Campaign school cancellation: plain Folks

The abrupt cancellation of a campaign school for aspiring Republican office-seekers has led to claims of ulterior motives, a possible cover story involving Clemson football and, at last, a tale of bad blood between politicians and a blogger.

The campaign school, sponsored by the S.C. House Republican Caucus, originally was to be held in Charleston on Dec. 5 to give potential candidates the ins and outs of campaigning and getting elected.

House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister explained in a video promoting the school that the idea was to give political novices the chance to hear directly from the party’s leaders, including House Speaker Jay Lucas and other “seasoned professionals.”

“If you want to win, you need to be with us at the candidate training school in Charleston on December the 5th,” Bannister says.

Also invited was a former spokesman for Mark Sanford when he was governor who turned political blogger, Will Folks.

Folks, in his blog FITSNews, has clashed with lawmakers and state officials over allegations of misconduct, malfeasance and mismanagement. After he was invited to take part, the Republican caucus canceled the school, saying something else had come up and it would be rescheduled.

The South Carolina Club For Growth, a conservative group dedicated to cutting taxes and limited government, wasn’t going for it. Executive Director R.J. May III said in a news release Thursday that Club for Growth would put on its own campaign school, and it would be free, $45 less than the Republicans were going to charge.

May didn’t stop there. He went on to accuse House Republicans, who lack “fiscal fortitude,” of canceling the school because they didn’t want to give “true conservatives” a chance to unseat “entrenched incumbents.”

“The liberal Republican establishment has disappointed the people of South Carolina,” the release stated. “Once again, they have failed to follow through on their promises.

“The people of the Lowcountry were told they would have a campaign school, and we’re going to give them one. We encourage all pro-growth, limited government conservatives seeking to challenge liberal Republicans and democrats to join us the morning of December 5th.”

Not a word of truth to it, Republican lawmakers said. The reason the school was canceled? Unofficially, sponsors said it was because the No. 1 ranked Clemson Tigers would be playing in the ACC championship game on Dec. 5 and there was no way they were going to miss it for campaign school.

Or maybe it had nothing to do with football. According to another source, lawmakers who’d been on the receiving end of Folks’ caustic accusations had no intention of being in the same room with him.

Whatever the reason, Folks said he was happy to have been invited, adding that he didn’t understand why his attendance was controversial.

“The whole thing is kind of silly to me,” he said. “But these are Columbia politicians. So their definition of silly is probably different than most people.”

Leon Stavrinakis said he’s going to take some time off to recharge his batteries and get back to family and work after last week’s defeat in the Charleston mayor’s race to now mayor-elect John Tecklenburg.

But pretty soon the West Ashley Democrat is going to have to start thinking about whether he’ll seek re-election for his seat in the state House of Representatives.

Forty-eight hours after his loss, Stavrinakis said his wife gave him the go-ahead to defend the seat.

“She wants me to keep serving, so my plan is to run again,” he said.

Stavrinakis has represented House District 119 since 2006.

State Sen. Paul Thurmond’s decision to not seek re-election next year has set off a burst of other Republican candidates interested in succeeding him in Columbia.

Former Charleston City Councilman Tim Mallard announced his bid earlier this month, and local attorney Sandy Senn confirmed she’s in the race, as well.

According to county GOP Chairman Larry Kobrovsky, the list of names who have shown an interest in the seat since August keeps growing by the week.

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It also includes: Charleston County Councilman Joe Qualey, attorney Mark Peper, state Rep. Peter McCoy, attorney Walter Hundley, businessman Wally Burbage, former lawmaker Anne Peterson-Hutto, recent city of Charleston candidate Chris Cannon, Jonathan Hoffman, state executive committeeman of the Charleston GOP, local prosecutor Culver Kidd and attorney Roy Maybank.

Senate District 41 runs from James Island into Dorchester County. Filing opens in March.

At its annual conference in Las Vegas, the Republican Governors Association selected New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as the new chairman and vice chairman respectively.

S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley has served on the RGA executive committee since 2011. She said she has no plans to go for any of the group’s leadership roles for at least two years.

“I have too much in South Carolina to do,” Haley said. “So I am open to getting into more leadership positions in ’17 and ’18, but I would not do it now.”

Being chairman of the RGA would give Haley a strong national platform to springboard from, like it has for many of her colleagues.

The organization represents 31 Republican governors, not including incoming Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin.

Republicans:

Tuesday: New York real estate mogul Donald Trump will be at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach for a rally that begins at 6 p.m.

Democrats:

Today: Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will attend Sunday morning services at two black churches in North Charleston along with state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston. They include Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist and Royal Missionary Baptist. Both are closed to the general public.

Cynthia Roldan, Gavin Jackson and Schuyler Kropf contributed to this report.

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