Tag: tom rice

North Myrtle Beach Council Members Vote for I-73 Funding – Or Did They?

North Myrtle Beach City Council voted at last night’s meeting to provide $1.7 million annually to construction of Interstate 73 contingent on so many variables it really isn’t a provision at all.
Among the contingencies required for North Myrtle Beach to provide any money to I-73 is a requirement for the other cities and counties that would supposedly benefit from construction of the highway to also contribute money for construction of the road.
In addition, North Myrtle Beach restricted use of any money it may provide to actual construction costs. Specifically prohibited from use of any money provided by North Myrtle Beach are right of way acquisition, engineering and legal services, construction documents, environmental studies and reports of any kind. Funds from North Myrtle Beach may not be used on SC 22 or any other roadway and actual construction must begin before December 31, 2024.
Despite the headlines of local television stations last night, the North Myrtle Beach resolution contains so many restrictions and prior requirements from other local governmental agencies in three counties as to make it virtually meaningless.
The North Myrtle Beach resolution varies widely from a proposal by Gov. Henry McMaster during a press conference at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce in October 2021.
According to the governor’s proposed $1.6 billion funding plan, the state will be asked to provide $795 million for the I-73 project all of which will be spent in Dillon and Marion counties. The federal government will be asked to provide $450 million, most of which will be spent in Marion and Dillon counties. Local governments in Horry County were asked to provide $350 million for construction of the road in Horry County. None of the cities in Dillon and Marion counties nor the county governments themselves were asked to provide any money toward construction of I-73.
The governor’s plan only included funding for construction of what is really an interstate spur road from I-95 south of Dillon to the eastern terminus of the road at the end of the current SC 22 in the Briarcliffe area.

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Rice’s Search to Avoid being Toast Continues

As Tom Rice attempts to justify his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump while also attempting to tout his strong conservative credentials, he and his campaign advisors are still searching for a message that may convince voters to nominate him for a sixth term as the Republican candidate for the SC 7th Congressional District.
If they fail to find a consistent message soon, Rice is ‘toast’ as far as reelection is concerned.
Earlier this month, Rice led off his campaign trying to defend his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. The message was that Rice is a strong, conservative ‘defender of the Constitution’ who loves all of Trump’s policies but not Trump himself. He claimed Trump “ripped the constitution to shreds” and is a “very divisive man.”
Rice chose to ignore the fact that Trump continues to be the leader of the Republican Party and most influential with the vast majority of Congressional Republicans in Washington.
Last week, former county council chairman Mark Lazarus, who was ousted from his elective office in 2018 because he lost touch with county employees and the voters of Horry County, made a video touting Rice’s experience in Washington as the reason Rice needs to be reelected.
Lazarus, who suffered probably the biggest upset loss in Horry County political history, seemed an odd choice as a kickoff endorsement for the Rice campaign. But, maybe it isn’t a surprising choice because Rice has lost touch with his constituents just as Lazarus did in 2018 and Rice’s campaign consultant Walter Whetsell has obviously lost touch with any messaging for Rice.
There is rumor that Lazarus will take another run at the county council chairmanship in 2022. Maybe Lazarus thinks supporting Rice will gain him votes if he does decide to run, but that only shows how out of touch Lazarus remains with voters in Horry County. Remember, this is ‘Trump Country.’
Lazarus specifically pointed to Rice’s membership on the House Ways and Means Committee, because of the importance of that committee in the legislative drafting process, as a position important to 7th Congressional District citizens.
However, Rice became a pariah in the House Republican caucus when he voted to impeach Trump. To an extent, committee assignments depend on seniority and past service on committees with the party leadership making the assignments. But, changes to committee assignments can be made and it’s hard to see Rice getting anything he wants out of the current House leadership.

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Rice Struggling to Re-invent Image While Fry Attempts to Find One

It is just under seven months until Republican primary voters will nominate a candidate for the SC 7th Congressional District election next November.
The two candidates most closely tied to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, incumbent Tom Rice and state Rep. Russell Fry, are still searching for an image to project to voters in order to gain popularity and votes.
Rice is hampered by his January 13th vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. Trump support was strongest in 7th Congressional District among all the congressional districts in South Carolina. Rice won easy re-election, in the November 2020 general election, to his fifth term in office on Trump’s coattails.
Then Rice cast “THE VOTE” to side with Congressional Democrats in the House to file Articles of Impeachment against Trump.
As we all know, Trump was never going to be removed from office by an evenly split Senate (it takes a two-thirds vote from senators to impeach), especially considering Trump was due to leave office on January 20, 2021, and the Senate trial didn’t take place until after Trump was out of office.
What makes Rice’s vote to impeach even more incredible is that twice in the days before the actual voting on the Articles of Impeachment, Rice made public statements that he was NOT going to vote to impeach Trump. THEN HE DID!
One would have thought, after spending four full terms as a Congressman on Capitol Hill, Tommy would have absorbed, even if only by osmosis, enough political savvy to understand that his vote to impeach Trump would be a betrayal to the vast majority of people he represents in South Carolina’s 7th District.
Now Rice is trying to create a new image of himself as a faithful servant of Trump during the former president’s four years in office, citing a 94% voting record supporting Trump initiatives. Rice further claims he was defending the Constitution when he voted to impeach Trump, calling Trump a “very divisive man”, and claiming Trump’s actions (or inactions) incited a riot at the U. S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021.
What Rice is avoiding trying to explain is why twice, between the January 6th events and the January 13th vote to impeach, Tommy publicly stated he would not vote for impeachment, then did.
Rice claims a ‘new vision’ for the Republican Party that embraces everything Trump except Trump the person. He also claims he will run on his ‘record of accomplishments.’

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Graham Allen Campaign Filings Raise Eyebrows but not Profile

Quarterly reports on contributions and expenditures by political campaigns are often seen as guidelines of the viability of a candidate.
Often, too much emphasis is placed on the contribution side of the ledger. Actually, it is the value realized from the expenditure side in raising the profile and message of a candidate that provides a more accurate picture of viability.
For that reason, the recent filing by Graham Allen, the non-resident candidate for the 7th Congressional District Republican nomination, raises some questions.
According to the Allen campaign’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, a total of $646,000 (in round numbers) has been raised in contributions over the last two calendar quarters. Added to this amount is a $92,000 loan which brings total receipts for the campaign to date of $738,000, a seemingly good amount for a first-time candidate.
However, according to the filing, the Allen campaign has spent a total of $435,000 over those same two periods with no appreciable increase in Allen’s name recognition or message among 7th District voters. No tv or radio ads, no mailers, no billboards, nothing!
Having never lived in the 7th District and only a recent resident of South Carolina in the Greenville area, Allen was always going to have a difficult time getting voters to know who he is, much less what he stands for. After the reported expenditure of $435,000 this hasn’t changed.
When Allen first announced his candidacy for the 7th District Congressional seat currently held by Tom Rice, my first thought was Allen doesn’t know anybody in the 7th District and nobody knows him.
It now appears that thought was probably mistaken. It appears possible that Allen has had some type of contact with Alan Clemmons, Horry County’s own master of spending campaign funds while not advancing a campaign.
According to Clemmons’ campaign filings with the S. C. Ethics Commission, he spent approximately $480,000 from his campaign funds during the six election cycles from 2008-2018 inclusive but never had an opponent in either the primary or general elections in those years. Included in the $480,000 of expenditures were payments totaling approximately $150,000 to Heather Ammons Crawford noted as “campaign services” or “contract services” before she was elected to the House.

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Where is Mayor Bethune?

Last week, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune missed two opportunities to answer questions from voters about why she should be reelected.
Instead, the Bethune campaign put out two emails extolling the virtues of spending local tax dollars on the construction of Interstate 73 and what she had done to address crime issues in the city.
Had Bethune taken the time to actually talk to voters, she may have learned that crime is still the number one issue concerning residents of Myrtle Beach and constructing I-73 ranks very far down on the list.
And Bethune’s message was countered by a story about Myrtle Beach being the third most dangerous city, per capita, in the nation. The story could be found on the website of Coastal Law, the firm with which Congressional candidate Russell Fry is associated.
Interestingly, Fry and Bethune both support the construction of I-73 in Horry County with local tax dollars.
Talking to and listening to voters is not high up on the list of things to do for most politicians today. They certainly want to be elected and reelected but they prefer to do it with slick mailers and emails as well as orchestrated messages in television and radio ads. These messages hit what politicians consider to be a few hot button issues for voters.
Then, if they fool enough voters to be elected or reelected, many of the politicians will go on to serve their own self-interests or those of the big donors to their campaigns. In some cases, such as Interstate 73, these politicians try to make it a hot button for voters with outlandish promises of what it will do for voters while it is really meant to serve the interest of their donors.
I-73 will permeate many election races through the Republican primaries in June 2022 and those politicians promoting it as a good idea are not working in the best interest of voters.
Fry joined Bethune and incumbent Congressman Tom Rice at Gov. Henry McMaster’s press conference about funding I-73 in Myrtle Beach last week.
Fry is running a rather schizophrenic campaign attempting to be a clone of Rice sometimes, then running away from Rice at other times when he (Fry) tries to wrap himself in the Donald Trump cloak.

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Local Politicians Risk Lives in Supporting I-73 Over Public Safety

According to recent statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Myrtle Beach is the third most dangerous city of over 10,000 residents in the country.
According to those statistics, Myrtle Beach has nearly double the murders per 1,000 population as the national average. Among other violent crimes, Myrtle Beach has nearly four times the number of rapes, three and one-half times the number of robberies and three times the number of assaults as the national average.
Last month, the website for Coastal Law, of which Russell Fry is one of the two practicing attorneys, posted a story about these Myrtle Beach statistics. The entire story can be viewed at this link: https://coastal-law.com/myrtle-beach-crime-rates-are-we-the-3rd-most-dangerous-city-in-america/
With the crime rate so high in the city in which he practices law and wants to represent in Congress, why is Fry so effusive in his support of the plan for funding Interstate 73 by using locally collected hospitality fee revenue from Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Horry County? This public revenue could be put to better use funding additional public safety personnel and equipment as well as other, more critical, local infrastructure needs.
One could conclude that Fry is more interested in supporting the interests of those who fund his campaigns than he is in improving the welfare of those he currently represents and those he hopes to represent in Congress.
A true, conservative politician would prioritize the spending of local public dollars solving the issues that currently reduce the quality of life of his or her constituents, such as crime and poor infrastructure, rather than spending those limited public dollars on a new boondoggle project.
If Fry believes only new projects give life to his campaign, why isn’t he promoting construction of the SELL road, which would give a new access road to his current southeastern Horry County constituents in House District 106, rather than I-73?
Fry is not alone, among local politicians, in ignoring the need to fight crime in Myrtle Beach and improve current infrastructure in favor of spending locally generated tax dollars on the I-73 boondoggle.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune has done nothing to reduce crime rates in Myrtle Beach during her current nearly four-year term in office. Bethune was joined at the governor’s press conference by city council members Jackie Hatley, Gregg Smith and John Krajc. Bethune, Hatley and Smith are on the ballot for reelection next month.

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Horry County Taxpayers Betrayed in Governor’s I-73 Plan

Gov. Henry McMaster travelled from Columbia to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce headquarters Monday to unveil his “Potential Funding Plan” for Interstate 73 from its eastern terminus at U. S. 17 in Briarcliffe to connection with I-95 near Dillon.
It was a duplicitous move by the governor when one considers that all of the $795 million from state funds recommended by McMaster will be spent entirely in Dillon and Marion counties. McMaster’s funding plan for completion of the Horry County section of I-73 is placed on the backs of Horry County taxpayers with possibly $150 million of federal funds being thrown in.
Even by standards of a South Carolina state government that continuously uses Horry as a donor county to the rest of the state, the plan is outrageous. It is outright Marxist philosophy that our “so-called conservative Republican” elected officials claim to fight against.
In 1875, Karl Marx wrote the economic and political philosophy of his “communism” was “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” In other words, transfer the wealth from the rich to the poor. That is exactly what is being done with Horry County tax dollars so Dillon and Marion taxpayers don’t have to contribute any locally collected tax dollars.
In addition, that $350 million of local contribution from the county and the cities would be better spent on existing infrastructure needs such as Hwy 90, Hwy 905, the SELL road and the proposed road around Conway to 701 for the county, infrastructure and police needs in Myrtle Beach and parking and other infrastructure needs in North Myrtle Beach.
Furthermore, the elected officials representing Horry County voters who showed up to praise the plan, Congressman Tom Rice, state legislators Sen. Luke Rankin, Sen. Greg Hembree, Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Rep. Russell Fry, Rep. Case Brittain, and Rep. Heather Crawford, county council members Dennis DiSabato, Orton Bellamy, Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant and Gary Loftus, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and city council members Jackie Hatley, Gregg Smith and John Krajc and North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, have a lot of splainin’ to do for supporting the plan.
Rice, Brittain, Crawford, Bellamy, Vaught, Howard and Servant are all up for reelection in 2022. Bethune, Jackie Hatley, Smith and Marilyn Hatley are up for reelection in the upcoming November 2021 city elections. Fry is giving up his statehouse seat to challenge Rice for Congress. Will the voters reject these liberal Marxist spendthrifts?
The entire funding plan projects $795 million from the state, $430 million from the feds and $350 million combined from Horry County, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. None of that money is approved to be spent on I-73 at this time. Dillon and Marion counties are not projected to appropriate any money.
If Horry County and the cities send $350 million of hospitality fee revenue to the state to spend on I-73 rather than local roads, the net loss to county taxpayers will be $700 million – the $350 million sent to the state and that same $350 million that could, but will not, be spent to improve existing roads.

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Richardson Officially Kicks Off Congressional Campaign to Enthusiastic Crowd

Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson Thursday night officially kicked off his campaign to unseat Tom Rice from the S. C. 7th Congressional seat at Radd Dew’s BBQ in Aynor.
Richardson announced he was a candidate early in the year and has spoken to 63 groups throughout the district, by his count, before his official kickoff. But, Thursday night saw Richardson host approximately 350 people, including a number of elected officials, to his official kickoff event. The crowd extended from the auditorium of the former school, in which the restaurant is located, out into the hallway behind the auditorium when Richardson spoke.
The people who attended the Richardson event were virtually all from west of the Intracoastal Waterway in Horry County although there was a sprinkling of attendees who drove from towns in the other seven counties in the district.
Virtually all of the attendees voted for Donald Trump in 2020, there was plenty of Trump attire in the crowd. Virtually all voted for Tom Rice in 2020. After hearing Richardson’s speech, I believe everybody at last night’s event will vote for Richardson in 2022.
The east-west divide, bounded by the waterway, among voters in Horry County and the 7th Congressional District in general was readily apparent in the crowd.
Those along the coast, where the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is most influential, will support Rice in the upcoming primary. If it becomes apparent Rice is not regaining lost support among the voters, the Chamber crowd will probably opt for their number one Rice substitute Russell Fry.
The remainder of the district west of the waterway, where approximately 650,000 of the district’s approximately 750,000 citizens reside, is ripe for the taking by a candidate who speaks the people’s language.
In political terms, that language is one that respects individual liberty, expects limited government interference in their lives, wants to eliminate wasteful government spending on boondoggle projects and has strong ties to their local community.
Richardson asked two very interesting questions of the crowd. He asked for a show of hands of people who want their locally collected tax dollars to be spent on local roads and infrastructure. Virtually every hand in the crowd was raised.

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Another Suspicious Poll from MBACC Alleges Support for I-73

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is up to its old tricks by again trying to convince local citizens that there is widespread support for the construction of Interstate 73.
Two days ago, the Chamber issued a press release and an eight-page document supposedly reporting the results of a poll conducted in July 2021 on I-73.
The document stated that 79 percent of 405 registered voters responding from across the state supported I-73. It also stated that 82 percent of an unspecified number of voters, included in the overall 405 number, from the 7th Congressional District supported I-73.
These reported results are in line with another supposed poll the Chamber said was conducted two years ago. The results from that poll supposedly said that of 1,774 respondents to a poll on I-73, 74.6 percent of the respondents favored the project.
Two years ago, I called B— S—- on the 2019 supposed poll and I submit the same sentiment applies to these most recent reported results.
The latest supposed poll results come at a time when the newest brainstorm, as reported in local media, to keep some life in the I-73 project is to have the local city and the county governments pledge by resolution a total of $250 million toward construction of I-73.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune strongly supported local funding from the city, even though the city recently cancelled health insurance coverage promised to retired city workers and police manning is down while young women apparently can be snatched off the street in mid-afternoon only to have their body turn up in Florence several days later.
However, Horry County Council members are very reluctant to pass even a resolution supporting county funding of I-73, despite concerted effort by council member Dennis DiSabato. It took the county a year to reverse the debacle council had to extract itself from two years ago after a 2018 resolution pushed by then county chairman Mark Lazarus committed the county to providing $25 million per year to SCDOT for the I-73 project.
The idea is that state Rep. Case Brittain can take those pledges to Columbia to ask the state government to pledge $500 million toward the project. Then, with $750 million pledged, maybe Tom Rice can finally get enough out of the federal government to construct the road at least to connection to I-95 in Dillon, a total cost of approximately $1.5-2 billion.
How this is supposed to succeed is anyone’s guess as the best Gov. Henry McMaster could do last spring was get SCDOT to commit $500,000 per year for three years to the I-73 project IF the local governments provided a total match of $500,000 per year.
The reasons to question whether a poll was even conducted are many.

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Russell Fry – Political Strategist or Political Opportunist

The political metamorphosis of Russell Fry in the last several weeks has been eye opening as Fry has gone from silence for six months on incumbent Rep. Tom Rice’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump to now attempting to be the biggest Rice critic and Trump supporter in the race for the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District seat.
As Fry has attempted to build his Trump message, he has styled himself as a strong conservative, small government, individual liberty candidate. However, during his political career to this point, Fry has been known as one of the “Chamber crowd” of politicians pushing the Interstate 73 message on voters.
Fry was one of the co-sponsors of a bill introduced into the legislature in 2019, which would have forced Horry County Government to donate all revenue from a countywide hospitality fee to the construction of an interstate highway rather than allowing county government to return the revenue collected within city limits to the cities and to spend the revenue collected in the unincorporated areas on other infrastructure and public safety needs to support the locals and tourists who pay the fee.
Sponsoring such a bill is hardly the action of a small government conservative.
Fry apparently got his start in local politics while a student in 2008 working as a consultant and providing other unspecified campaign services to former state Rep. Thad Viers. He again was paid for unspecified campaign services to Viers during the 2010 election cycle. Viers resigned his statehouse seat in 2012 and ultimately spent 18 months in federal prison for a money laundering conviction.
Shortly after graduating from law school and passing the bar, Fry formed the political consulting firm Crescent Communications, in early 2013, just in time to run the campaign of Mark Lazarus to fill the unexpired term of Tom Rice who resigned as Horry County Council chairman to enter Congress.
Lazarus won the special election, reelection in 2014 to a full term, then, lost in 2018. Fry and the other two members of the Crescent Communications team, Heather and Cam Crawford, ran all three campaigns for Lazarus, according to state ethics records.
Heather Crawford was already in the SC House of Representatives having won a special election to fill the unexpired term of Viers in 2012 and reelection in the 2012 general election for House District 68. Cam Crawford would soon win a special election for Horry County Council District 6 to fill the unexpired term of Bob Grabowski.
In 2015, Fry made it a trifecta of elected positions for the Crescent Communications team by winning a special election to fill the unexpired term of Nelson Hardwick in House District 106. All three received liberal donations from Chamber members, Chamber associated PACs and other special interests whose prime goal is the construction of I-73.

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