Secessionist group to launch ‘Operation Retaliation’

A man holds a flag during a Confederate battle flag rally organized by the S.C. Secessionist Party at the Statehouse July 10 in Columbia. The group plans to strategically place large Confederate flags along major interstate highways and within cities and towns across the state.

The S.C. Secessionist Party wants help securing large Confederate flags and land to display them across the state.

Party founder and Chairman James Bessenger said the flags, which he hopes to place along major interstates and within cities and towns, are part of the group’s “Operation Retaliation.”

Bessenger said Confederate heritage supporters have spent the past year being ridiculed and attacked for their beliefs. It’s time to show that “Southerners will not sit idly by while our ancestors and heritage are relegated to a small corner of history labeled ‘treason and slavery,’ ” he said.

Bessenger got the idea from the Virginia Flaggers, which raised a 30-foot-by-50-foot flag in Danville, Virginia, last weekend. Bessenger served as a guest speaker at the flag raising.

“They have agreed to mentor us through the process and are donating a flag to be our first,” he said.

The group, which recently became a nonprofit organization, is out this weekend scouting properties in the Upstate. Bessenger said his organization has received offers of private land for such flags in Summerville, Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Dillon, Florence and Greenville.

He said it could be several months before the first flags are raised.

Haley on Clinton’s nomination

South Carolina’s first female governor, Nikki Haley, gave Democrat Hillary Clinton “respect” for becoming the first female presidential nominee for a major political party last week.

Haley stayed consistent with previous statements on how candidates should be elected on merit not gender when she spoke with the media Wednesday following the Mercedes-Benz Vans facility groundbreaking at Palmetto Commerce Park.

“I think it’s great that we have a female candidate, but I would also remind you that women don’t vote for a candidate just because they’re women,” Haley said. “Women are more thoughtful than that. They care about national security, they care about the economy, they care about the Supreme Court justices. At the end of the day, that is what’s going to drive women and their vote. But I think in terms of having a female presidential candidate, that’s one more thing we can strike off the books and say, ‘We’ve done that.’ ”

Hollings statue to be unveiled in spring

A bronze statue of the former U.S. Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-S.C., is scheduled to be unveiled next spring near the Charleston federal courthouse annex that bore his name until he pushed for its rededication in 2015. Charleston attorney Thomas Tisdale chairs the group that has raised more than $115,000 for the statue that is being sculpted by Rick Weaver in Charlottesville, Va.

“Obviously, the group of people working on this and many others believe that he deserves to be honored in a permanent way,” Tisdale said. “It is to honor his contributions to our state over half a century.”

Tisdale said the group hopes to raise $150,000 by the time the sculpture is unveiled near the judicial center recently renamed for the late Judge J. Waties Waring.

Hollings represented Charleston County in the S.C. House during the early 1950s before serving a term as lieutenant governor and then a term as governor. He ran for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in 1962 but lost to incumbent Olin Johnston. Hollings won the seat in 1966, a year after Johnston’s death. He held the seat for 38 years until retiring in 2005.

American Party candidate ‘walking the walk’

American Party presidential candidate Peter Skewes has been talking the political talk while, literally, walking the walk across the state the past two weeks.

Skewes and his wife Teresa brought awareness of the American Party’s message of compromise and bipartisanship to people they met along their 240-mile trip that began in Clemson and was to end Saturday at Southend Brewery in Charleston.

“People are looking for something else, another option and choice, and many don’t know it exists in most cases,” Skewes said from North Charleston. “There is another option. They don’t have to refrain from voting.”

Skewes, who has been trekking in his “Peter for President” T-shirt, said the more than 100 people he’s encountered have been receptive to the concept of a third party.

Skewes will be on the November presidential ballot in South Carolina, but he will rely on voters in other states to write him in.

Former S.C. Superintendent of Education Jim Rex co-founded the American Party of South Carolina in 2013 with Dr. Oscar Lovelace, who ran for governor in 2006. Besides a platform of centrist governing, the party emphasizes ending partisanship, increasing transparency and requiring term limits.

Sen. Larry Grooms gets chamber award

The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce recognized state Sen. Larry Grooms for his “outstanding leadership, personal and professional integrity, vision and courage while collaborating with colleagues across the aisle to improve South Carolina’s business climate.”

The Berkeley Republican received the group’s elected leader award named in honor of former Senate president and current College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell.

Grooms was honored for his role in passing the state’s new infrastructure funding plan, which was the chamber’s top legislative priority. The plan restructures the South Carolina Department of Transportation leadership and provides billions of dollars more for roads during the next 10 years without raising taxes.

John Sowards elected chairman of state benefit board

John Sowards of Nexsen Pruet was elected chairman of the S.C. Public Employee Benefit Authority Board of Directors. Sowards is immediate past chairman of the Nexsen Pruet board, and was originally appointed chairman of the PEBA board in February following the resignation of the board’s chairman. His two-year term ends June 30, 2018. The authority manages retirement plans and pension trusts for more than 500,000 state workers as well as the State Health Plan.

Maya T. Prabhu, Gavin Jackson, David Wren and Robert Behre contributed to this report.