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S.C. Democrats aim to dump unlikely nominee

Party at loss to explain how jobless vet won primary race

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Not even Alvin M. Greene himself seems able to offer a credible explanation for why he forked over the $10,200 in a bid to be the Democratic challenger this fall against Republican powerhouse Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

But then almost nothing political that has happened in the state in the last two years is explainable - or believable - and it's getting curiouser and curiouser as the state's Democratic Party looks into calls to void Mr. Greene's primary victory.

Nobody can offer more than a theory - Mr. Greene's name appeared on the ballot above his rival's - as to why, without yard signs, a website or any other visible signs of leaving his father's house to campaign he was able to defeat Vic Rawl, an experienced politician who did campaign for the June 8 Democratic primary.

And nobody seems able to explain why state Democratic Chairwoman Carol Fowler accepted Mr. Greene's money and allowed the jobless 32-year-old political novice to get his name on the June ballot for U.S. Senate in the Democratic primary.

But Mr. Rawl, who lost by 18 percentage points, is eager to have the results overturned, and the Democratic Party's 92-member executive committee is beginning its investigation with a hearing Thursday.

On Monday, Mr. Rawl, a Charleston County Council member and former state lamaker, was careful not to echo what other Democrats were hinting at - that Republicans secretly recruited Mr. Greene and financed his run for the Democratic nomination in order to depress Democratic voter turnout in November.

"I would like to speak directly to Mr. Greene and say: 'Sir, this is not about you, and it's not about me. I wish you and your family nothing but the best in the weeks and months ahead,' " Mr. Rawl said in explaining why he called for the investigation.

But Rep. James E. Clyburn, South Carolina Democrat and the House's majority whip, wasn't shy about suggesting that Republicans crossed over to vote for Mr. Greene in the open primary, in which anyone of any party could participate.

"I know a Democratic pattern, I know a Republican pattern, and I saw in the Democratic primary elephant dung all over the place," Mr. Clyburn said.

Embarrassed state Democrats want Mr. Greene, an unemployed military veteran, to quit the race, and Republicans don't - and are all over TV making hay of the events.

"Alvin Greene paid his fees, won over 100,000 Democratic votes, and now the Democrats are embarrassed," former South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson told The Washington Times just before he was to appear on a Fox News Channel interview.

Republicans, of course, dismiss claims they financed the Greene candidacy. "We've been reveling in the fact that the Democratic Party was asleep at the wheel," South Carolina GOP spokesman Joel Sawyer said. "There are a lot of theories floating around about filing fees. The Democratic Party is grasping at straws."

At least one prominent South Carolina Democrat bemoans both parties' conduct in his state.

"I do recall when the Democratic nomination to the United State Senate was one of great pride in South Carolina," said Butler C. Derrick Jr., a former Democratic congressman from the state. "Apparently, that's not the case anymore."

About the winner of the Democratic Senate primary, Mr. Derrick had this to say: "This guy has about as much chance of being elected to the United States Senate as I have to fly around the moon without a spacecraft."

Republicans in the state used almost identical words about the Greene mystery, a uniformity that would be believable only if it came in the form of talking points from the Republican National Committee.

"I am absolutely convinced it is all about alphabetical listing," said former Spartanburg, S.C., County Chairman Rick Beltram. "Neither of the people running was known. People just went in and hit the first name - the alphabetical name. We've seen the same thing in Republican primaries where there were four or five unknown candidates."

Mr. Beltram, like virtually every other Republican addressing the situation on Monday, knew exactly where to place the blame.

"I blame the Democratic state chairman for not doing a background check on Greene before signing off on his application for candidacy," said Mr. Beltram. "Lazy chairmen will tell you it's not their job, but [Fowler] should have held up filing him until she did a background check and found out that as a felon he wasn't qualified.

And the beat goes on in a state where Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, a state representative, overcame allegations of adultery and is now expected to win the primary runoff to succeed disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford.

c This article is based in part on wire service reports.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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