Monday, November 18, 2013

Stavrinakis plays politics with the Order of the Palmetto

Leon loses it

Posted by Chris Haire on Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 2:52 PM

During Leon Stavrinakis' time as a member of the S.C. General Assembly, the one-time Charleston County Council member has kept a relatively low profile. While he has been prone to crack wise on Twitter, he's been more of a Punxsutawney Phil-style politician who peaks his head out of his groundhog home every few months, looks for his shadow, and heads back inside where no one can see him. And with good reason. 

Stavrinakis' goal has never been to be a high-profile state legislator. He's never had his eye on the governor's office or a post in D.C. There's one job and one job alone that Leon wants — and that's the office of mayor.

So we weren't surprised when Stavrinakis crawled out of his hobbit hole last year to capitalize on the botched-shooting at Ashley Hall. After all, Joe Riley had already announced that he wasn't going to run for another term, and well, the near-tragedy gave Leon the opportunity to remind Charlestonians that he was there for them. And so, he introduced a bill designed to stop mentally ill individuals from buying guns. It passed and was signed into law. Yay!

That wasn't enough. Now, Stavrinakis has decided to take to Twitter to bitch and moan about an apparent slight against the Ashley Hall principal who risked her life in confronting Alice Boland, the armed woman who brought a gun to the Holy City private school.

See, Leon nominated Ashley Hall principal Mary Schweers for the prestigious Order of the Palmetto Award a while back. It was a nice gesture. Schweers did what few others are capable of doing, and she deserves all of our respect and admiration. But Haley, however, decided the principal didn't deserve the Order of the Palmetto. Instead, the governor honored Schweers with a certificate.

However, it was an incident on Saturday that apparently set Stavrinakis off: Haley awarded South Carolina Women's Basketball coach Dawn Staley with the Order of the Palmetto. Leon blew his top, posting several tweets.

First, he wrote: "@nikkihaley gives order of palmetto to bball coach but rejects it for Mary Schweers who risked her life to save Elem students from death."

And then came: "I guess Mary can't bring 80,000 folks into a stadium to see @nikkihaley. Yes I am steamed now."

And finally: "Dawn Staley is a fine, deserving person but Mary Schweers walked in front of a loaded gun pointed at kids in the hands of a crazy person."

However, Stavrinakis overlooked the fact that the Order of the Palmetto traditionally operates as a sort of lifetime achievement award, and in fact, it's generally given to an old timer who's career as a whole has been one that is worthy of acknowledgement. We're talking about military men and women, reverends, doctors, law enforcement officials, politicians. It's not usually a honor for a one-time act of bravery. (For the record Staley is a three-time Olympian and a former WNBA player. And while those are all worthy achievements for sure, the Philadelphia-born Staley's contributions to South Carolina are generally limited to her half-decade at the helm at USC, so make of that what you will. I wouldn't put it past Haley to honor someone with the Order of the Palmetto just to score political points.)

Now, one would think that Leon was aware of the general qualifications for the Order of the Palmetto, and that Staley probably wouldn't get the award. But maybe he wasn't and was motivated by a certain amount of genuineness. While I would like to believe the latter, I have a difficult time doing that, primarily because Stavrinakis, a Democrat from largely Democratic Charleston, quickly turned the apparent slight into a dig at Nikki Haley, a Republican.

In one series of tweets, Leon let his constituents in Charleston know that he is not only one of them, he's also a proud and loyal servant who took on the governor herself when she trivialized one of our tragedies and dishonored one of our heroes. And if that helps him get elected in 2015, so be it. 


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