Democratic candidate for Governor, State Senator Vince Sheheen was in Florence this morning to meet local residents and talk about his vision for South Carolina. Sheheen addressed a group of approximately 30 folks and laid out the three biggest issues he feels the next Governor of South Carolina needs to focus on.
The first two issues are closely tied together, those being Job Creation and Education. As Sheheen pointed out, "another word for long term job creation is education." Sheheen praised some of the recent efforts by Florence to bring in outside business and pointed out that type of effort needed to be extended to those areas that are the poorest and hardest hit. He did make an interesting point that although it's tough to sell the Dillon and Allendale counties to outside corporations because of their substandard schools, they do have something to offer: their natural environments. In other words, these are areas that can appeal to the sportsmen and is one arguments he thinks the State should be making.
Naturally, though, the education problem is a big issue in recruiting business to these areas. Sheheen pointed out that he is a product of the public school system of Camden and he has three young boys who are making their way through that same system now. He spoke out against our failure to equitably fund education and said it was flat out wrong that where a child is born in SC is the biggest factor in the education he will receive. He discussed teacher salaries and brought up that on average, SC teacher salaries were $10k less than Georgia's. Further comparing us to our neighboring states, he brought up the much more comprehensive early education program that North Carolina has over us and the fact that our kids face the highest tuitions on higher education in the Southeast.
The last major issue he hit on was government accountability and reform. Sheheen said that in his time in the legislature, he saw first hand that no one is looking at the efficiency of the programs we currently have and there needs to be a systematic approach to that. In answering a question, Sheheen discussed constitutional officers in government and questioned the need for some of our elected positions. Outside of Treasurer and Attorney General, Sheheen stated he saw a great deal of redundancy in some of our elected positions and thought many could be done away with or simply appointed by the Governor.
Let's face it, the room was full of Democrats, so Sheheen sounded good. The real proof in the pudding will come if he says the same things in front of a room full of Republicans. I think I'm pretty clear where I stand: a Democrat can't win running from being a Democrat. Why vote for Republican lite, if you can vote Republican? Every statewide candidate the Democratic party has fielded in my lifetime has caved on Democratic principles in an effort to win Republican support. You can't really win that way and you certainly can't build any kind of identifiable party. To truly build a strong party, you have to win people over to your ideas, not try to take the opposition's ideas and sell them on how you'd be better at them.
Listen, as Sheheen pointed out, there is one thing the people of SC can't do and that is blame Democrats for the sorry state of affairs in South Carolina. Republicans have controlled the Legislature for all of recent memory and we've only had one Democratic Governor in 25 years. Sheheen had good analogy about the state parties here in SC. He compared them to the pedals in a car. You've got the Republican party, which is the brake pedal. As I have often argued, you need that brake pedal to slow down, keep from hitting trees, etc. But the Democrats are the gas. They are the party that gets the state moving forward. And as Sheheen noted, we've had our foot on the brake for far too long here in SC.
What do I think? Sheheen is an affable guy. If he survives the primary and gets the Democratic nod, I think he would do very well against either of the GOP's top candidates (McMaster and Bauer seem to be the favorites right now). I do believe that a good bit of the Republican money people in this state are wanting to meet with Sheheen. That's not meant as a knock on Sheheen. The way politics is today, if Satan wants to write a check, you take it. But I think it does show that those folks are looking at the numbers and they are realizing the chances of a Democrat winning this race are getting better and better by the day. It's awfully early to be covering bases just for covering bases sake. At this point in the race, it sounds more like trying to get in on the ground floor. And the only reason to do that is you're thinking things don't look so good for your side.
As for me, I'm waiting. It's still a long race and I'm waiting to see who is willing to jump in the race (*cough* Senator Gerald Malloy *cough*). But we'll see.