Project XX and the ‘good ol’ boys’
The General Assembly’s election of candidates to state boards and commissions this Wednesday will get more public attention than ever, thanks to a Charleston-based initiative to elect more women. Let’s hope that Project XX also has gotten the attention of lawmakers.
Project XX founders Ginny Deerin and Nikki Hardin cite a state law that should at least encourage broader representation: “The General Assembly/Governor shall strive to assure that the membership of the board is representative of all citizens of the State of South Carolina.”
You don’t have to accept the idea that the law demands a quota to reach proportionate representation (51 percent of the state population) to recognize that female candidates aren’t getting the kind of consideration they deserve.
The most glaring example that Project XX cites is the board of trustees for the Medical University of South Carolina. There are 14 seats on the board, and zero women.
Meanwhile, 61 percent of MUSC’s student body is female.
Of the seats on the MUSC board up for election this year, two are contested by women candidates. One of their opponents is the brother of a legislator, the other is a former legislator.
Both women who are seeking appointments — Susan Pearlstine and Marva Smalls — are highly qualified for the seats.
So is the candidate running for the 5th Congressional District seat on the Public Service Commission.
Sarah Nuckles should be a familiar name to South Carolinians who watched her take on her fellow highway commissioners in 2011 and 2012 over their politicized, wasteful plans to spend most of the Department of Transportation’s remaining borrowing capacity. Her efforts ultimately were instrumental in abandoning the ill-conceived plan to spend $344 million on politically inspired projects like I-73.
Ms. Nuckles promises to be an informed and vocal advocate of the consumer — if she can get the Legislature to appoint her. But she reports that she is actually being urged to step down, in acknowledgement that the election is all but decided for the incumbent commissioner.
Ms. Nuckles is used to taking on the powers that be on behalf of the public’s interest, and she isn’t quitting this race despite the odds. Nor should she. She has a public record that ought to make her a leading candidate for virtually any state board or commission — particularly one representing the state’s consumers.
Project XX has put a spotlight on the election to fill 52 seats on the boards of eight state universities. This year, those votes will get far more attention than ever — particularly the MUSC election.
And Ms. Nuckles’ decision to stay in the race for a seat on the Public Service Commission should similarly get statewide attention.
If these elections turn out to be a foregone conclusion, it will underscore the continued dominance of a “good ol’ boy system” in the General Assembly. That would be an absurdity in a state where the voters have elected a woman as governor.