Somebody is going to have a very Merry Christmas — and it’s not the South Carolina Democratic Party.
On Monday, Gov. Nikki Haley said she wouldn’t tie the hands of whomever she appoints to the U.S. Senate seat that Jim DeMint is abandoning two years into a six-year term.
That means she won’t require her appointee to be a caretaker who promises not to run for the rest of the term in the 2014 special election.
“I do not want the effectiveness of our state’s new U.S. senator to be undermined by the fact that he or she will automatically be leaving the office such a very short time after assuming it,” Haley said.
Sometimes — not always — governors who get this opportunity find a retired politician to fill in temporarily. The idea is that no one should have an advantage when election time rolls around.
That’s a nice sentiment, and Haley will be criticized by some for doing it this way. But she’s the governor and can do what she wants.
And, truth is, it’s not a bad call.
Haley’s argument boils down to this: How effective is a senator if everyone knows he or she is leaving office in two years?
Not very. A caretaker is a lame duck from day one — no pull and no influence. For South Carolina, it in essence would be like having only Lindsey Graham representing our interests.
Kind of like it is now.
Sure, Haley’s move politicizes the situation more, if that’s even possible. She will give someone a huge leg up in the 2014 election to fill the remainder of DeMint’s term. That’s worth millions, not just in news coverage and name recognition, but also in fundraising.
But the governor can justify doing it this way by claiming she’s looking out for the state’s best interest. And this probably is in the state’s best interests, whether or not you approve of Haley or her appointee.
Yes, there is an advantage to Haley here. She can choose someone who draws the sort of voters who like her, giving her additional help in her re-election. But hey, those are the perks of office.
It’s not like the other side wouldn’t do the same thing.
Someone on the ball
Now, some people — Democrats, mainly — will think this is unfair. The advantage of incumbency, blah, blah, blah.
But it’s not like the Dims actually have a shot. The last time this seat was open, the party — in its infinite boneheadedness — nominated Alvin Greene.
Fact is, if there is any good news for the Democrats, it is the knowledge that they will know who they are running against by the end of this month. And that person has two whole years to screw up.
Of course, when DeMint was up for re-election, he had shown people how he rolled for six years, and that included sabotaging Charleston Harbor. And the Democrats couldn’t take advantage. No reason to believe they will in 2014.
So it would be in our best interest for Haley to appoint someone who has something on the ball, and cares about South Carolina — not just some pseudo-celebrity.
Because the truth is, whomever the governor picks, they are probably going to be with us for a long time.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog.