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Editorial: A well-received (and unfortunately all too rare) apology

Sandy Senn email

The start of the email that Sen. Sandy Senn mistakenly sent from her Senate account. 

The political message that arrived Monday was as clever as it was an error: State Sen. Sandy Senn’s email discussed the oddness of campaigning during a pandemic, and offered supporters a face mask reading “Sandy Senn State Senate.”

“Who would have ever thought this was a way to campaign until just a few months ago?” her message said. “Several folks have asked for the free facemasks and I am happy to oblige. ... I tell people that I would be honored if they would be a human bumper sticker for me when going outside or to the store!”

Unfortunately for her, the email was sent from the Charleston Republican’s official Senate account: a clear no-no, as ethics laws prohibit candidates from using their office for personal or political gain. But what Sen. Senn did next is something all too rare in politics: She promptly apologized.

The first-term senator sent out another email the next day with “Retraction and Apology” in the subject line. That email explained how “an energetic young intern” inadvertently mixed up her Senate newsletter email list with a platform set up for her reelection campaign.

“I often write my newsletters directly from my state computer, but never do I use state resources for campaign business,” she said in the second email. “I wrote the campaign mailer myself from my Charleston home office and without the aid of  senate staff. Unfortunately, the campaign intern accidentally clicked a wrong button and the campaign mailer was sent via my senate email address not from sandysenn.com.”

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She noted that she self-reported the error to the Senate Ethics Committee, which oversees senators, and accepted responsibility for the error. She included a 40-second video of her explaining what happened: “It certainly was a mistake. Mistakes happen. I’m captain of the ship and I’m taking the blame.” It was the right thing to do.

It’s regrettable that we live in a world where it’s both noteworthy and praiseworthy when an elected official does the right thing by thoroughly admitting and explaining a mistake he or she made — and taking ultimate responsibility for it — but we do live in such a world.

Political cynics might wonder if the senator would have offered up a mea culpa if she weren’t facing what’s expected to be one of the few competitive local races in the November general election. It’s competitive not necessarily because of anything Sen. Senn has done or not done during her first term. District 41 runs from Kiawah, Seabrook and Folly islands through West Ashley into southern Dorchester County, and is one of the few in the state that is neither red nor blue but purple.

When this fall’s elections draw near, we’ll offer an opinion about whether Sen. Senn or her challenger (Sam Skardon and Jason Mills meet in the June 9 Democratic primary) deserves your support on Nov. 3. But until then, know that we do expect them to take responsibility for their actions.

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