Senate races

Clyburn says Greene’s candidacy in South Carolina designed to stir trouble

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) theorized that an operative
ran unemployed Army veteran Alvin Greene’s (D) South Carolina Senate
campaign to create a “mess.”

Greene managed to win the June 8 Democratic primary even though he didn’t actively campaign. 

{mosads}His victory was allowed to stand by election officials and the
state’s Democratic Party. But the South Carolina State Law Enforcement
Division is now investigating whether he misused taxpayers’ money by
getting a public defender to fight charges he showed pornography to a
19-year-old student.

Clyburn maintains that Greene is being backed by outside interests
and their motivation is simple. “To mess with the system,” he told the
Ballot Box. “What was the motivation with Benjamin Hunt?”

In
1990, then 28-year-old Hunt was recruited by Republican operative Rod
Shealy to run against Rep. Arthur Ravenel Jr. (R-S.C.). Hunt, like
Greene, was unemployed and under a legal cloud, having been indicted for
selling drugs.

But a senior South Carolina Republican said that Shealy’s support for Hunt’s candidacy was, in fact, “diabolically complicated.”

Shealy,
an acolyte of famed dirty trickster Lee Atwater, paid Hunt $500
directly and covered his $2,414 filing fee. He was later charged with
violating campaign finance rules because at the time it wasn’t illegal
to pay someone to run for office in South Carolina. It’s now a crime
that carries a one-year prison sentence.

During his 1992 trial, it emerged that Shealy was trying to help
his sister, state Sen. Sherry Martschink (R), in her bid for the GOP lieutenant governor’s nomination.

That year a veteran black state
senator, Theo Mitchell, was making a bid for the Democratic
gubernatorial nod. Later in the primary season Ernie Passailaigue, a
white Democratic state senator, entered the race against Mitchell.

Shealy theorized, according to reports, that this would lead many
white voters who didn’t want Mitchell to win to vote in the Democratic
rather than Republican primary, which is permitted under state law.
Shealy worried that support for white Republican candidates, such as
his sister, would drop off as a result.

Shealy didn’t just pay Hunt’s filing fee — he also distributed a
mailer that featured a picture of Hunt next to a picture of Ravenel
with a caption stating it was conceivable that Hunt could have several
thousand supporters waiting to turn out despite running a quiet
campaign.


The tactic failed. Shealy’s sister ended up losing the primary, and
Mitchell won the Democratic gubernatorial nod, although he lost to
incumbent Gov. Carroll Campbell (R).

After the plot was unraveled, it became clear what Shealy was trying to do.

It’s not clear, however, what anyone in South Carolina would gain
from putting Greene up to run for Senate, strategists said. One theory
is that it was done to motivate Vic Rawl, the other Democrat running,
to campaign harder. But Greene never developed a large enough profile
to create a sense of competition.

Moreover, if someone was actually trying to get him elected to face
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the operative didn’t spend any money to
ensure that would happen. Greene hasn’t had to file a Federal Election
Commission report because he hasn’t raised or spent more than $5,000 on
his campaign, according to FEC officials.

Meanwhile, efforts to draft a candidate to run in place of Greene
have failed. Former House candidate Linda Ketner (D) announced Monday
she won’t launch an independent bid for Senate this cycle.

—Updated at 10:24 a.m. on July 6

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