Sanford Denied "Bandate" - Will He Use Mandate?
Mark Sanford may have won reelection in a landslide, earning a mandate to "stay the course of change" and achieve other oxymoronic objectives, but the ultimate electoral prize in South Carolina politics has eluded him once again.
According to this morning's State newspaper, Sanford was denied the all-precious "Bandate."
And after all, what's a mandate without a "Bandate?"
Lee Bandy, keeper of the sacred "Bandate" designation and perpetual pot-stirrer over at La Socialista for the last four decades, made the argument this morning that Sanford doesn't deserve to claim a "mandate" given the close calls in other races further down the GOP statewide ballot.
These close calls, according to Bandy, shorten the length of Sanford's "coattails," thus depriving him of "mandate" status.
We happen to think Sanford's 10-point win is clearly a mandate, if not a "Bandate," although it remains to be seen whether or not the governor will use it to advance his ideas this go-round as opposed to enhancing his own political security.
For example, the Sanford administration is literally infested with political appointees who do not share the governor's views on critical economic development, education and restructuring issues.
Take RINO-in-Chief John Rainey, who has used the Board of Economic Advisors (BEA) and its liberal economist Bill Gillespie as a vehicle for waging nonstop jihad against income tax cuts, school choice and government restructuring. As if that wasn't enough, Rainey used the BEA again in an unsuccessful "everything but the kitchen sink" effort to discredit Treasurer-elect Thomas Ravenel, who vigorously supported all three of these core Sanford I Agenda items - and a host of other progressive, market-based reforms - during his campaign.
Yet Sanford, like GOP Chairman Katon Dawson, hardly lifted a finger to reprimand Rainey and Ravenel had to fight him off on his own.
Nationally, you can count the number of Republicans who knocked off Democratic incumbents in Congressional or Statewide races on one hand, and Ravenel was one of them. Will the governor risk alienating his key Budget and Control Board ally-to-be and keep someone around who has opposed him on all of his signature issues? Not to mention underestimated revenue in South Carolina by nearly a billion dollars over the last four years?
And what about the anti-free market majority on the State Ports Authority (SPA) Board of Directors? Sanford (or at least Joel Sawyer, anyway) has paid lip service to leveraging private capital in an effort to expand port infrastructure in Charleston, but he has refused to change the makeup of a militant "total state control" majority on the SPA board. As it stands now, the SPA answers to another RINO, Hugh Leatherman, not Sanford - but the governor could change all of that with a single stroke of the pen, just like Rainey and the BEA.
Oddly enough, the SPA situation is another example of Sanford's questionable loyalties.
Consider this: One of the quiet, under-appreciated architects of the Sanford reelection was Beaufort attorney Tom Davis, a former SPA Board Member, Sanford Co-Chief of Staff and tireless advocate for free market port expansion. Davis raised the governor hundreds of thousands of dollars and did the heavy policy lifting behind Sanford's TV blitzkrieg. He even served as the point man in Sanford's poorly-received (but remarkably effective) effort to define Tommy Moore as a political insider back in the dog days of summer, when Moore had no money to combat the charges.
It was a thankless job. But Davis did it because the governor "couldn't be the bad guy" and needed someone with Davis' credibility to raise the issues.
Like Ravenel, Davis went to the mat for the governor's issues. Now secure in his second term, will Sanford finally show some intestinal fortitude and go to the mat for those issues himself?
And what about school choice? As Cindi Ross Scoppe reported this morning, getting the governor to talk about his former passion these days is a lot like getting a room full of three-year olds to eat their vegetables. Sanford says he'll focus "one-sixth" of his energy in a second-term on school choice, not exactly a reassuring percentage given the entrenched institutional opposition he faces on this polarizing issue in both the legislature and the press.
President John F. Kennedy loved to tell the folk story of a group of Irish lads crossing the fields who one day came upon a wall seemingly too high to scale. Rather than turn back, they threw their caps over the wall - leaving them no choice but to follow.
Sadly, at the midway point of his career as the chief executive of our state, Sanford's hat remains in his hands.
Yes, the governor has a mandate. And yes, his announcement Tuesday that this was his "last election" gives him even greater freedom to act decisively.
Will either matter, though?
The people of South Carolina are behind you, governor. And the people who fought in the trenches for your ideas are waiting for you to show us the leadership you promised.
Instead of scaling back, why not scale the challenges in front of you?
Simply put, it's time to throw your cap over the wall, governor.