By Paul Gable
Almost immediately after HCGOP reorganization was completed in 2021, a small group of HCGOP members, unhappy at the results of the election for party leaders, began planning how to undermine the elected leaders of the local party, according to a story initially broken by Chad Caton on his podcast “I’m Fired Up.”
According to text messages released by Shannon Grady, one of the group members, definite plans to circumvent the HCGOP and its leadership began shortly after reorganization was completed. Grady has since apologized for her involvement and called the actions of the group wrong.
The leadership of several county parties were taken over by what can be called non-establishment leaders in the 2021 reorganizations. This led SCGOP Chairman Drew McKissick to advocate for “auxiliary groups” in those counties with which the SCGOP would communicate.
How can you profess to want to participate in the party system in a democracy and refuse to accept the results of an election? Maybe that is not a valid question because it seems this attitude of ‘my way or no way’ is becoming the norm in elections.
The initial group of five members in a private chat called “GOP Pirates” was Reese Boyd, Jim Furry, Don Bowne, Gerri McDaniel and Grady, Chairwoman of the Horry County Republican Women’s Club. Boyd was unsuccessful in his bid to become HCGOP chairman and Furry was unsuccessful in his bid to become a state Executive Committee member in the HCGOP reorganization elections.
Below are extracts quoted from those texts with the dates where known:
On July 8, 2021, Furry texted to the group, “I think the five of us are already formulating a unified opposition.” And on July 9th, “Maybe Drew could meet with us sometime and give us some ideas how to counter their (HCGOP) grassroots efforts.”
ON July 13th, Grady texted, “I spoke to Hope (Walker, Executive Director SC Republican Party) and I think we continue moving forward with the HCRWC acting as the “auxiliary club” that Drew suggested in Greenville. We are already doing the work that needs to be done.” Bowne added, “I totally agree and I think we must keep a unified front…” and Furry added, “And when we get a stream of Henry McMaster, Pamela Evette, Lindsay Graham, Tim Scott, etc visiting our groups and ignoring them, people will be asking “What’s wrong with them?”
And on July 15th, Bowne- “I say maybe it’s time to take the gloves off and fight the local HCGOP with vengeance”
Boyd- “In the next couple of weeks, Drew is going to be a guest (on Boyd’s radio show) and will spend some time reflecting on it all, but I don’t want it to come off as partisan, so I’m going to push that piece of it back a little bit.”
Bowne- “I plan on talking about it tomorrow morning on the radio”
Furry- “I am primed to attack but want the attack to have maximum effect”
July 24th – Furry- “They are really radicals. 100% of their bodies believe they are right. Perfect extremist storm troopers.”
Whatever happened to Reagan’s 11th Commandment?
July 30th – Furry- “Reese, I am still friends with my FBI Intelligence Supervisor. She’s retired. I told her there were some people I was interested in finding out about.”
Furry is a retired FBI agent who appears to have asked a former co-worker to find out information on HCGOP leaders. According to another text message, the retired intelligence supervisor referred Furry on how to use publicly available sources but no official government sources appear to have been used. It’s certainly an apparent display of arrogance on Furry’s part to even make the suggestion to a former co-worker.
Dates unknown – Bowne- “In my opinion, Anybody trying to work with this group (HCGOP elected leaders) only gives them credibility and destroys what we’re trying to do ourselves.”
Furry- “What would be wrong with establishing an establishment party of the opposition factions and groups? Maybe we should de facto have a Republican Party?
February 5, 2022 Furry- “Hi, All my plans were ruined early this morning when I learned about the proposal by the bylaws committee Thursday night to allow HCGOP EC’s and Officers to campaign/support candidates before the primary.”
This is interesting. Furry apparently disagrees with changing the HCGOP bylaws to allow officers to campaign and support one Republican candidate against another in a primary election. Yet, this group was working with McKissick and the SCGOP to undermine the HCGOP. McKissick and the SCGOP used state party money to send mailers supporting reelection of Alan Clemmons and Heather Crawford to the SC House in the 2020 primaries and sent mailers opposing the reelection of Jonathan Hill in the same year’s primary. How can it be okay for one group of party officers to support candidates in a primary but not another?
February 17, 2022 Boyd- “Let me remind everyone of the Oath of Confidentiality surrounding this discussion group.”
Boyd denied to me in a phone conversation and denied on the Liz Callaway radio show that there was any conspiracy to undermine the elected leaders of the HCGOP. The above quoted text messages would appear to contradict those statements.
The GOP Pirates worked with other local establishment members and McKissick to make it extremely difficult for the duly elected county leadership to run the party effectively. At the September 12, 2022 monthly EC meeting the entire leadership team resigned effective September 30 (Vice Chair, Jeremy Halpin had resigned previously). Roger Slagle said “I thought we brought back some integrity to this party and this county. For all members who have joined us in this populist movement, we thank you. We encourage you to keep fighting, Unfortunately the state party and the opposition from within our party has made this situation untenable”.
Slagle rescinded his resignation before its effective date. However, McKissick said he couldn’t rescind it, although on what basis McKissick has any part in this decision is extremely questionable. From everything I can see in HCGOP bylaws and Roberts Rules of Order, which is used when the bylaws are not definitive, Slagle is still chairman of the HCGOP and what passes for the establishment, or Swamp, in S. C. politics doesn’t like him in that position.
In my opinion, this ignoring the duly elected leadership of a county party by the state party just because the establishment group doesn’t like their actions and, instead, working with an auxiliary organization to undermine the county party and its duly elected leadership is a perfect example of the type of “Swamp” politics the Trump movement was supposed to eliminate. Congratulations to Shannon Grady for admitting her mistakes and seeking to bring to public light the actions of those trying to undermine the county party and continue Swamp as usual politics.
Editor’s Note: G. C. Fraser contributed to this article.