By Cindy Ross Scoppe
Whether you support Nikki Haley or Vincent Sheheen or think it’s just way too early to think about how you’ll vote more than a year from now, we all ought to be able to agree on one thing: The election for South Carolina’s governor does not need to be a referendum on Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or anyone else South Carolina’s governor has no say over.
It certainly doesn’t need to be a referendum on whether “big union bosses” control our state, because, well that idea is just too silly even to take seriously.
The election for South Carolina’s governor needs to be about the future of South Carolina. It needs to be about how we can best leverage our many advantages and correct our many problems.
It needs to be about how we make sure all children get the education they need to become productive citizens, regardless of where they live and how poor or uninterested in education their parents may be. It needs to be about how we make our state an attractive place for our own businesses to expand and for outsiders who are looking for a place to bring their businesses. It needs to be about how we make our state a safe and nourishing place that South Carolinians are proud to call home and visitors want to make their home.
The election for South Carolina’s governor needs to be about how to make our government more efficient and effective and accountable and how to make our elected officials more ethical and responsible and responsive.
That all seems self-evident, but one of the three out-of-state governors Gov. Haley invited to help her announce her re-election bid, Texas’ Rick Perry, declared on Monday that her campaign was actually part of a “national effort” of “blue states versus red states.”
“That’s really what this is about,” Gov. Perry said. “It is a national conversation, and I hope Americans are engaging (in it) over the course of the next few years.”
I hope Americans are engaging in a national conversation as well — when it comes to who ought to represent us in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House, and who our next president ought to be (though it’d be nice to put off that discussion for at least another year … or two).
But governors don’t make federal policy. They run states. Or at least they do in states other than South Carolina, where our General Assembly still hasn’t seen fit to give our governors that authority — something both Gov. Haley and Sen. Sheheen are trying to change.
Governors do on occasion have to deal with federal issues. Gov. Haley had to take a stand on whether South Carolina would accept an astronomical federal match to provide medical insurance for the working poor in our state, and she said no; Sen. Sheheen thinks we should accept the match to expand Medicaid, so that’s one of the few legitimate points of debate concerning federal law.
The other big federal matter Gov. Haley and her allies honed in on at her re-election announcement — the National Labor Relations Board’s outrageous complaint against Boeing — was likewise a legitimate matter for her to take on. And I appreciate her raising the profile on that matter, although the fact is that the board dropped its complaint because Boeing reached an agreement that satisfied its Washington state unions, and it’s not at all clear that the governor’s actions made a difference.
What is clear on that front is that one of Gov. Haley’s other cheerleaders, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, insulted the intelligence of every South Carolinian when he declared that our gubernatorial election will determine whether our state is controlled by taxpayers or the “big union bosses.” Whatever you think about unions — and I don’t think much of them — it’s ludicrous to suggest that there are any circumstances under which they could have any power in our state.
Four years ago, Nikki Haley was a back-bench House member, so it was understandable that she would build her gubernatorial campaign around federal issues. It wasn’t understandable that voters would allow her to do that, but it was understandable that she would try. Today she has a record — with some things to brag about and some things that she needs to explain. There is no excuse for trying to federalize her re-election campaign.
In fact, it’s more than a little troubling that she would surround herself with other Republican governors — or anyone from out of state — to announce her re-election bid. Imagine what we’d think if a president felt the need to bring in the British prime minister, the French president and the German chancellor to stand behind him when he announced for re-election.
Sen. Sheheen hasn’t shown any inclination to try to nationalize the election, which of course wouldn’t be a particularly smart thing for a Democrat to do in South Carolina. But if he is tempted to do so, he needs to resist the temptation.
South Carolinians will decide next year who will be the governor of South Carolina. This is not part of “a national effort” of “blue states versus red states.” Or at least it shouldn’t be. The voters have the power to decide whether it is. Let’s just say no to the nationalization of our governor’s race.
Cindy Ross Scoppe is associate editorial page editor for The (Columbia) State. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.