By Paul Gable
Certain events in the local political arena over the last year have made me understand much more completely why Southerners say, ‘We don’t care how you did it up north.’
Tip O’Neill told us all politics are local. What he didn’t tell us is it takes a transplant a long time to truly understand all the intricacies of ‘local.’
As a transplant from the north myself 32 years ago, I know there is a certain amount of resentment someone from the north can expect to experience after relocating permanently to the south.
I always attributed it to that ‘Civil War thing.’ After all, if your ancestors were on the receiving end of one of the biggest ass kickings in military history from my ancestors, you have a right to be a bit resentful.
There is also a significant difference in the general way the two regions view the political spectrum of ideologies, which I felt was a major reason Southerners didn’t want Northerners messing about too much in their politics.
Can’t blame anyone for that attitude.
Some transplants from the north have operated effectively in the local political arena. Loftus comes immediately to mind in local politics and Mark Kelly on the state level in earlier times.
However, it’s certainly a fact that the most effective politicians during my three plus decades of direct observation in Horry County have been those home grown natives with deep roots in the local area.
Most transplants who have tried their luck at running for local political office have been unsuccessful, except when one transplant was running against another transplant, which has happened, if rarely.
Much of that limited success can be attributed to ‘We don’t care how you did it up north.’
Recently, however, several transplants from the north have truly demonstrated how not to do it in local politics.
Yesterday, one local transplant, Dick Withington, was arrested for trying to get another transplant, incumbent Horry County Council District 4 member Gary Loftus, to pay Withington not to oppose Loftus in the upcoming election for Loftus’ seat.
In this example, I consider Loftus at least a partial local as he has lived down here longer than I have and has assimilated into the local business and political communities amazingly well.
Withington has routinely been a bust as a candidate for numerous political offices in recent years while running as both a Democrat and Republican. Nevertheless, at least in his own mind, Withington is a political force to be reckoned with.
Withington reportedly asked Loftus for $20,000 not to run. Apparently, by Withington’s logic, it would be in Loftus’ best interest to pay Withington to go away.
Loftus didn’t see it that way, reported the incident to local law enforcement and Withington went away in a manner he didn’t reckon on.
That must be how Withington did it up north. However, it’s not any way to do it in the south, or elsewhere for that matter.
Last fall, during a special Republican primary runoff election for Horry County Council District 3, candidate Bob Kelly’s campaign manager Jim Wiles, approached runoff opponent. Horry County native Bubba Owens, with the following message, “Team Bubba should put together a shopping list of stuff that they would want for downtown Myrtle Beach for Bob Kelly to commit to in exchange for Bubba dropping out…”
Wiles later tried to explain the questionable offer, to local media, as a tactic used up north to unite the party behind one candidate.
Owens refused, Kelly won the runoff, but later lost the special general election to Democrat and local native Jimmy Washington.
But, Kelly wasn’t done. After winning the Republican nomination, he and Wiles contacted local law enforcement alleging a grand conspiracy by Kelly’s Republican primary opponents and other local politicos to illegally subvert the election process.
Kelly won the primary but still wasn’t happy, evidently by his not getting all the votes, Kelly was convinced there was a criminal conspiracy against him. Is that how they did it up north?
Again, that’s not how to do it in the south.
Incidentally, had Owens handled his refusal in a slightly different manner, maybe Kelly would have preceded Withington in going away. Withington was charged with “inducement to file for, or withdraw from, candidacy for election.”
As I sit back and reflect on these two recent incidents in local politics, I shake my head in complete bafflement. The arrogance behind them is indescribable.
Northern transplants can get away with a certain amount of eccentricity. In some ways, it’s almost expected of them by Southerners.
However, the more I see of these types of antics, the more I understand the absolute wisdom of why Southerners truly ‘don’t care how you do it up north.’