By Hastings Wyman
Southern Political Report
June 26, 2009 — South Carolina: Mixed response to Sanford
Despite some cries for Gov. Mark Sanford (R) to resign, many statements by fellow politicos in his home state have been surprisingly kind-hearted in the wake of the news that he disappeared to Argentina to be with a woman with whom he was having an affair.
Attorney General Henry McMaster (R), a leading candidate to succeed Sanford in next year’s election, released a statement acknowledging that “leaving the state without a governor for any period of time is not acceptable,” but added that he hoped this experience “will make Mark a better governor” during the remainder of his term, concluding that “my heart goes out” to Mark, his wife and children. The conservative Christian group “Palmetto Family Council” issued a statement calling family “the bedrock of society… grounded in fidelity in marriage,” adding, however, that Sanford “told the truth with apparent contrition….and contrition is a start,” and concluding with prayers for the governor and his family.
Even Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen, a state senator, was measured in his remarks, stating, “This is an unfortunate distraction for our state, and we cannot afford to lose sight” of the state’s problems. But South Carolina Democratic Party chair Carol Fowler issued a doubled-edged statement. “Our thoughts are with the Governor’s family at this time. Mark Sanford should be given time to focus on his family right now.” For those who didn’t notice, “Focus on the Family” is one of the pre-eminent Christian right groups in the nation. Hmmmm.
Former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (R) -- who incidentally stands to gain significantly from Mark Sanford’s elimination from the list of 2012 presidential prospects -- has made a couple of endorsements in Southern Republican primaries that suggest he may be looking to build conservative grass-roots support for another White House run.
This week in Florida, Huckabee made official his earlier endorsement of former state House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) for the US Senate. Rubio is running to Gov. Charlie Crist’s (R) right in a 2010 GOP primary battle for the US Senate. Huckabee also blasted the National Republican Senatorial Committee for its open support of Crist. And last week, in South Carolina’s 3rd District (Greenwood, etc.), Huckabee -- who carried the district in the 2008 presidential primary -- endorsed state Rep. Rex Rice (R) for next year’s contested primary for an open congressional seat. Rice’s social conservatism is exemplified by his introduction of a measure in the legislature that would remove the exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother from the state’s ban on funding abortions. Don’t be surprised to see more Huckabee endorsements in the months to come.
Tennessee: Cohen gets Ford backing
Congressman Steve Cohen (D), now in his second term, got a boost recently when former Congressman Harold Ford Sr., the first African American to represent the 9th District (Memphis, etc.) agreed to host two fundraisers for Cohen.
The first was in Washington, DC, a breakfast on June 24 that raised $25,000 for Cohen; the second will be in Memphis on June 30. More influential Harold Ford, Jr. (D), also a former congressman, has so far stayed on the fence. Although Cohen’s challenger, Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton (D), is African-American, he is a long-time foe of the Fords, the once-powerful and still-influential family that has dominated the area’s politics for decades. Meanwhile, Herenton has resigned his post as mayor of Memphis, which may give him less clout but more time to devote to his congressional bid.
Kentucky: Williams out of Senate race
Senate President David Williams, one of the state’s most prominent Republicans, announced last week that he will not challenge embattled US Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) next year. Williams also told the Kentucky media that he believes Bunning will run for re-election, despite rumors to the contrary. When asked which Senate candidate he might support, Williams named Cathy Bailey, a wealthy and prominent Louisville GOPer who served as ambassador to Latvia.