Robert Ford back in court seeking restitution relief

Former state Sen. Robert Ford is due back in court Monday seeking relief from his misdemeanor ethics restitution.

Former Democratic state Sen. Robert Ford, who is now a candidate for his old office, is due in court Monday to answer for his unpaid restitution.

Ford will be at the Charleston County Judicial Center to face the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services. The agency says Ford is in arrears more than $8,900 for the restitution he owes the state from his misdemeanor ethics case. He has a more than $80,000 unpaid balance.

His attorney, Bill Runyon, said Ford has been unable to make the $1,800 per month schedule and will ask Circuit Judge Thomas Hughston to reset the figure to between $500 and $600 a month.

Ford is trying to make a comeback for his former Senate District 42 seat in the June Democratic primary by challenging incumbent Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston.

Last year Ford was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor ethics violations tied to spending political campaign money on himself for such things as car payments, department store purchases, restaurants, novelty shop items and other expenses. He was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay restitution.

Nothing in his plea agreement prevents him from running again.

Kimpson, meanwhile, was endorsed by Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg last week.

Two is a pair, but in the legislative world, three is a subcommittee.

And right now there’s a shortage of one lawmaker needed Wednesday to convene debate on the Statehouse transgender bathroom bill filed by Republican Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg County.

A Senate aide told The Post and Courier on Friday that Bright’s subcommittee with Columbia Democrat Sen. Joel Lourie lacks a third senator needed to take action.

The bill was introduced Wednesday and sent to co-sponsor Sen. Kevin Bryant’s General Committee. The next day a subcommittee hearing was scheduled.

But there seemingly are no takers stepping forward among the 46 senators to help initiate the debate.

Still, the bill is moving fast in S.C. Senate terms. The bill blocks local governments from expanding use of gender-designated public restrooms to transgender people. Gov. Nikki Haley is among those saying it is not needed.

If the bill fails to leave the Senate for the House by the first week of May, it will be dead.

Republican Chris Cannon is making another bid to land a political office, making him one of the most perennial candidates in the region.

Cannon, who filed for a seat on Charleston County Council this year in the GOP primary, has run for political office eight times before, without success.

That includes the Statehouse five times, alongside other tries for County Council and Charleston City Council.

“I don’t give up,” Cannon said. But he conceded this year is “probably my last hurrah.”

Cannon, 62, is a semi-retired tour guide. He’s seeking the open Council District 7 seat GOP nomination against Paul Gangarosa, Brantley Moody and John Steinberger.

Lawmakers and the state Chamber of Commerce are hailing the partial passage of a bill that would shorten the Statehouse session by a full month.

The Senate last week approved legislation that would change the mandatory adjournment of the five-month session from the first Thursday in June, to the first Thursday in May.

In praising the effort, state Chamber of Commerce President Ted Pitts noted that South Carolina has one of the longest legislative sessions in the country. That fact alone is “a deterrent to many qualified business men and women who would otherwise be interested in joining our citizen legislature,” he said.

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“The business community has long supported a shorter legislative session to improve efficiency and to allow individuals from more professions to serve,” Pitts said.

The effort now goes to the House of Representatives.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hasn’t decided yet if he’ll make a play to be a delegate at the Republican National Convention.

“I don’t know,” he told reporters recently. “I gotta think about that.”

But if Graham does decide to try to go to Cleveland in July as one of the Palmetto State’s 50 voting delegates, he has his game plan worked out in the event Donald Trump doesn’t win on the first round.

After being obligated to vote for Trump on the first ballot per state primary rules, Graham said he’d cast his second ballot vote for Ted Cruz.

Graham got on board with Cruz, the junior U.S. senator from Texas, out of urgency to stem Trump’s momentum. A former 2016 presidential contender himself, Graham has said repeatedly Cruz is not his first choice and he’d much prefer a candidate such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich as the party nominee. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

“I like Kasich,” Graham said. “He is a very good general election opponent. I like him a lot. But Cruz has the most compelling narrative as an alternative to Trump.”

Meanwhile, 1st Congressional District Republicans will meet Saturday at Orange Grove Elementary Charter School in West Ashley to pick three S.C. delegates for the convention. More than 28 candidates have shown an interest so far.

Charleston GOP Chairman Larry Kobrovsky expects there to be “intense politicking.” The convention begins at 10 a.m.

Schuyler Kropf, Emma Dumain and Gavin Jackson contributed to this report.