By Paul Gable
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.
One of the notable events during the campaign was a rally organized by former state Rep. Alan Clemmons. The rally was held in the parking lot of Coastal Law, the law firm of state Rep. Russell Fry. The rally used totally and provably false information to smear Gallman’s character and help lead to his runoff defeat.
The current President of the SCAJ is Bert Glenn Utsey III, an attorney with the Alex Murdaugh Law Firm of Peters, Murdaugh, Parker, Eltzroth and Detrick for many years before breaking away to form a new law firm recently.
The law firm recently changed its name to the Parker Law Group to distance itself from Murdaugh, who is currently facing over 50 felony charges and whose scandals are widely covered in state media. Until his downfall, Murdaugh was a powerful insider in South Carolina politics.
Jordan is reportedly a friend of Fry, a past Chamber favorite who, after eight months of indecision, decided to challenge Rice for the 7th Congressional District seat. Fry and Jordan both sit on the House Judiciary Committee. Another Chamber favorite, Clemmons, carried the ball for the Chamber’s I-73 project for a number of years until he resigned his House seat to be eligible for a judgeship.
The Chamber is certainly trying to line up as many state representatives and senators as possible in the hope of getting funding for construction of I-73. Another senate vote, in the form of Jordan, would be beneficial for that effort.
Reichenbach is reportedly leading Jordan in recent polls. This may be an indication that voters in Senate District 31 are ready for an outsider who will look to serve small business and the people rather than someone with so many connections to politics as usual in Columbia.