Tuesday, May 15, 2012
The 7th District Candidates Battle It Out In Florence ...
West Florence High Is a Very Friendly Place For Local Jay Jordan, But There Was Plenty Else to Wonder About and Analyze....
The much anticipated premier event for the Florence County GOP finally took place Monday night. After months of planning and promotion, the first 7th Congressional District Candidate Debate went on at West Florence High. While the event was sold out, the was probably about a 25% no show, which is not unexpected. After all,tickets were only five bucks, so not making it isn't like you were blowing NFL tickets... The Florence GOP did a good job with the event. It went pretty quickly, and we only had one question, which we'll get to later.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, we'll start at the beginning.. Like most events, there was a pregame. This one was at Redbone Alley, courtesy of Andre Bauer. It was pretty good, but then free wings always are. Scott Maleryck and I had a long conversation about the race, which was cool, because I'm usually a quick hitter - most people can only tolerate me for two or three minutes max....
We apologize for not having any pics from the debate inside. Everyone was kind of cordoned off, so the candidates were a good 75 feet away. All we have for you are pics from the predebate minglefest. Here Tom Rice is with two of his supporters. Hey Guys - you're on the intrenet!
Andre Bauer chats with Betty Dowling, while Randal Wallace is engaged with two of Andre's team members... Then, it was time to get inside for the debate..
Welcome to my special digs - the Blogger table, which was basically me, and the Special Security guy you see to the left. Yes, I felt very special in the corner.. Hey, I had more room than the REAL media people. No, I don't bring my laptop or even a pen - I just watch, then make shit up afterwards....
OK, onto the play-by-play... We'll just headline each main point, then summarize briefly.
Was It The Tribe has Spoken, Or American Idol?
Eight of the nine candidates were there (Katherine Jenerette had a schedule conflict), but we could have been there all night, so the FCGOP decided to have an Elimination Round after an hour. We wondered how they would count 450 votes during a five minute break, but what they did was take the votes BEFORE the debate started. Basically, three of the candidates were knocked out before they started, but we guess there weren't a ton of options....
And In the Pickle Barrel... The Four Horsemen??
I got to chat with Bill Pickle for a minute or two during the break, and he suddenly got the idea that I had wondered for a while - he should have me on his radio show. Far be it for me to suggest it uninvited, but DUH!! I suppose I could hold up an hour if I give my life story, along with my brilliant Unemployment Rate/Election theory, but then I thought getting all of the Four Horsemen on together would be awesome. Of course, Tom would likely lose his job for being on air, but it could be worth it....
Next Time, Just Let Mel Pennington Ask All the Questions
We gotta say, WPDE's Tim McGinnis SUCKED, particularly in the first round. Not that it might have mattered much, but his questions to Renee Culler and Dick Withington were double-barrelled shotgun blasts, not actual attempts to find out about the candidates. He asked Culler about her Nacogdoches Problem, and he seemed to question Withington's mental balance. Not that they don't contribute to deciding whether to vote for them, but when you get two questions, and that's one of them, you just sank them. Granted, neither handled them well, but it ain't easy to look good when you get asked those questions.
Florence County Councilman James Schofield wasn't a lot better... His questions dragged on longer than the answers from the candidates. It was basically like he was giving his own opinion in the question by stating the reasoning for a position. Waaaay to long - just ask the cliff notes version next time. The saving grace was Hartsvegas Mayor Mel Pennington. He was the most interesting by far. He joked a couple times with the candidates, stating that he missed Jay Jordan's 32nd birthday because Jordan forgot to invite him, and catching two candidates passing notes during the debate. More importantly, he just asked questions and was fair...
The Jay Jordan Lovefest Begins!
Going into this, a very important point was forgotten by us - we were in Florence. That was corrected from the very beginning.. Culler and Randal Wallace received decent applause for their opening statement. When Jordan spoke, the place erupted - and it stayed that way all night. It was like half of Florence Baptist Temple showed up for the debate. Bauer was a clear second choice for applause, but it wasn't close. Jordan could have answered questions about his favorite sandwich or Boxers/Briefs, and they would have gone crazy.... The Straw Poll results weren't even worth staying around for - it was Jordan's crowd, which he needs. If he doesn't pull Florence, he is toast.
Don't Quit Your Day Job, Fellas..
Master of Ceremonies Phillip Lowe decided to end the debate on a different note, by asking the Final Five to tell their favorite joke. Chad Prosser basically deferred by joking that he can't tell a joke, Tom Rice bombed, Randal Wallace's delivery was iffy, and Andre Bauer told the Old Lady and the Peanut joke that we saw coming from a mile away. Jay Jordan gave the best delivery, although the joke escapes us right now.. Personally, our favorite is the Bill Clinton at the Ballgame joke.
OK, those were the things that caught our attention the most, but the most important thing was the debate itself. Below, we give our unofficial grade on each candidates performance. Granted, debating doesn't always correlate with winning, but we'll see...
Like we said, McGinniss' first question wasn't exactly fair, and Culler started out OK, and ended OK, but she lost it in the middle. I always have a soft spot for the little guys - the ones who don't have a manager telling what they did wrong and right. I advised her not to attack other candidates by name, and she did at first, but she then went on the Chad Prosser-DeLinda Ridings insider trading tangent that she's done before. It's not the best argument, and it got the crowd buzzing, but not in the good way. I asked her after what she was doing, and she admitted she took my adivce for 30 seconds, then just went for it.... C-
Withington was doing OK in his opening statement, although he went long giving the family history of the Withington clan, but he did give organized points on why he should get your vote. After that, it got messy. During the Culler-Prosser mess, he asked to rebutt Prosser, and was stopped. Why ? Because there was no rebutting, which apparently he was the only one in the auditorium who didn't know that. McGinniss' second question about his saber-rattling (literally) and questioning the stability of Horry County Chair Johnnie Bellamy were handled badly. We've talked to Bellamy a few times, and the pot is calling the kettle black a bit here.. C.
We've been telling you guys this for months, but Jim Mader is a solid, well-grounded guy who needs to find a job when all of this is over. He probably was the second best at getting his point across, and if the elimination were done after the first round, he may have snuck in. He did well on McGinniss' 'what makes you think you're qualified' question, but he could have rammed that down his throat. Aside from that, he was organized, clear and hopefully left the Florence crowd liking him better. This field is too crowded for him to win, but he'll have a future somewhere.. B+
Randal let us down a little bit tonight. He wasn't as clear on his vision as he was during GOP meetings, but wasn't terrible by any means. He just seemed a tad off his game, and the down home charm he has didn't help a lot when the message gets garbled. In a race jammed with three guys who have similar resumes, he didn't break from the pack. C+
To his credit, Rice raised his personality for the bigger crowd. He is often too reserved, bordering on dull, but was better than we'd seen him before. Still, that put him in much the same position as Wallace - still in the pack. Again, his answers lacked the specifics that we look for, and there was something he said that we remember as being flat-out wrong. Wish we could remember what it was. Next time, we'll take notes... C+
His best moment was probably his defense of DeLinda Ridings, which he said he was glad South Carolina was a Right to Work state, where he could hire anyone he wanted... He was a bit more organized and clearer than Wallace and Rice, but his presence lacked compared to Jay Jordan and Andre Bauer tonight. Not bad, but he could do better. B-
For months, we have said that Jay has been too mice of a guy during the events he's attended. He often lets people running for lower office dominate the time, and he'd just listen. Tonight, backed by a crowd clearly in his corner, he was much more confident and had better presence. Yes, he did get a few softballs thrown his way (he was asked TWICE about term limits, when he made his position clear the first time - were we listening, Tim?), and he talked a bit in generalities, but it was by far a good night for him.. B+
As great a night as Jordan had, Bauer was clearly the best at the debate. Like most times, he was well-prepared (his opening statement was exactly 2 minutes on the nose), clear, razor sharp, and most importantly, went into more detail than any of the other candidates. The best example was when the Final Five were asked what specific thing would they do for the other region of the District that they didn't live in. The other four grazed around the topic, but Bauer mentioned opening a Free Trade Zone in the Pee Dee to assist in the production of a Natural Gas vehicle developed by a South Carolinian... Specific enough for you? No doubt Jordan won the Straw Poll, but Bauer proved why he is leading in the polls. A-
It's 1:45am, and that's how we saw it tonight. Congrats to the Florence GOP for putting on a good show tonight, and to all the people who decided to get involved and enable themselves to make an informed decision...