Tag: Luke Rankin

Questions for Clemmons Judicial Screening – The Public Has a Right to Know

If we have learned anything about the political arena since 2016, it is that American voters are sick and tired of the back room, secret deals that serve the self-interests of politicians, often at the expense of the public, and the accompanying political spin used to justify them.
Next month, Alan Clemmons will appear before the Judicial Merit Selection Commission (JMSC) to begin the official process in his hope for appointment as the new Master in Equity Judge for Horry County.
Last year, five weeks after winning the Republican Primary for nomination on the general election ballot for what would have been his tenth term as the representative for House District 107, Clemmons resigned his seat as a representative.
By waiting to resign until after winning the primary, Clemmons was required to submit a sworn affidavit to the S. C. Election Commission explaining he was resigning for “non-political reasons” in order for a new Republican candidate to be determined by a special primary election. The cost of the special primary election was approximately 40,000 taxpayer dollars.
Clemmons’ affidavit cited spending more time with his family and new clients for his law firm who would “require a large investment of my time and focus.”
But, was there another reason? According to state law, the burden of proof for justifying “non-political reasons” lies solely with the resigning candidate.
Horry County Master in Equity Cynthia Graham Howe announced around the time of the June 2020 primary that she would retire in July 2021 at the end of her current term in office. State law requires state lawmakers to be out of office for at least one year before they are eligible to be appointed to a judgeship.
If Clemmons is certified as being qualified for the Master in Equity job by the JMSC, the next step in the process is for the Horry County legislative delegation to vote to recommend a candidate for the job to Gov. Henry McMaster.
After a background check, the governor then decides whether or not to submit nomination of the candidate to the full General Assembly for approval. The entire judicial selection process has been criticized by various organizations in the state as giving an unfair advantage to former state legislators.
According to sources, each legislative delegation member has a weighted percentage vote based on voters in the county represented and time in office. A candidate needs to secure over 50% of those percentage votes to be recommended. The highest individual weighted percentage sits with Sen. Luke Rankin.

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Clemmons Application for Master in Equity – Déjà vu

(pictured above Alan Clemmons and Heather Crawford)

Recently local media and TheNerve.org ran stories that former state representative Alan Clemmons is seeking appointment to the Horry County Master in Equity judgeship.
The Nerve postured a question whether Clemmons’ resignation from his House seat one year ago and his application for the Master in Equity position was a coincidence. When contacted by The Nerve for comment, Clemmons is quoted in its story, “I really have no comments on my application for Master in Equity for Horry County.”
Clemmons resignation from the House came just after current Master in Equity Cynthia Graham Howe announced she would not seek another six-year term after finishing her current term in July 2021. State law requires a member of the General Assembly to be out of office for one year before they can be appointed as a judge or act as a lobbyist.
This seems to be a case of ‘déjà vu all over again’, as Yogi Berra would say.
One year ago, in a story about the special election to replace Clemmons on the November general election ballot, I wrote:
“Only two months ago, Alan Clemmons won the regular Republican primary for nomination to what would have been his tenth term as representative for District 107.
“Five weeks later, Clemmons resigned from the House and sent an affidavit to the SC Election Commission citing the necessity of concentrating on his family and law practice as reasons for removing himself as the Republican candidate.
“It is important to note here that Clemmons affirmed to the election commission, under penalty of perjury, that his dropping out as the nominated candidate was for “non-political reasons”, a requirement for the party to conduct a special election to nominate a replacement candidate for the general election.
“Nowhere in Clemmons’ statement did it mention the widely circulated story that Clemmons expects to be selected as the Master in Equity judge for Horry County when the position becomes vacant next July. South Carolina law requires a member of the General Assembly to be out of office for a minimum of one year before they can become a judge or a lobbyist. The Master in Equity position currently pays approximately $180,000 per year. State funded pensions are based on a person’s highest three years of salary.

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New Defendant Added to Lawsuit Gallman v Rankin et al. Bringing New Revelations

Earlier this year, John Gallman filed a lawsuit against Luke Rankin and a host of others who supported Rankin’s 2020 reelection for actions that took place during the primary runoff including libel/slander, invasion of privacy and civil conspiracy.
The initial complaint raised questions about what is protected political speech and how far do those protections extend.
The lawsuit is based in part on mailer and television attack advertisements against Gallman paid for by the “South Carolina Industry Project, a project of the American Industry Project, 2020 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, No. 3009, Washington, D.C.”, as stated on the advertisements.
Horry County Council member Tyler Servant was listed on the Form 990 filed by the American Industry Project with the IRS in 2018. Servant was named as president of the American Industry Project in that filing and was included as a defendant in the lawsuit based on his association with the organization.
Servant’s answer to the complaint stated he was not associated with the American Industry Project since 2018 and asked for the complaint against him to be dismissed.
That answer led to further investigation by Gallman’s attorney. The Form 990 filed for tax year 2020 was filed by the American Industry Project after the initial complaint was filed. That Form 990 lists William Taylor, a S. C. House representative from Aiken, a board member of the American Industry Project for 2020. As a result, Taylor was added to the lawsuit as a defendant in an amended complaint.
How did a state representative from Aiken get listed as a board member of an organization based in Washington, D.C., which paid for attack ads against Gallman in an election race in Horry County for a state senate seat?
One clue may be that Taylor’s political website was created by Julie Emerson of Lagniappe Communications Group, according to Taylor. Both Emerson and Lagniappe Communications Group were listed as defendants in the lawsuit in both the original and amended complaints.
Emerson is a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives and founder of Lagniappe Communications Group, according to her biography.
Emerson ordered television time for the television ads attacking Gallman with WMBF and WBTW on behalf of the American Industry Project, according to the NAB PB-18 forms submitted to the television stations and signed electronically by Emerson. Both forms are exhibits filed with the lawsuit.
David Hucks of the news website myrtlebeachsc.com called Taylor to get his comments about his association with the American Industry Project and the lawsuit. Hucks had two recorded phone conversations with Taylor. Both conversations can be heard on his myrtlebeachsc.com website.

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Brittain Cruises to District 107 Primary Win

Case Brittain is the new Republican nominee for the SC House District 107 seat in the upcoming November general election.

Brittain cruised to an easy victory over former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride by a 70% – 30% margin.

To call the voter turnout light is to be generous. Brittain garnered less votes in winning than he accumulated on June 9th in a losing effort to then incumbent Alan Clemmons.

The total vote cast in this special primary was approximately one-half the number of voters in the regular primary.

Approximately 5.25% of the registered voters in the district cast votes for Brittain making him the nominee.

The Brittain victory completes a successful primary season for the Myrtle Beach cabal. Every one of their incumbents, Dennis DiSabato, Cam Crawford and Gary Loftus on county council, Heather Crawford and Clemmons, now Brittain, in the House and Luke Rankin in the Senate, won renomination. Brittain became the cabal’s choice after Clemmons resigned his seat in the House.

The coronavirus outbreak made things easier by holding down voting somewhat. When the average voters fail to turn out, the cabal’s core of voters can determine elections.

The normal tricks were pulled out to help Brittain win, Walter Whetsell and his Starboard Communications as consultant, bogus third party PAC to smear McBride and endorsements by other Whetsell clients to make it look like Brittain was earning the endorsements of local elected officials.

What this means is the cabal can set many of the political agendas for the next two years.
Development will continue to run rampant in the county, seriously outstripping the public safety and infrastructure resources needed to support new sub-divisions, all in the name of profit.

Money for I-77, Where is Money for I-73?

President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday June 18th about $34.6 million appropriated from the federal government for a new interchange on I-77 in Rock Hill.

Where is an appropriation for I-73?

Trump’s tweet again highlights the inability of our elected representatives, many of whom were reelected at last week’s primary, to get any funding for their supposed number one agenda item.

Tom Rice, Alan Clemmons, Heather Crawford, Luke Rankin, Russell Fry, Dennis Disabato, Cam Crawford, Gary Loftus, Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant, Brenda Bethune – aren’t you all embarrassed and ashamed of your continuing inability to secure any funding for I-73?

Over the past year, each and every one of you has spoken of the importance of I-73 to the local economy and to the safety of our citizens.

All this announcement does is demonstrate your political impotence, both individually and collectively, to deliver funding from any source other than Horry County for the project you list among your top priorities!

Five of the above, Clemmons, both Crawfords, Disabato and Loftus were victors in recent primaries, guaranteeing their reelection in November. Two others, Rice and Fry, had no primary opponent and will have a virtual walkover in November. Four, Vaught, Howard, Servant and Bethune, will face reelection over the next two years. The lone remaining incumbent, Rankin, faces a runoff election next week.

Whether it be money for I-73, flood mitigation, other infrastructure projects or other needs to help the citizens of Horry County, the ‘Dirty Dozen’ incumbents mentioned above can’t deliver.

Even the development industry, which spent tons of money helping the reelection of these people has to be let down at this announcement. After all, I-73 would net immediate revenue for some of those and it would open up considerable land in the western part of the county for development, even though much of it probably shouldn’t be developed due to flooding and infrastructure considerations.

Despite their continuing demonstrated inability to accomplish anything positive for the area, the voters chose to send those up for reelection last week back into office.

This announcement is just another example of why that was a bad idea.

The Incumbent Campaign of Misinformation and Desperation

Misinformation and desperation are seeping into incumbent campaigns as we move toward primary voting Tuesday.

We have seen the SCGOP ignore campaign finance and ethics regulations to send numerous mailers supporting the reelection of Alan Clemmons and Heather Crawford.

Why would the SCGOP feel the need to insert itself into the contests between Republican candidates?

Obviously the party leaders in Columbia are afraid of losing two representatives who will do exactly what they are told to do.

Doing what they are told to do in Columbia doesn’t help the constituents Clemmons and Crawford are supposed to serve in Horry County. That’s why the panic.

In the past several days Clemmons and Luke Rankin have posted individual pictures of themselves with President Trump. Those were photo ops taken when the president was in Horry County during the Hurricane Florence flooding.

Both reportedly talked up the Interstate 73 project to the president during that trip. If Clemmons and Rankin are as close to President Trump as they would like you to believe, where are the federal dollars to build the interstate?

In similar fashion, one of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford and Clemmons touted an endorsement of them by the governor. Again, if they are so close to the governor and the legislative leaders in Columbia, for that matter, where are the state dollars to build I-73?

Clemmons has consistently stated I-73 is his number one priority as a legislator. Yet, year after year, no money comes from the state for the project.

Meanwhile Clemmons represents a declining Myrtle Beach that he appears to ignore as the number of empty commercial buildings in the city continues to rise every year.

One of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford attempted to present her as ‘working hard’ to solve the flooding problems in her district. She has done nothing other than clean out some ditches to help the citizens devastated by repeated flooding events since 2016 nor to mitigate future flooding. Again, no state grants have been forthcoming to help these needed initiatives.

The Effectiveness of Political Endorsements

Political endorsements captured the headlines last week even though the benefit they provide a candidate is very questionable.

Gov. Nikki Haley was in the Pee Dee and on the Grand Strand to promote three SC Senate candidates. Maybe it’s more accurate to say she was in the area to campaign against incumbent legislators she doesn’t like.

Haley came to the local area to attack incumbent senators Luke Rankin (District 33) and Hugh Leatherman (District 31) and promote challengers in those primary contests, Scott Pyle and Richard Skipper, respectively.

Haley’s endorsements in those two races are probably the equivalent of whistling in the wind. After all, Haley endorsed Marco Rubio all the way to distant also ran in the SC presidential primary while Donald Trump was sweeping all of South Carolina’s delegates.

Haley’s third local endorsement, candidate Reese Boyd over Rep. Stephen Goldfinch for the open Senate District 34 seat, may help a little more because Boyd is the better candidate and Goldfinch, while an incumbent House member, is unpopular in some important precincts in District 34.

Haley’s attempt to defeat incumbent legislators who don’t vote the way she wishes is sadly reminiscent of FDR in the 1938 off year Congressional elections. FDR targeted and campaigned against eight southern Democratic incumbent senators and house members who did not support most of his New Deal programs.

Only one of the targeted eight was defeated in the primaries and the Democrats lost six Senate seats and 71 House seats to Republicans in the general election. FDR’s popularity with the voters didn’t translate to candidates he endorsed or otherwise supported.

Political endorsements mean even less in a county or city race where the candidates and endorsers are better known to voters. The endorsement by ‘so and so’ state legislator for ‘such and such’ local candidate means virtually nothing to the voters.

Ignoring the Nikki Haley Influence

Now that the SC General Assembly has overwhelmingly voted to override the veto of the Farm Aid Bill by Gov. Nikki Haley, Time Magazine may want to rethink how influential Haley really is.

Time recently named Haley one of Time’s 100 Most Influential Leaders.

After losing votes of 39-3 in the SC Senate and 112-2 in the SC House, you have to seriously question if Haley is one of the 100 most influential people in Columbia. I would say no.

Haley’s veto of the Farm Aid Bill was always a loser.

There are over 25,000 farms in the state that cultivate over five million acres of land. When the October 2015 rains wiped out many crops, it was obvious many had suffered catastrophic loss.

It is estimated over $400 million of crops were destroyed by the resultant flooding.

But, aiding suffering farmers is not something that draws national headlines. Therefore, it is of no interest to Haley.

Haley had no problem declaring the “1000 year flood” and requesting federal aid for those affected by the storm.

She was merely unwilling to give some aid on the state level, aid that many farmers in South Carolina need, but does not put Haley’s name in national headlines.

While ignoring the plight of farmers around the state, Haley was more interested in the “A Great Day SC” PAC that is raising money to target state lawmakers Haley doesn’t like.

Included in the list of Haley hit targets is Horry County’s Luke Rankin.

Haley blames Rankin for the failure of the SC Senate to pass an Ethics Reform Bill.
Whether that characterization is fair or not, I would submit that Haley was the beneficiary several years ago of the same ethics laws that she now wants to change.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Nikki.

Large Crowd Comes Out for Jonathan Hyman Campaign Kickoff

(Pictured above Rep. Jeff Johnson (left) and Jonathan Hyman (right).

Over two hundred people attended Jonathan Hyman’s campaign kickoff event at Arnold Johnson’s shed on Hwy 701 South. Hyman is running for Horry County Treasurer.

Johnson said the event drew a larger crowd than others he has hosted and the crowd was at least as large as the one that showed up for Tom Rice’s campaign kickoff for chairman of Horry County Council in 2010.

“I have no doubt Jonathan will do a good job as Treasurer,” said Johnson. “I remember when (former Treasurer) Johnny C. Allen hired him. Johnny always had good things to say about Jonathan.”

This was the kind of event that former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neill alluded to when he said all politics are local. Families from the community came out to support Hyman with the adults enjoying good food and fellowship and the children playing ball outside.

The event was not short of political officeholders and candidates either. S.C. Senate Luke Rankin and S.C. Rep. Jeff Johnson were in attendance.

Rankin said the first thing he thinks of when he hears Hyman’s name is humility, competence and temperament.

“Jonathan is well groomed for this position,” said Rankin. “There will be no surprises. He knows how to carry out the duties of Treasurer.”

Johnson said he wished Hyman well in his campaign for election.

“He is a great guy,” Johnson said. “I go to church with him and know what type of person he is and what a wonderful family he has.”

Former Treasurer Johnny C. Allen said, “I hired him 16 years ago because I knew he was a good, smart kid. I am happy he asked me to endorse him, which I am pleased to do. Jonathan will be an asset to Horry County as its next Treasurer.”

Current Treasurer Roddy Dickinson said it was time for him to retire and pass on the office.

“I have no regrets and I’m looking forward to be able to do other things in life,” said Dickinson. “I am happy to endorse Jonathan for Treasurer. Jonathan works well with people and will make a great Treasurer. He has respect and understanding for others and that is very important in dealing with the public.”

Ethics Reform – Not So Fast

S.C. Senate Effectively Kills Ethics Reform

Ethics reform took a big hit in the S.C. Senate last week when senators voted to essentially keep ethics investigations in-house.

A bill (S.1) that would have allowed investigations of ethics complaints against members of the S.C. General Assembly to be investigated by a reconstituted S.C. Ethics Commission failed to get enough support to move forward.

Sen. Luke Rankin, Chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, offered an amendment that would have established a panel consisting of a majority of legislators and a few members of the public (for window dressing) instead of the independent panel advocated in the bill’s original language.

After a long debate, senators voted down the ethics reform bill authored by Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens. In a touch of irony, Martin voted against his much changed bill in the final vote.