign have surfaced. Recently a mailer supporting Richardson’s candidacy appeared in Conway mailboxes. Mailers supporting one candidate or another are not unusual as voting nears.
What is unusual is the mailer supporting Richardson was paid for by “Defeating Communism PAC” and stated it was not approved by any candidate or candidate’s committee. However, the artwork and one side of the messaging was identical to a handout card supporting Richardson and paid for by “Ken for Mayor” – Richardson’s campaign. This begs the question how does identical artwork appear on two separate pieces of literature supporting Richardson paid for by supposedly different and non-communicating entities?
And, how and why did the Defeating Communism PAC, a PAC based in Dublin, Ohio, which has basically focused on Congressional campaigns in various states around the nation, decide to become involved in a mayoral campaign in Conway, SC? I have lived in Horry County for over 40 years and have yet to encounter a real-live communist in Conway or any other location in the county.
The answer may come from associations between PACs and political consulting organizations. GSD has reported on these types of associations in the past.
According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, Defeating Communism PAC donated to the campaign of Republican Minnesota state legislator Jeremy Munson. Munson was running for the Minnesota 1st Congressional District nomination at the time. A May 19, 2022, article in MinnPost, an independent media outlet in Minnesota, quoted Munson, “Justin Greiss is the person that I work with on the door-knocking team.” Munson’s statement was in response to a question about whether one Cliff Maloney was working with his campaign. More about Greiss and Maloney in a minute.
GSD has learned that Richardson has told people in Conway that the Richardson campaign is paying for a door-knocking team, including hotel expenses, to come into Conway to go door-to-door to solicit votes for his election. Is Greiss the person coordinating this door-knocking campaign on Richardson’s behalf?
Such a conclusion is not a stretch. Greiss and his organization, Mobilize the Message LLC, worked on at least one other campaign in Horry County in the past. Greiss was quoted in the Sun News at the time acknowledging his local involvement.
Mobilize the Message LLC is filed with the Florida Division of Corporations. Greiss and Maloney are listed as managers and the authorized persons of the corporation, according to the Florida filing. Research into Greiss and Maloney revealed both trace their entry into politics with the Ron Paul for President campaign in 2007. David Dudenhoefer, founder of Defeating Communism LLC, also traces his beginnings to the Ron Paul campaign. It is probable that Dudenhoefer, Greiss and Maloney became acquainted during the Paul campaign.
If Greiss is involved with the Richardson campaign, that involvement could pose problems. According to the MinnPost article, Greiss and Maloney held the positions of Vice President for Grassroots and President, respectively, of Young Americans for Liberty. In 2021, both Greiss and Maloney were placed on administrative leave from YAL after unspecified allegations were lodged against them by people associated with YAL. Maloney was fired by YAL and Greiss left YAL shortly after both were placed on administrative leave. The hashtag #YALtoo was prominent on Twitter with women associated with YAL making allegations of sexist behavior and sexual misconduct against both, according to the article.
Yesterday, GSD reported the Richardson campaign missed the deadline for filing a required pre-election campaign disclosure report. Was the missed deadline an effort to hide an association between the campaign and Greiss and his organization until after the debate? We won’t know the answer to that question until the missing report is filed with the S. C. Ethics Commission.
Maybe tonight’s moderator will be inclined to ask a few questions about the missed filing and the above- mentioned associations in the section of the debate dedicated to areas of concern for Conway residents.
Regardless, I believe it’s safe to say The Best Is Yet to Come.
Link to debate livestream, click to view: https://www.youtube.com/live/NiE-wiCJ6cU?si=mJbk6DEvlFmdfBap (https://www.youtube.com/live/NiE-wiCJ6cU?si=mJbk6DEvlFmdfBap)