This is what I know about state Rep. Tracy Edge:
He was the lone local politician who refused money during a recent political cycle when he wasn’t sure of its source or why it was being handed to him.
Others took the campaign donations or only returned the money after negative headlines began showing up in the newspaper and on TV news.
He is a Republican who has represented District 104 since 1996 and is seeking re-election this year.
I also know that when an economic downturn hit years ago, before the most recent recession, Edge fought to keep money in the budget of the S.C. Department of Social Services when many other legislators didn’t make what should have been an obvious connection, that cutting funds from an already-strained department makes it harder for social workers to protect children and others in need.
It should have surprised no one that the annual number of deaths of at-risk children who were under the supervision of DSS spiked during that period and would have been worse had not Edge fought to curtail some of the funding cuts and later helped to get them restored.
I know he has sat with me and calmly and rationally explained a few issues upon which we didn’t see eye-to-eye. He didn’t change my opinion but did cement in my mind that Edge was a serious man trying to do what he believed was right for his district and South Carolina.
Another distressing headline about Edge this past week can’t make me forget those facts.
Edge was arrested for driving with a suspended license.
His unflattering mug shot was published.
He said it was essentially a paperwork mistake, that a traffic ticket he believed he had taken care of hadn’t been fully processed and he did not have the receipt with him to prove he had paid the fine.
I understand that the officers who stopped Edge had to go through the arrest procedure. But I think that law and practice need to be re-examined.
Once an officer has done a background check on a driver who is caught driving with a suspended license and finds no outstanding warrants and determines he is neither a threat nor drunk, the officer should have the discretion to issue a ticket, impound the car and allow the driver to catch a cab home.
Why jail people who are not a danger? Why waste man hours filing out the paperwork associated with an arrest?
According to records, Edge is a fairly slow-speed speeder, receiving 3 tickets of driving 10 mph or less over the speed limit the past couple of years.
That’s neither criminal nor reckless, though it probably has affected his car insurance rate.
If this was the only headline Edge was involved in recently, this incident probably would not have risen to the level of interest it has.
He’s also been the center of a string of unfortunate headlines because of painful personal issues, one of which ended with the firing of a North Myrtle Beach police officer who later filed a lawsuit that seemed designed to embarrass Edge.
On the morning he was arrested, he was dealing with more personal disappointment.
I argue all the time that leaders must be held to a higher standard. And I still believe that.
But that standard should not be unrealistic or overshadow the good, serious work Edge has done.
What does this latest incident say about Edge?
That he was caught being an imperfect human in public. There but for the grace of God go most of us.
Contact ISSAC J. BAILEY at 626-0357, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.com at @TSN_IssacBailey.